Yes… Time flies, and we have been living here in Tokyo for going on 10 months. We knew the time would go fast… too fast. Our two year assignment will be over before we are ready for it to be over, I’m afraid.
It has been a couple of weeks since I last did a blog post… Again… time gets away from me. The routine of daily life gets in the way. But, I have just a few somewhat random things to talk about in this post today:
- Even after almost 10 months living here, some days I have to really force myself to get out the door. It can be very stressful living in a culture where you don’t know the language well. Simple little tasks like paying bills and going to the supermarket can become nerve-wracking encounters of miscommunication. Some days I am just not up for it. Yesterday, I stayed in all day. Sure… it was pouring rain until mid-afternoon, and by then I had settled into studying my Japanese. I find it is best if I can get myself out the door early. Kind of sets the tone for the rest of the day.
- This morning the sun was shining and I went out for a run. Starting out with fresh air and exercise always makes the day better. Five miles along the canals, watching the ducks and cormorants, watching the boats on the canal, and “people-watching.” It still seems weird to me that I am living in the most populated metro area in the world, and I can still be somewhat close to nature. In this crowded and busy city, we have managed to find a beautiful and quiet place to run and walk and commune with nature. Not all of Tokyo is this peaceful… lol.
- Ok… I have mentioned this many times, but the Japanese people are really NICE people. They have elevated “nice” and “polite” to an art form. Honestly. The US could take a few lessons. (No offense, but really.) Today I went to the supermarket. They are always so nice, and they seem to genuinely appreciate their customers. They are polite, friendly, helpful, and engaging… at least as much as they can be with this non-Japanese-speaking foreigner. The checker today apologized profusely when something rang up wrong, and she even carried my grocery basket to the bagging table for me.
- That said… when I walk along the streets — at least here in Tokyo — sometimes I feel invisible. No one looks at me or makes eye contact with me at all. This used to bother me a lot. I almost felt rejected… like they didn’t approve of my being here. It would be easy to take it personally, but then I noticed they treat each other the same way. I think it all goes back to “meiwaku” again (see previous blog post.) The Japanese people are brought up to be kind and respectful to each other, and to be very careful not to offend or interfere with the people around them.
- And… this shows up in their language. I am struggling to learn Japanese, but I have learned enough to notice this. For one thing, what I am learning is the “polite” form of the language. They have an informal form, but that is usually reserved only for family members and close friends. Polite form is very important. Also… when they need to refuse something or say “no” to something, they do it very indirectly. It is considered rude to directly say “no” to something. You have to do it in a very gentle and apologetic way. “Chotto… sumimasen…”
- Sunday morning, my husband and I went out for a run. Many of the sidewalks here are divided into pedestrian lane and bicycle lane. Bicycles usually ride on the sidewalk and not out in the street. Anyway… we were running along in the pedestrian lane and came to a blind corner blocked by a construction wall. As I came up to the corner I was almost run over by a women on a bicycle who had “cut” the corner and veered into the pedestrian lane. It was a good thing we both had quick reflexes, or we would both have been sprawled on the pavement. She profusely apologized… “Sumimasen, sumimasen… gomenasai!” (I’m sorry!) In another culture, it might have been easy to get angry and snap an unkind response. But here… no… As frightened as I was by almost being run down, I just smiled and bowed to her (at a loss for words again.) I find this culture is rubbing off on me… and I like it.