June 26, 2004
Discarded Heads, Fruity Coffee in Japan
Three weeks ago, I boarded a plane with my wife and three kids and flew to California. On the second or third day, we went to Santa Monica and walked along the Third Street Promenade, a pedestrian street -- no cars -- lined with trendy shops and restaurants. We saw an incredible variety of people and cultures: students, tourists, locals, beach bunnies, homeless, goths, snobs. As we walked, my wife and I talked about the contrasts with life in Japan. I felt expansive. I could see the sky. I tilted back my head and took a deep breath. It felt like my lungs filled more easily. I saw such variety of people around me. I'm not used to that now, and it almost felt almost overwhelming. I saw people in t-shirts and other casual dress who appeared strangely shabby. I saw lots of fat people, but that was nothing compared to the previous day when we sat in front of the pizza window at Costco.
My wife put a finger on the feeling of expansiveness. She said that she felt free. She wasn't talking about "liberty and justice for all" type freedom. In Japan, she explained, she is always aware of certain expectations in public places to behave/conform according to standards. These standards aren't written down, but for Japanese people the list is long and intimately well known. As a foreigner, you "feel" this reality (mainly as a negative thing although it has it's positive sides) and slowly "understand" in time. But my wife is Japanese, so she is acutely aware of what she describes as a continous pressure in public places. As we walked along that day, she felt genuine relief. I think most Japanese who have lived abroad will instantly relate.
So we're here in the USA for another six weeks or so. This is our first time back since moving to Japan in early 2002, and I can't tell you how much we're enjoying the chance to visit old, familier places and do some things that are very difficult to pull off in Japan: going out to movies, leaving our kids at home with my parents, hiking and backpacking in the mountains, and eating lots of Mexican food, ahhh.... I'll say more about these things later. This blog will remain focused on Japan while we're here, though filtered through these experiences. I think this will actually be a good time to bring out some of my deeper feelings about life in Japan -- both the good and the bad.
Sorry about disappearing for the past three weeks. It wasn't intentional. I bought a laptop computer online and had it delivered to my parents' house in New Mexico. They mailed it to us in California, but the package got misdirected in the mail. After some waiting, it finally turned up back in New Mexico. I had very limited access to the Internet, so I couldn't keep up the blog. Now I'm here in New Mexico sitting in Starbucks in Albuquerque typing away. I should be posting at least twice a week from now on. If you have a blog or friends who care, please let them know I'm back. :)
June 12, 2004
Back on June 22
I'm sorry about the long delay. I haven't quit blogging or disappeared. I'm on the road and (unexpectedly) without access to a computer. I'll try to post something by June 22 and start up again consistently after that. Please come back then. :)