I leave in the morning to return to the US. I have mixed feelings about it, but I also have mixed feelings about Japan. I love it so much and the people are so wonderful and friendly and it's so easy to get around and it's the most wonderfully quirky country but it is the most maddeningly impossible place too. There is NO creative thinking - NO creative problem solving. The Japanese learn everything by rote and anything outside of that is too foreign to them to handle. The saying here is that the nail that sticks up will get hammered back down. So one doesn't do anything outside of the accepted norm. This just totally drives me crazy because I was born to be the nail that sticks up and yet I have to accept it is the culture here. The Japanese are polite and bow many hundreds of times a day, and there are 4 levels of politeness in the language depending on the station of the person you are speaking with and yet in a crowded subway station or in a crowd like the festival I went to Saturday they will push you and shove you and jump line without a second thought. And then, in the middle of towering buildings you will come across a small wooden house with tenderly cared for potted plants on the curb that punks don't kick over and destroy just for fun and something to do. Shopkeepers in the mornings will go out in front of their shops and sprinkle dippers full of water on the sidewalk to "Keep the dust down." Every day traveling the trains you see women in traditional clothing - and this includes young women - and they wear their kimono and stand at the station sending text messages on their cell phones. And it's just about the safest place you can possibly imagine. I could walk down the street at 2 am with 10,000 yen ($100) bills sticking out of my back pocket and no one would touch me. And if I dropped one the guy behind me would apologize for interrupting my walk and return it, bowing.
All this said, one week has been a good visit, although all but one day was spent working. I am ready to get home to my life and projects and the cats. If I came here to really travel the country for a week or two I might feel different but this has been good. I am sad to leave but happy to get home. I think the main charm of last year for me was navigating the learning curve. It was such a challenge every day and such an adventure. Now it is normal to be here. Exciting, but normal.
I truly consider myself so very fortunate. To think that I started this job as a one week temp and have not only had the unbelievable opportunity to live here for a year but to also come back and revisit - I just can't believe this has been my life for the past couple of years!
So I leave Japan tomorrow tired, sore, inspired and grateful. Not too freaking bad.
Photos to come within 48 hours . . .
Monday, August 28, 2006