Single Filed

This is the writing of the last white man in Tokyo.

Actually, that’s not true. But it sure feels like it. Last night I was in and around Shinjuku Station. Usually the station is full of foreigners, often I know some of them. Tonight however, I saw five. Five white gaijin. Unbelievable. I was aware that many foreigners had left the country after the triple whammy we’ve recently faced, earthquake-tsunami-meltdown. But tonight those reports were completely validated. My belonging to an already small minority just got further exaggerated. Cool.

Otherwise things are beginning to return to normal around here. There continues to be a steady flux of people through Tokyo. Some are leaving, others are returning. The grocery stores are slowly restocking supplies, and they’re managing to keep items on the shelves. All trains are running, albeit on a slightly infrequent and slower schedule. The many elements of daily life that I have grown to know and love are resurfacing.

It must also be said that we are not back to full normality. The reactors to the north are still questionable at best. Bottled water is difficult to come by. There is a tenseness in the air. Mixed and rash reports from the media and government leave people confused and scared; (see radioactive iodine in Tokyo tap water.)

I should briefly mention the orderliness and civility the Japanese people exhibit. Here is the best example I give; within minutes of the announcement from the government that above average levels of radiation were found in Tokyo tap water people begin to descend on the convenience and grocery stores. Naturally there were too many people for the small stores and limited cashiers. Yet instead of creating a panicked situation, these folks voluntary formed their own lines and patiently waited for their turn to enter the stores. They followed the store imposed limitation on supplies and quickly left. This would never, ever happen in the States or many other places. Astonishing!

I continue to approach the situation reasonably and rationally. Each night and every morning I read the news from a wide variety of sources. I observe the nature and pace of the locals in my city. I speak with everyone I can. I take in all of these sources and reevaluate my situation daily. So far I am confident that I am making the right decision to stay in the country. Last week several of my students asked, “Alex-teacher, when will you leave Japan?”

“I’m leaving when you decided to leave.”

The students always laughed at my answer, but I think they also took it to heart. My confidence in the country is rooted in their own. In turn they seemed to be heartened by own willingness to stay and stick it out with them. Let’s hope this trust isn’t misplaced.

-In the land of the Rising Sun, there is no sun.-

I am a man of nature. My internal clock is tuned to the sun and the seasons. Consciously and subconsciously I seek out the sun. It wakes me in the morning gives me an ardent energy all day. My behaviors and habits rise and swell with the passing seasons. I was slightly aware of this relationship back home in Lincoln. Yet in Japan it is impossible to ignore. I say it is impossible to ignore because seeing the sun directly is also impossible.

In the Tokyo metropolitan area the sun is hard to come by. The sky scrapers and close buildings that man has built obscure the sun all day. I did not at first notice this. However the growing days, and growing months, have made it quiet apparent. My apartment serves as a good example. I am squeezed into a box-like apartment surrounded on four sides by other boxes. I have two windows to the outside, both of which are nearly obscured from direct sunlight. During the month of March, I have averaged 30 minutes of sunlight per day.
In recent weeks I have set up an elaborate series of mirrors so that I might catch and reflect light into my apartment. On several occasions my neighbors have caught me in this act. Great. As if I wasn’t already “that guy” on my block. Their brief stares are worth the extra 30 minutes of light I catch.
The total absence of direct sunlight is pervasive, (pun!) Walking down sidewalks and through the city is done all in shadows. I actually look forward to being out at high noon so to feel the warm sun on my skin. Yet the old ladies prefer to stay in the shadows, creating their own when necessary. They cover themselves in clothes and tinted visors to keep the sun off their skin. Smart people, no wonder they look so young.
This odd observation is to me interesting. I make the best of it for what it is. But I have since decided that easy access to sunlight is very important to wherever I choose to settle. If I ever settle down.


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About japanesealex

Alexander lived in Japan from 2010 to 2013. He is now pursuing a career in public service in Honolulu, Hawaii.

3 responses to “Single Filed”

  1. Donald says :

    Glad you’re doing well and sticking it out Alex.

  2. Jessie says :

    I’m so proud of you and your unwavering positive attitude. I think about you everyday. Keep safe.
    Your little sis.

  3. Claudia says :

    Nice to be returning to a routine We love you!

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