Saturday, March 30
After work I took a train back to where it all began: Sagamiono (相模大野). I had originally intended to meet just Moto for a drink. But after a month of planning we ended up having a party of 12 people. You know all of them; Mari, Moto, Luke, Tiffany, English-Emma, Amina, Trevor, Masayo, and some new faces. A party of 12, in Angie cafe, is really tight. But we still made it work. It was nice to catch up with many old friends and meet a few new people. But at the same time I began to feel a little seasoned. Many of the people around our table were new to the country or the company. I don’t know when it happened, but I’m now the old dog around town. Why it seems just like yesterday Moto and I were sitting down at Angie getting to know each other. I wonder what tomorrow will be like.
Monday, April 1
Monday I visited an English-speaking optometrist I found through the US Embassy’s website. The doc spoke English, but most of her staff didn’t. Regardless I plowed through the paperwork and screening with few problems.
The real reason I sought out a foreign doctor wasn’t for language, though that certainly helped. As I previously mentioned, in Emmar, I was dissatisfied with my previous Japanese optometrists. Their schooling taught them that American prescriptions were too strong. So during both my previous visits my US prescription was downgraded. My prescription changed for the first time in six years. The Japanese prescription made seeing more of a chore and my eyes got tired faster than before. Sick of the system, I sought out someone with western training.
I sat down with the doc and explained my situation. She spoke with a faint German accent.
“Japanese optometrists believe a greater strength of prescription will destroy your eyes. That’s ridiculous. I’m going to write you a prescription for what your eyes need.”
My response; “THANK YOU!”
And just like that, she wrote me a prescription for what I had been wearing before. Fantastic. I was back to normal.
Sunday, April 14
Mari and I got back into the mountains for our first hike of the year. It had been six months since we last made a summit. It was good to be back! Already my schedule is filling up with weekend trips to the mountains.
-Nice and Soft-
“Live in northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft.” This is a line from the great song, Everybody is Free (to Wear Sunscreen). The singer says California, but he should have said Tokyo. Tokyo is so polite and convenient that it will make you soft. And in my case, it already has. American scares me silly.
Recently there was a terrible incident in Boston where two bombs destroyed lives at the Boston Marathon. I joined much of the Japanese population, and the world, in disbelief how such a thing could happen. How could a person, or perhaps people, be so upset to do something like that? Anger is something that is deeply repressed in Japanese culture. To see someone upset in public is a very rare occurrence. And a display like that in Boston almost never happens. Shocking.
Harmony is the name of the game in Japan. Confrontation is avoided. Emotional expression is rather taboo. Public displays of affection never advance past a hug. Basically the Japanese never want to do anything that might remotely make another person feel uncomfortable. Sometimes this makes for a sterile environment, like walking among Vulcans. On the other hand it makes for a safe and predictable to live.
Even the police don’t want to interfere unless they absolutely have to. I’ve literally seen incidents that would have benefited from police involvement. Incidents where the police were present, where they witnessed misdemeanors in progress, and still they sat by and chose not to interfere.
American on the other hand is a foreign place. Even to me. True, there are too many acts of violence and hatred, the Boston Bombings & Newtown Shooting both come to mind. Yet there are also amazing expressions of love and compassion for others. See the public response to the aforementioned tragedies.
In Tokyo, I feel like I’m wrapped up in a nice warm blanket. Very comfortable and protected from the outside. But one day this blanket’s got to come off. and it’s going to be a shock when it does.