November 2, 2015

Japan: Navel Gazing

Travel to a particularly foreign place is one of my favorite things.  It's so educational.  Not just about the place (which of course it is), but also about yourself.  It's also very hard.

This trip to Japan, I kept finding myself amazed at just how *wrong* I got everything.  I felt as if I just couldn't fuck shit up more if I tried.

No idea what people were saying and wrong most of the time I thought I did know?  Check.

Walking on the wrong side around a hallway corner and straight into someone on the *correct* (left, in Tokyo) side?  Check.

Can't read most of the signs? Check.

Getting lost?  Going the wrong way?  Every. Damn. Day. Check.

Incomprehensibly wrong metro ticket and exasperated service agent who just waives your gaijin ass through the special gate because clearly you can't be taught?  Check.

And then, there's the signage in English (ostensibly). 1500Y Eye Blow.  Super Million Hair. Etc. I have no idea what any of these things are, and yet they proclaim their existence in words I supposedly understand.  Talk about feeling completely and totally foreign -- even my own language doesn't work the way I think it should...

And yet.  I can't help but be appreciative of being forced to think so very much.

Every day is so difficult because all of my assumptions are wrong.   I must start from first principles (which I fail to do again and again) and try to learn, appreciate, and exist.

After meeting my goal of being able to read Hirigana, I arrived to learn that Katakana would have been much more useful (typical).  And yet, I did get lost once or twice where (thankfully) the train station information was in Hirigana, which saved me, and got me off the train and onto the correct route.  So there's that.

Overall, we had a wonderful trip.  We absolutely love this country.  The language is fascinating and fun (I squeaked by my study goals re: being able to read Hirigana with 44 Japanesepod lessons, 100 hirigana flashcards, and half my Japanese 1 workbook -- overall, I did get quite a bit of language acquisition in compared to last trip, and it was relatively helpful in cabs, restaurants, and while in transit, so I was happy.  But, of course, I wish I had done more.).

The food is unparalleled.

The people are, in general wonderful (except for the one asshole taxi dispatcher in Hakone who flat our refused to send us a taxi over the phone -- not pretending to misunderstand, just straight up refusing, likely due to my busted ass Japanese and the fact that we were staying at a Hyatt, which is know for foreigners.  Refusal in Japan is like "Fuck You" and we'd been there long enough that I was actually a bit shocked at his blatant "IIE!"  Thankfully, I called the hotel and they sent a very perky female cab driver to pick us up and bring us back.).

Plus, if you are me, the fact that it is *so* quiet (no cell phone talking public, only texting, *how civilized*!), with ambient calm music and tons of areas for quiet meditative walks, is one of many things you just inherently love and feel comfortable with -- YAY! QUIET!  All the while feeling uncomfortable with everything you don't understand and are doing incorrectly, which is most of it.

E and I are in agreement.  We had a wonderful time.  I'll keep studying the language and we'll go back some day for a proper train-heavy tour of the entire country.  Until then... 

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