I’ve been in Japan for almost a month now and things are coasting along nicely. Everything seems friendly and strange all at the same time.
A couple of weeks ago i watched Japan beat Argentina in a football match (a friendly, of course) in a bar in the nearest city, Kashiwa. The Japanese watch football in a slightly peculiar way. Normally when people watch sport they might cheer or sound frustrated or sing or curse or make a variety of different noises to reflect the game itself. The Japanese don’t do this. All they do is scream. Anytime the ball goes anywhere near the goal (even when it’s quite obviously not going to be a goal) they scream like scared school girls on a ghost train. I still have no idea why they do this.
There are a few other things that i haven’t quite got my head round yet and probably never will. I love the way that everybody falls asleep on the trains. People get on the train in the morning, sit down and snooze away. As simple as that. You never see anybody oversnooze and miss their stop either. It’s as if all Japanese people have an inbuilt hardwired sixth sense for sleeping in moving trains on the way to work. There’s also the overly polite service industry which means that whenever you walk into a shop or restaurant or bar or pretty much any building that isn’t either residential or religious you’ll be greeted by a chorus of welcomes and hellos from the staff. At first i felt compelled to reply with a hello or a little bow straight back but then I realised that all the Japanese people don’t say a word or do anything when they walk into a place. The over politeness has just become part of the background noise for them like drunk swearing and car alarms in England.
My job is going fine. I teach speaking classes to university students so essentially i get paid to have conversations with people which is a bit different from my last teaching job in Korea where i was a glorified babysitter and crowd controller. Still, Asian students are Asian students and a few choice gems that have come out in class so far are the questions, “How often do you live in a house made of asbestos?” and “Would you like to buy a gorgeous lion?” And who hasn’t asked those questions before?
Tokyo is also going fine. I think. It’s difficult to tell such is the size and speed of the place. It’s a monster. I’ve had a wander around and done the inevitable and got lost and found my way back to somewhere familiar but it fully lives up to the hype and everything you’d expect. It’s a living breathing moving maze. There are the vein-like train lines over and underground, hundreds of restaurants and bars line its stomach, suit-clad business men stressfully fill its wallet, old temples mark the past while glitzy shops and sleek new buildings escort everybody to the future. It’s a wonderful organised mess that seems to have no beginning, middle or end. It just is. It’s Tokyo.
I need to see more of the capital as well as the museums, flea markets, parks, temples, mountains, bike tracks, shops, rivers, harbours and galleries. Too many places, not enough weekends.