Is it strange to say that in Tokyo I feel more connected to the people around me than I ever did back home, in little London, Ontario? Is it odd to say that I feel less like a number, that in a city with a greater population than all of Canada, I can walk down the street and feel part of something — part of a community.
It feels strange, it feels odd, but is it really? In a country where people are culturally trained to show common courtesy, to bring their garbage home with them, clean the toilet seat after using it, and be quiet in the evenings, is it really so bizarre to feel a sense of camaraderie with these people? Continue reading
It rained in the middle of the afternoon today, with sunlight still pushing between the clouds and mixing with the droplets on the way down. What brought me outside was a grumble of thunder in the distance and the thought that maybe the heat had subsided (it’s currently unbearable).
While stepping out onto the balcony, I came face to face with, along with the rain, my own stagnancy. My own inability to accomplish, create, or produce — I had spent most of the morning trying to write and being unable to. The longer I stood, the more the rain washed this feeling of inadequacy off me, down to the pavement below the balcony, down to the gutter where even the rats couldn’t pick it out.
I’m always wishing for sunlight, but sometimes it’s the rain that does the job. It’s the rain that gives us reasons when the sun’s been blotted out. Continue reading
There is no greater happiness than getting lost in new, daily adventures to such a degree that you forget to write your bi-weekly blog post.
Although on one hand I would love to be a flawless, hyper-organized person, on the other I realize that forgetfulness is a key to relaxation, and relaxation a key to mental health. I have spent this past week in exploration and lazy forgetfulness — I’ve forgotten about work, about the stress of paying rent, about studying, eating healthily, counting calories, exercising regularly (my sincere apologies to my last post on exercise), and anything else that ties my brain up in a tight knot. Continue reading
Sumida River, Tokyo
Life can be loud. Traffic on the street, birds in the trees, people talking in a clamour at the subway station, sometimes even your own headphones in your ears — it can all be loud.
Life can also be loud in a spatial or visual sense. Although I’ve generally become accustomed to bustling Tokyo, there are still times that shuffling crowds of people, tightly packed buildings, and bright billboards overwhelm me. They seem to be shouting, and maybe they are — at least in the sense that they all fight, squabbling, for my attention. Continue reading
Visiting the hospital can be frightening under the most comfortable of circumstances. Visiting the hospital in a foreign country, while having to speak a foreign language, can be downright terrifying.
I’ll never forget my friend who had to go to the hospital in Barcelona because of kidney troubles. “We’re going to give you a surgery,” the doctor told her (in English). After she protested and refused, the doctor consulted an English translator and corrected himself: “We’re going to give you an X-ray.”
This, mind you, was in Spain, where there is a lot more English floating around than here in Japan. In fact, the English and Spanish languages aren’t that vastly different to begin with. English and Japanese, on the other hand… Well, good luck.
I first knew I had to go to the hospital in Japan when I started having symptoms of what could have been post-surgery complications. I won’t get into the grimy details, but a minor, laparoscopic surgery before leaving Canada made me wary of my body in ways I hadn’t been before. Now I knew it was better to be safe than sorry, so I started my research on what hospital to visit in Japan. Continue reading
When my employer first told me that I was going to be working and living in Tokyo, I believed that the monotony of my life — at least for the time being — was over. It was Tokyo, after all! The most populated city on Earth! A city I had already visited and hardly even gotten a taste of. Surely, in a year, I could have a significant bite, but never, never the whole meal.
I think I was right about never experiencing all of Tokyo: it’s so massive and diverse that it would take a lifetime to do so. (Without being able to speak Japanese, it would take longer. An eternity.) But I wasn’t right about my monotonous life coming to an end. It turns out that no matter where you are in the world, no matter what city you live in, what people you know, or what work you do, your life will be monotonous if you let it be monotonous. Continue reading
If you follow me on Instagram, or if you know anything about my reasons for coming to Japan, you’ll be aware of my obsession with cherry blossoms. The flowers on these spectacular trees scattered all over Tokyo began to bloom about a week ago, and they are fading just as quickly. Already I have seen their tiny petals dotting the sidewalk. Continue reading
When I arrived in Japan almost two months ago, I expected some big changes. Having grown up in Ontario, Canada, I was used to crappy public transportation, large houses (not to mention big backyards), and toilets in the same room as the shower.
Everything is different in Japan.
I knew this would be the case. Like I said, I expected some big changes. I knew the public transportation here would be amazing (I’m not kidding — I get frustrated and confused now when my train’s a minute late); I knew everything would be crammed, from my apartment to the sidewalk to the places at which I eat and shop; and I knew, because I had visited Japan before, that my toilet would most likely not be in the same room as my shower.
But there have been some differences that I didn’t know about or expect. Don’t worry, I’m not going to go on and on about the vending machines and convenience stores (which are endless and always actually convenient). These three differences were more subtle. They took longer for me to notice. And, most importantly, I think they speak to the deeper differences between Japan and America as a whole. Continue reading
Finding a new home: the bus ride from Nagoya to Tokyo
For a long time I have underestimated the comfort and necessity of a home base. I’ve always idolized the notion of living life with no ties, of jumping from place to place, of being unattached to material possessions. I was discussing identity with my boyfriend recently, talking about how places, things — even people — slide away so easily and abruptly. And here we are, continuing on, somehow still ourselves.
So I don’t need a home base for definition or security. I’ve realized that more and more throughout my travels from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, Krabi, Nagoya, and now to Tokyo. What I do need a home base for is comfort at the end of the day. Continue reading
To you they may seem trivial, but to me, “sweet treats”, or baked goods in this case, have been my saviour over the last two weeks. Japan is full of little bakeries strewn in the most unlikely places, and it’s one of my greatest guilty pleasures to shuffle through the sliding doors of one of these shops and take my pick of doughnuts, tarts, and fruit breads (melon and lemon are my favourite).
I know it’s dangerous for someone with a sweet tooth to depend on pastries for comfort, but, seeing as I’m only two weeks into a new and energy-consuming job, I’ll take what I can get.
Eating at these bakeries is like enjoying a slice of home. Besides these little pastry shops, Japan doesn’t pay much attention to bread, so this is indeed a treat.
Here’s to comfort food in unfamiliar settings! Continue reading