Reason #77 to Keep Living: Looking Forward

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My dad used to say that he never wants to retire because when you retire, you die.

But this isn’t true. For example, the average Japanese person lives far past retirement. There are more centenarians here (people who live to the age of 100 years) than anywhere else in the world.

Don’t worry. I won’t let this turn into another long spiel about Japan. The point is, many elderly Japanese people are more active, both physically and mentally, than elderly Canadian or American people. I’m not saying this is the sole cause of their longevity, but it can’t hurt. They go to the park and exercise; they volunteer in the community, cleaning up garbage around their grand kids’ schools, sweeping up the roads, or running classes at the local community center; they read and play musical instruments and bike, bike, bike.

The elderly Japanese fill their lives with not only things that keep them busy (like watching TV or listening to the radio), but with things that give them purpose. Things to look forward to. Continue reading

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Reason #76 to Keep Living: Partnership

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Although the word ‘partnership’ elicits a sense of formality or legality, here I mean partnership as more of a long-term friendship or relationship. I mean it as the pact you make with someone, however overtly or implicitly, that says you will be leaning on each other now, counting on each other, working for each other.

Partnership means there is someone out in the world standing up for you and standing by you. Making you laugh, making you talk, making you go to work, go to bed, making you tea (or coffee, or a smoothie, or bringing you milk and cookies).  Continue reading

Reason #74 to Keep Living: Community

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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

Reason #73 to Keep Living: Rain

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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

Reason #72 to Keep Living: Forgetfulness

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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

Reason #67 to Keep Living: Quiet Places

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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

My Visit to a Japanese Hospital

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Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

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

Reason #66 to Keep Living: Discovery

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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

3 Things in Japan That You Don’t See in Ontario

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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