Squeezing myself into a crowded subway car at rush hour, scrolling through my phone while crushed within a hoard of suit-clad businessmen and women: this is normal to me.
Ordering food using a total of three words, kore wo kudasai (“this please”), and a whole lot of pointing: this is normal to me.
Meeting gaze after gaze that hangs just a moment too long on my face, telling me without any verbal communication that I’m different, I’m strange, that I don’t belong.
This is normal to me.
Now, before you leave because you’re sure I’m about to drown you in my sob story about being a visible minority in Japan, wait a minute. I’m not. That isn’t what this is about. I’m not writing because I need someone to comfort me, to tell me that I’m not so strange, that I belong (I don’t) — I’m writing because I haven’t written purely about Japan in eight months. Because, for the longest time, I couldn’t think of anything to write about. I didn’t think there was anything to write about. Everything had become normal. And normal is boring. Nobody wants to write about “normal,” and certainly nobody wants to read about it.
But normal was exactly what I should have been writing about. Because normal was leaving my apartment at 8:00 in the morning and getting home at 8:30 in the evening. Normal was dedicating around fifty-five hours a week to work and still double-checking my bank account to make sure I could pay rent. Normal was coffee, coffee, and more coffee (and I’m not usually a coffee drinker). Normal was that deep pull in my leg muscles as I ascended the last set of stairs to my apartment at the end of the day.
Normal was also travelling only an hour on the subway to visit Disneyland and DisneySea (unique to Tokyo). Normal was taking one of the fastest trains in the world to cities all over Japan, including Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima, Nara, and Nikko. Normal was eating some amazing food for some even more amazing prices. Normal was watching the cherry blossoms bloom.
Like I said, normal was exactly what I should have been writing about. But normal happened in the same way quicksand swallows the body: all of sudden you’re up to your knees and there’s no use struggling. All of a sudden you’re up to your neck. Continue reading