This is the first day to myself I’ve had in almost a month, barring those few hellish travel days. I do love spending time with people I like, but good ol’ introspection is pretty necessary to my existence. I just came back from walking around the small island town where my friend resides. I was running an errand (namely, postcards for you lot), and I didn’t end up feeling as out of place as I had expected.
People seem friendlier than I was prepared for, and they’re not. A lot of people at Haneda airport were giving me the obvious side eye during my layover, for example, which made me feel even more bedraggled and foreign than I already was. But also at Haneda, the lady who checked me in waived my luggage fees, struck up a really nice conversation, and made sure I got through security safely (and now we’re facebook friends). A Japanese man on the plane to Beijing gave me his business card and wants me to be pen pals with his daughter, who is also my age. Random people stop S. in the street and talk excitedly about the Red Sox. Then again, they comment on her hair, clothes, and weight because they think she can’t understand what they’re saying.
I’m clearly not going to come to any definitive truths about Japanese people while I’m here for–what?–7 days. Americans seem to have an easier time navigating because we’re not really using Japanese social channels. The image of flying cars in movies comes to mind: you know that there are different levels of air traffic, but you’re not sure how people know which level to be on. The levels are visible to everyone, and everyone seems to be going similar directions. Some people happen to be on parallel but separate planes. I’m not going to explain how this relates to Japanese-Japanese social interactions (or Asian-Asian) as compared to Japanese-American/British interactions because I think the simile is rather obvious.
Outside of those possibly uninformed thoughts, there is some less serious stuff. I bow a lot and use hand gestures and smiles. (The bowing is new to me; the hand gestures and smiles are not.) I am on the lookout for a wild Pikachu to bring home with me. Tanegashima is the launching point for Japanese space exploration (rockets ahoy!), and besides realizing that Japan has extensive, shifty plans to conquer the moon, I have also visited their space museum and rediscovered that space is so cool. I really like tatami mats and minimal amounts of furniture. There are magical green packets that can give you a matcha latte in seconds. Also, the junk food aisle is actually two aisles long.
Lastly, you may know that I like to play obnoxious tourist sometimes. When I go to New York, sometimes I say, “This is just like Law and Order!” so that people can hear. Here I am telling Silvia, “This is just like Totoro!” or “This is just like Iron Chef!” This is largely facetious, but flying over Japan at night, I looked down, saw a train making its way through the countryside, and could have sworn that it was the Cat Bus. I’m just putting that out there.