Bang, Nostalgia (Hello, 2015)

I’ve heard that smell is one of the most deeply remembered senses — more than vision, more than sound. Smell is something that you can get a whiff of something and it instantly takes you back to a familiarity you’d long-since forgotten. And oftentimes it isn’t even a smell you distinctly remember.

It’s been something like six and a half years (almost seven?) since I last set foot in Japan. The flight, disembarking, and navigating the airport were all almost disturbingly mundane feeling. I didn’t feel like I was halfway across the world. And when I stepped onto the subway train, I wasn’t hit with a sudden realization of distance, but rather of time. The car smelled a kind of damp, musty sweet that was remembered more in my body than in my mind. A wave of familiarity crept over me and took hold, nearly knocking me over for a moment.

I’m sure it was the smell of pollution and shampoo and cleaning agents.

It’s the smell of Tokyo.

And it smelled like a kind of home.

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Sketchy Logic: Many Hands Mean Sports Are Evil

I just read the statement, “Many hands make light work,” and I feel like it was probably interpreted correctly in the past, and as a saying it still is. But when I read it, I thought, “Many hands make light work… each,” which to me implied that each extra hand increased the work load by a small amount (which is true, from a project management perspective). I suspect that the original phrase came from an older time when English was a bit more flexible in where you could put words versus what they meant/implied in those locations (what does “make” imply is an important distinction here), or possibly also from back when “work” literally meant “labor” (as in physical exertion) and so making something “light” was very literal in this case.

It is, of course, also true the intent of the phrase as “more hands make work lighter.” In fact, both interpretations of the phrase are true. It is another “known” axiom of project management that any given project has a theoretical optimum number of “hands,” and any hands beyond that optimum actually takes it back to creating MORE work (at worst) or just… idle hands (at best).

This phrase is used frequently in Mormon circles for topics like setting up for an activity (or, more importantly, cleaning up after one), moving someone in or out of a house, volunteer work at a park, etc… Typically, there is ample work for however-many people show up, but on occasion I have observed too many people showing up. In these cases, since there is rarely any overarching organization built up to ensure that no hands go idle (as there is so painfully often in the workplace), hands will tend to go idle after a while. This is when basketballs start bouncing in the gymnasium, or footballs start getting thrown around by these “idle hands.”

Finally, assuming truth in another phrase — “idle hands are the Devil’s plaything” — allows me to conclude quite tangentially that sports are evil activities; a point that I will defend right up until someone suggests that these idle hands may also engage in activities that I enjoy, at which time I suspect that I may just concede my hobbies are also evil. That way I get to still claim that sports are evil, and all it costs me is the comfort of claiming my own hobbies aren’t.

Wait, where was I going with this?

The Trainwreck Typo

Sometimes, when I write a long word, I’ll hit a typo early on (swap letters, usually) but my brain refuses to accept it and instead of stepping back to correct the unfinished word, my fingers seem to stumble around the keyboard for a second or two.

Fingers: “Wait, I’m lost.”

Brain: “No, it’s cool, we still got this.”

Fingers: “Okay, so there was a… ‘p’ in that word? And an ‘o’ we think…”

Me: “Wait, what the crap am I even typing?”

It’s like typing a train wreck in slow motion. Some part of me knows that nothing salvageable will come of this, but I can’t… stop… typing… letter…

As I Stand, Packing

Yes, packing.  It sucks.  It sucks muchly...  PS:  Love this photo.

Yes, packing. It sucks. It sucks muchly… PS: Love this photo.

I packed all my bags this evening.  This makes me sad.  Not because my bags are packed, leaving me nothing to worry about not getting done for the next day and a half, certainly, but because it means that I’m really basically finished here in Japan.

While packing I thought about a lot of things.  How I’m not the same person I once was.  How my sphere of friends has now expanded (ironically) to include most of the US, and almost none of Japan. ^_^  But the friends I made here have become like family to me.  I have my family, and I have friends back home who are like family, and now I have a third family that met up in Japan, and almost all of us are returning home to our respective states…  Washington, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Wisconsin…  All over the map.

Also I will miss a lot of the simpler things – smaller proportions, some of the stupid things Japan does, trains, yen, having a reason to speak Japanese to people around me…  Don’t get me wrong, I miss my home in Colorado very much, and I love everyone there and miss them all dearly… but I love my home here, too, with my friends here.  So it is a bittersweet thought, packing.

Leaving home for Japan wasn’t bad at all, because I knew that I would be returning within a year’s time, and that all would be well.  But I don’t know when I can come back here to Japan.  I don’t know when I will be with ALL of my new friends again.  Sure, we’re going to conventions together, but perhaps not all of us to them.  Sure, we have Skype for chatting, but you can’t get the energy from being AROUND them and able to move amongst each other.

On the one hand I have changed a great deal.  On the other, I am still the same person that everyone knows and loves.  I confuse even myself with this.  It’s just… not fun.

Tomorrow we head out to Disney Sea, a neighboring theme park to Tokyo Disneyland, which we went to two weeks ago.  We’re going to have a blast, and then we’re doing a final all-night karaoke marathon that will kick major ass.  Then at around 5 in the morning we head home, get a few final precious hours of sleep, followed by hiking our baggage out to the airport and awaiting flights.  There’s no time left.  Anything else we wanted to do will not get done, and any savoring we wish we could have more of will have to be left unsatisfied.  The week before finals’ week time couldn’t move fast enough and we all wished we were home already.  Now that finals are over, time is moving entirely too quickly, and freaking us all out.  A funny thing, Time.  ^_^  Don’t even get me started on my plans for when I get back to America.

Here’s a preview:

  1. Wash clothes.
  2. Sit down.
  3. Cry.
  4. Wash clothes. (Yes, again!)
  5. Call friends from home.
  6. Eat food with friends, and try to feel happy.
  7. Sleep in the presence of central air-conditioning.

And then I take things as they come…  ^_^

Mortality Complex

Okay, so this one isn’t DIRECTLY related to Japan, per se; but it was INSPIRED by things that I’ve seen and experienced here thus far.  ^_^  Also back home, but it becomes more prominent here as you’ll see.

Okay, so this one isn’t DIRECTLY related to Japan, per se; but it was INSPIRED by things that I’ve seen and experienced here thus far. ^_^ Also back home, but it becomes more prominent here as you’ll see.

So, I’ve had this thing about me for a while now, my brothers and I have talked about it before, and I thought for a while that it was a kind of… universal human trait that we all shared.  And while I’m not sure how universal it may be anymore, I have come somewhat to understand to a greater extent what it is, if not why.

So here’s an example:  You’re driving down the road.  It’s pretty late at night, and there really aren’t any cars around.  In fact, you’re pretty sure that you’re alone as far as you can see.  You start looking around you and notice a gigantic lamp post, and you feel the force of the vehicle around you, and you start wondering, What if the two forces met up, what would happen?  Sure you know you would crash, and probably die… but I mean…  What would actually happen?  Then your mind starts playing through these strange scenarios of what you might do to cause this, and what you might imagine would happen were it to happen, until you eventually start double-checking yourself to make sure that you aren’t ACTUALLY turning the wheel to steer you into the light post.

This is what I call the “Mortality Complex,” where you somehow feel a drive to explore the fringes of living…  (Okay, this sounds really creepy, and entirely too serious for how I take it, myself.)  It’s not necessarily a strong urge, either.  In fact, in most cases, it’s the easiest thing in the world to just brush off and ignore! ^_^  So don’t worry about me!  *is looking at you, you know who you are*  So yeah.  This thing happens to people.

But what’s very interesting is how I can see things in Japan and, perhaps because their idea of “safe” is so different that it starts my mind wandering thinking about what “safe” actually means, I find myself more frequently thinking along these lines.  See, they have things like, lots of trains that you ride everywhere, and stories of people killing themselves by jumping in front of trains – these spark questions like, “If I were down there, could I actually survive being hit by a train?  How fast is fast enough to kill me?  Could I perhaps run across the tracks to the neighboring platform?  How close to me could a train be when I started running before I couldn’t make it anymore…?  I bet you could duck down in the area under the platform and be pretty safe from the train…” and the like.

Also, they have these… roof things.  You can just go out and, without much trouble at all, dangle your legs 9 stories above the ground.  The windows in the schools don’t have SCREENS, and they open a fair amount, such that anyone wanting to could potentially just open one up and jump!

My friends and I look at things like this and ask ourselves, “Are they ASKING people to kill themselves?!?”  Descending the stairs in a game store, they have relatively little blocking you from, say, jumping the 6 stories down unto an active construction side next door, for instance, and we just stopped for a moment and said, “Man…  They REALLY make it easy in this country…”  And we paused.  We were both just kind of feeling the tension of how easy it would be to jump.

Naturally, neither of us DID, I mean, that would be just… STUPID! ^_^  There’s just that… Mortality Complex that makes you think about it for just a little while before you decide to move on.

And I guess the sum of it is this:  Japan tries to get people to kill themselves.  Who knew? ^_^

Also, now that summer has finally started to hit (80-something temperatures in Fahrenheit), I bemoan even further the lack of double-paned glass in this confounded country!  Double-paned glass would allow me to run my air conditioner for a couple hours in the evening, turn it off, go to sleep, and not wake up 4 hours later feeling hot and sticky again! >.<  Why, Japan?  Why?!?  Don’t you know that it saves energy – just like you’re always going on about – and ALSO lets you stay more comfortable?  For less money, even!!  Come ON, Japan!  I love you, but you gotta start being SMART about these things…  V__V

Dating Difficulties

This is not a personal entry, I promise!  It’s totally about Japan!  ;P (Translation: We ask men to refrain from entering the hot tob. Please understand.)

This is not a personal entry, I promise! It’s totally about Japan! ;P (Translation: We ask men to refrain from entering the hot tob. Please understand.)

So, I’ve talked about this on my personal blog site a lot lately (lately being in the last few weeks), but I have recently gotten myself into a relationship here in Japan.  (Yes, it’s awesome, okay, fine, moving on to more pertinent things in this blog.  Thanks.  ^_^)  I want to talk just for a moment about why I am now completely amazed that anything ever gets done in Japan with regard to relationships and dating IN GENERAL, as I have now seen some rather unusual things from the inside (of having a relationship).

First off, how do people ever get to know each other well at all?  There is nowhere in this city (Tokyo) that you can go to be alone together with someone, even just to talk or whatever.  Unless the last train has already left (more on that later), there’s going to be SOMEBODY walking nearby to SOMEWHERE, no matter where you try to run.  Societally, I suppose, this could function a bit like having a 24/7 chaperone, but when you hear statistics about the average 12-14 year old having had a sexual experience, you start to wonder where they go to DO it?  This isn’t me being frustrated, since I’m not looking for that sort of thing as you might imagine, but purely from a standpoint where I would like our personal discussions to ACTUALLY be personal and not having dozens of people walking by all the time, it’s a bit strange to think that ANYONE could be at ALL sexually active before they can afford a large apartment on their own (meaning after university)…

…and suddenly, it makes sense why nobody ever gets married or dates seriously here until well into college life or even an established career.  That makes me kind of sad.

Second, what’s the deal with purikura?  It’s a contraction of the English words “print club,” into Japanese, and it talks about the crazy photo booths they have here.  The picture atop this post is from a sign that I saw when my girlfriend and I went to take pictures at a purikura place in an upper floor of an arcade (they call them game centers here, though).  If you can’t figure it out, men are not allowed to be on the purikura floor by themselves.  If a man is present, he must be accompanying a woman.  I will freely admit that I felt freaking WEIRD going into that floor, hand-in-hand with my new girlfriend, ready to affix our newfound attraction into the annals of history with crazy backgrounds, bright shiny stars, and crazy glittery things dotted throughout the photos.  Was I adventuring into a forbidden realm?  Was there some hidden secret that only girls and boys-with-girlfriends were allowed to know?  (Pro-tip:  there wasn’t.)  What happened if she wandered around the corner to look at another booth without me noticing and some girl came up and saw me just standing by myself?!?  Were ninjas (girl ninjas) going to appear from the ceiling tiles and slice me in half for being a perverted monster, when really I just hadn’t stayed close enough to my girlfriend to be kept safe from the purikura ninjas?  o.o  I feared for my life.

[ed. note: Males are totally, technically allowed. I just never saw any nearby where the purikura stuff.]

I feared for my life muchly.

Lastly, what the hell, Japan, is with your trains?  Last trains leaving at 12:15?  But if you want to make the transfer that takes you all the way to your home station you gotta leave by 11:45?  And this is even on the weekend!  So we’re both in home-stays, and that kind of makes it impossible to meet up and just watch TV or a movie or play games at one of our houses, which means we have to meet up somewhere (usually the station nearest the school) to talk, as young lovers often will, into the not-so-wee hours of the night.  That’s right.  No staying up forever talking because you gotta catch your last train!  No cuddling together because, let’s face it, sitting down is generally frowned upon by THE ENTIRETY OF THE JAPANESE POPULATION…

…I once saw a few benches somewhere… >.>  I think.  Truth be told, there are benches, but they’re usually in places like, right out front of a train station.  You want to sit down on a curb?  Prepare to be stared at, and that’s before they realize you’re a gaijin and holding hands (in public) with a girl. *big sigh*

Anyway.  So things are… interesting.  We’re managing to have a lot of fun despite Japan’s seeming paranoia about letting two people have any amount of quality time together.  Meh, perhaps it’s for the best.  It will teach us to treasure the time that we CAN be together, perhaps?  (Pro-tip: On weekdays, you can get a karaoke room, up to 3 hours, for less than $4 per person.  And you can… sing songs… in the karaoke room.)

Well, peace from this side of the pond.

[ed. note: Now that I’m much older and “wiser,” I would be very much interested in returning and trying to observe more of local custom surrounding couples. Now to figure out how to sustain myself if I went, and how to not look totally creepy following couples around Tokyo… A safari hat probably wouldn’t help in this regard…]

What Have You Done to Me, Japan?!?

There are some times when you just go crazy, and others when you see that you have gone crazy.  Judging by the fact that I have no idea what relation this image has to what I’m writing, I deem that it must be the former of those two options.

There are some times when you just go crazy, and others when you see that you have gone crazy. Judging by the fact that I have no idea what relation this image has to what I’m writing, I deem that it must be the former of those two options.

I have a friend who helps me sometimes put my life into perspective.  That is, he’s a crazy, crazy guy, and that helps me to remember that I maybe am not as crazy as I sometimes fear.  Sometimes, I’m more crazy, but not usually. ^_^  This guy, by the way, is going to get murdered when he goes back to America, because he says a lot of things based around the fact that, if you speak fast, slur your speech, or use incredibly formal/informal English, nobody around you actually understands what you’re saying.  And he gets rather vocally frustrated at various things from time to time.  And sometime after returning to America, we just KNOW he’s going to let lose with one of these vocal tirades, and, well, see, in America, most everyone DOES understand English, which is going to get him into trouble.  A lot of trouble.

I present this anecdote not to berate him, because the things he says are often funny beyond belief, but rather as an example of one of the things that Japan does to you. ^_^;;

You see, when in a country where nobody REALLY understands your native language unless you use simple, common words and speak extra-clearly, you sometimes get into bad habits.  You have the liberty of saying things whenever you want, which is refreshing in a culture which limits the things you are allowed to DO, but sometimes a little disturbing when you realize that you’ve been swearing like a sailor in front of a mom and her 5-year-old at a crosswalk, and then a little refreshing again when you realize, Oh, right, they didn’t understand me.

Among some of the stranger things, I have always known dance instructors to be rather touchy-feely about instruction, and necessarily so in order that you can feel where your hips SHOULD be.  But in Japan, well, it’s worse than I could have imagined.  The other day at practice, they decided that everyone needed to stand up straighter, and in order to accomplish this, they deemed it necessary to stab each of the lower-classmen in the ass with their pointer fingers.  Now, I’m well aware of ‘kancho,’ but I’m also aware that this sort of thing is supposed to be limited to elementary and younger middle school students!  Not college seniors! >.<

And then, just to top off the whole, This is f*cking weird theme, at the NEXT practice, they took down one of the senpai, removed his shoes and pants and unbuttoned his shirt (forcefully, I might add) and then tossed him up into an overhead lamp a few times before dropping him back down to the ground.

One of the girls tried to be kind and stick her hand up, as if to touch the lamp, indicating that that was the lamp he was destined to hit.  I dunno, MAYBE she was trying to keep him from hitting it or something, but since girls can’t touch boys in this country (unless you’re dancing with them or teaching them to dance, in which case shoving your fingers up their patootie is totally fine), it’s a little hard to tell which was her true goal.

Seriously, Japan, what the crap?

Something that bugs me a lot here is the idea of “kimeta”, literally, “it’s been decided.”  This is one of the prime reasons for being a jerk-off in Japan.  Well, let me rephrase that.  If anyone is forced to do something stupid or is not allowed to do something intelligent and you ask those in charge “Why?” the answer will more often than not come back, “Kimeta kara.”  “Because it’s been decided.”  There need be no reason other than that.  I gotta say, I pretty much hated (with the firey passion of a thousand suns and all that) the reason “because I said so,” and this whole “kimeta” bullcrap is nothing more than the grown-up version of the same, perhaps with a little “my grand-pappy did it this way, and my father did it this way, and I did it this way, so you’re gonna’ do it this way, too” thrown in.  Y’know, for flavor. ~_^

I used to try to be a “good little gaijin,” when I first came here.  You know, I used to try to learn all of the customs, and to execute them all to the best of my ability, but now that I have been here for somewhat longer, I’ve learned that the Japanese people don’t really notice or care if you try hard to execute things the same way that they do.  In fact, I think it kind of throws them off their A-game to see a foreigner doing things as well as they do.  There’s this ‘sense’ here that Japanese people are “different” or “special” compared to the other nationals of the world, that they’re more naturally… “in tune” to some sense of Japanese… sensibilities.  While I believe this (and have OBSERVED this) not to be the case, you can’t really convince the average-Kenji on the street of this.  And so I have, partially out of increasing laze, partly out of rebellion, and partly because it makes me feel more like I’m filling in my rightful place in this society, I have begun to not care so much about some of the little details.  Things like eating food while walking someplace?  Whatever, I want to do it, I’m in an hurry, and besides, I’m a GAIJIN, so they expect me to do it wrong.  Talking on the train to friends?  Whatever, GAIJIN are always loud and obnoxious.  I think they are less thrown off when I ACT like a foreigner than when I don’t.  I think they prefer to have to struggle themselves and try to speak my VERY hard English for me than to have to endure the shame of my speaking their Japanese to them as fluently as the next guy.

…And sometimes I think I even start to believe that.  Just a little bit.

Oh, Japan, what have you done to me? ^_^;;;