It’s been a month since we arrived in Tokyo. And in the last 30 days, we have experienced two typhoons, an earthquake, many tears, more laughs, several visits to Ikea, and far too many meals at fast food restaurants.
It has been challenging, to say the least. But now we are settled into our apartment. Jumping head first into work and school, we have not had much time to explore Tokyo, but we are looking forward to more lazy Sundays and free weekends to be tourists in this city we now call home.
In reflecting on the last month, here are some observations:
- Tokyo is safe. Not that things don’t happen, but they typically don’t. So I’ve heard. But we live on the ground floor apartment of a building that you typically need a key or a code to get into. Even the patio area is locked. But. I, and my “urban” inner-city dwelling self is not used to this. But one thing I can appreciate is that I can be completely jet lagged, rushing, forget my keys in my door and they, along with my apartment, are where and how I left them. That shit would not happen in Philly. They woulda took the toilet paper off the roll. But I get enough sleep now so it’s not likely to happen again.
- The Japanese are polite. Like, reeeeeaaaaallly polite. Like, so polite you can be a xenophobic society but your cultural upbringing keeps you from, say…I don’t know, allow your civilians or police force to down every person that doesn’t look like you in the streets and call it justice or a second amendment right. I’m just saying. I was talking with one of my students about it and she was laughing in my office. She agreed that her culture is so polite that they are passive aggressive if they have a conflict with someone. She told me a story about how someone in her family was so angry at her downstairs neighbor that she spent countless hours to contact the landlord, ward offices, and eventually got the tenant not only evicted but deported back to Korea. That’s dedication to the silent promise you made to them that they will never cross you again. When she told me that, I made a note to bring welcome gifts to my neighbors this weekend. Just in case.
- Moving to Tokyo is not the same as traveling to Tokyo. I have yet to eat sushi here. Or drink sake. Or see Tokyo tower. Or watch a movie in Japanese. Or see traditional dancers in the middle of a square. Or visit a temple or the shrine of some famous Japanese sensei. I landed in Tokyo on August 17th and went to work August 18th. And I’ve been working and sleeping ever since. But things are stabilizing now with our schedules and I look forward to taking weekends and exploring this city and country like a true tourist soon. But it’s funny that we’ve managed to find restaurants that serve all the food we would have eaten in America without really trying. Go figure.
- Every restaurant we have eaten at almost always has 90s R&B music playing. Which I am here for, but the boy is completely embarrassed by. Not exactly the music itself, but his mother who grew up in that era and insists on singning every song WITH the choreography if needed for emphasis. I love it. And don’t let them play Hip Hop! OOOOOOOHHHHHHH!!!!!!
- I actually like it here. Not that I thought I would hate it, but I didn’t think I would like it as much as I do. One concern I had was that they would have this unnerving fascination with us and it hasn’t been a huge issue. I know that others have had very different experiences here, but I haven’t really had a concern walking down the street or going some place and getting touched. When we visited China, it was a constant barrage of stares, pointing, touching, photos, and exclamations of “Africa! Africa!” (seriously) But here, there has been none of that (or very discreet attempts). It could be possibly the aforementioned politeness. However, I have had a few staring contests on the train with really old people, tho. I always win.
We’ve enjoyed our time here and looking forward to it getting better. Hopefully more adventures will happen as we settle more into school and work.