It’s an adventure here. I don’t think I could be more of an alien had I landed on Mars and set up camp. Olive and I stick out to the extent that people queue up to take pictures (mostly of her because she’s… well a daffodil among the violets). I’m not joking. I have a picture of people set up to take her pictures. I know a little chunk of the language. Enough to be polite. Enough to make my needs known and be kind about it. Enough to make it on a daily basis. I am taking lessons, but the growth is tortuously slow. Even if I learned the language to a native level, I would never fit in here.
At heart, I come from a small town. My mind expects a certain amount of space. It isn’t here. Tokyo hasn’t been a small town for about a thousand years. There is the most interesting blend of ancient and modern. The juxtaposition is sometimes jarring. There are shrines everywhere. They are wedged between skyscrapers. They are several centuries old and they sit randomly next to neon lights and shopping malls. There is no land left unused. There are people, buildings, roads, and cement everywhere I look. And for the most part, it is immaculately cleaned and cared for. Even side streets. Every morning, the storefronts and sidewalks are hosed down and swept off.
Every single female wears heels and full makeup every day, no exceptions. They are stunning, for the most part. They work really hard for it, but the efforts are definitely not in vain. The men wear suits and ties, mostly tailored with clean lines, expensive shoes, and leather briefcases. The people are friendly, but deeply shy. They stare when they think I am not looking. I am always looking. I cannot help it. I make babies cry here, just by being. The more grown up children apparently think I’m the shiz. They run up to me and practice their English. I made a business man walk into a column. I’m not sure if it was in awe or in ugh. I do get propositioned fairly regularly by foreign men in Roppongi. My curly hair is cause for wonderment. I’m not blonde, but my hair is light enough and different enough that I have felt a ‘ghost’ hand or two touch it at crowded street crossings. Considering I am a full head taller than most of the females and a good many of the men, that is quite the feat.
I cannot iterate how bizarre it has been.
And yet I have settled into a life here. I don’t miss work. I hang out with Olive on a daily basis. We walk the streets of Tokyo everyday. We go to playgrounds and parks with no fear of crime or violence. I forget to lock the door to my house sometimes and I’m ok with it. I have left my purse sitting on a park bench, in a seat in a restaurant, and in a public bathroom. It was either immediately returned to me or waiting for me untouched when I returned. People are polite and kind to a fault. If I didn’t miss my family so terribly, I could live here indefinitely and probably be healthier for it.
But I do miss my family. I miss my friends. I miss being able to read billboards and traffic signs. Magazines and books, my most basic refuges, are all but denied me here. If I didn’t have an Ipad, computer, or internet I would go nuts for lack of reading. I miss being anonymous. I miss belonging. I miss twinkies and Target. I miss wide expanses of green, growing things and dark, starry nights. I miss my Mother’s face. I miss driving my car. I miss my home.
But I am here and here is just fine.