Wednesday, May 31, 2006

I Love Japan

It's my final night in Japan, and I'm leaving to meet some friends for a drink in a few minutes. I have all kinds of feelings about leaving, including a deep love for Japan and a bit of fear about life in the States. The other day I was on the phone making my flight reservation to Hawaii and I had my first rude awakening (emphasis on "rude"). I gave the clerk my first name and then spelled it out, "K-I-M-B-E . . ." etc. She was silent as I spoke, waited an additional few seconds for dramatic pause after I finished and then gave me a snotty, "I know." Right. I don't need to spell my name out for Americans. I can pretty much just say it and it won't sound like Kenbari or Kenbeary. It's hard to think through all of the tiny, subtle ways my life will be suddenly different very soon.The following is a post I started a long time ago, but now is a great time to publish it.

I love Japan because:
  • The people - kindest, most courteous, gentle, friendly, smiley, biggest-heart-est people in the entire world
  • The landscape - mountains, valleys, green and flowery, it's very similar to the Pacific Northwest, which we all know is the most beautiful place on earth
  • Focus on nature - I guess from the influence of Shintoism, there is a respect for and partnership with nature here that I've never experienced before. We are constantly enjoying one season and anticipating the next. Every month has a different aspect of nature to celebrate. I really hope to bring this home with me. (Can you see the rabbit in the moon from the US? I hope so!)
  • Lack of crime - when I returned from 8 days in Thailand earlier this month I realized that I had left my front door unlocked. Ho hum. Today I got my house deposit back and mindlessly left about $8,000 in cash on the passenger seat of my car while I ran into the mall for an hour. No crime. Ever. EVER. It's gonna hurt the first time I'm in the States and I get burned on this universal trust that I've developed.
  • Thoughtfulness, awareness of others - sacrifice personal preference for the good of the group. Japan has more similarities to communism than I experienced in Russia in 1990, but in a really good way. The mindset is catching, it doesn't take long when you're living in Japan to automatically think about how your actions influence others. That isn't exactly an American mindset.
  • Simplicity - another hard to explain aspect that I love about life in Japan, also something to do with the Shinto religion.

When I go, I will miss:

  • 800 year old people talking walks everyday
  • Seeing people wearing coats in summer in the 90* weather because they have zero body fat
  • Women riding bicycles in high heels e-mailing friends on their cell phones holding umbrellas and adjusting their skirts - all at the same time
  • The sing-song "Ohaiyo gozaimasu!" that I hear multiple times every morning ("Good morning!")
  • Being called -san or -chan (LSL-san, LSL-chan)
  • Awesome foot reflexology places in every mall or shopping center
  • Japanese pottery - intricate, moving, (I won't miss it too much because I'm bring a thousand pounds of it with me to the US)
  • Crazy demonstrations in the aisles at the supermarket
  • Pizza with corn (I love you, Potato Country)
  • The customer service - you wouldn't believe it even if I told you about it, so just trust me on this one. You'd miss it, too.
  • Japanese men who tszuj their hair all the time
  • Kids reading manga in Family Mart
  • About a million more things

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