Wednesday, November 14, 2012


A week or so ago Teeth showed me a twenty-four hour supermarket fairly close to the Murder Lodge, and I thought, "Great! It's less than a ten minute walk, so if I need potato chips at three in the morning, I can just pop over!"

I was walking home from the metro one afternoon and about seven guys were slouched against the railing of the river, waiting for something, a restaurant or a bus, who knows. I did the quick automatic scan, and they looked like they had too much time on their hands. I kept looking straight forward and walked past them. None of them said anything or even particularly looked at me.

Halloween day, my kids classes were the special Halloween unit, so I wore a costume to work, and figured the easiest way to do so was just to wear the bat wings and horns in. Two little girls on bikes giggled at me as they passed me, so I waved and said "Happy Halloween!" A few people looked at me for two seconds before carefully dropping their Someone Else's Business shields over the optical space I was occupying. I took the wings off on the metro when a seat opened up, so that I could take it without poking the people on either side of me.

I cheerfully mentioned to one of my co-trainees, "Nobody pays any attention to me on the street! It's glorious!!!!!" He gave me a funny look and asked, "Really?" He paused for a moment. "Oh right, you're a white girl." Our reference points are totally different. He went from being a black man in Baltimore to being a black man an hour and a half north of Tokyo (and now, of course, in Tokyo); I went from being a white woman in Baltimore to being a white woman in Tokyo. These are totally opposite attention vectors, even if we both wind up somewhere close to what I'd call zero. I'm not trying to fool myself on this one: I'll never be Japanese, and I know that as a gaijin I stand out and I always will. But that's fine with me for as long as the price for that remains this low.

Another co-trainee dropped his passport at some point on our epic karaoke night. He reported it missing to the police, and the next day they called to say that someone had turned it in to the police station.

I've stopped even noticing how many guys walk around with the top few inches of their long wallets sticking out of the top of their back pockets.

Jaywalking just isn't a thing here.

It's not all sunshine and roses, of course. I do have one creeper-on-the-train story: taking the packed Yamanote line out of Shibuya, I saw this old guy lean forward and lip the back of the coat of the guy in front of him before deliberately drooling on it. I was staring at him with my WTF-est expression on, and I wanted to say something, but what would I have said? I really can't get much past "sumimasisen" at this point.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

One Month

I've already been in Japan for over a month- how time flies! It's been incredibly busy, in a good way, and I'm already starting to feel like living here is my real life. I'm getting a handle on the most important aspect of my new life, which is Tokyo's train system- or at least, I'm getting a handle on the three lines I ride with any regularity, and getting better at not feeling overwhelmed by the size of the stations and how many people are in them at any given time. It still amazes me that it's possible to know, to the minute, when the trains will leave their station: the sheer organizational power!

Given that the train system comprises the city's arteries, it shouldn't surprise me as much as it did that the English students who have mentioned driving have such a different relationship to it than I do. Back home I had a thirty-five minute drive to work and drove about three hundred miles a week, and often found any additional driving to be tiresome. But I've had two students mention that they love to go driving on their days off, and one said that the hours-round-trip drive there was one of the reasons why he loves going to his favorite hot springs. Maybe after a year of not driving I'll miss it, but for now I'm excited by the thought of not getting behind a steering wheel any time soon.

I think a large part of why living in Tokyo is feeling like reality is that I've finally started work rather than training, found a grocery store, and started cooking meals since I moved into the Murder Lodge. (Oh, right, I moved! Given everything else, that actually seems like small potatoes.) Every so often I still think about how strange it is to be living in one of the most exciting cities in the world, halfway around the world from home, but more and more that's just how I roll- I'm cool like that now, even though I am not now, nor will I ever be, in the same fashion league as the tragically hip youth* I see all over. (In related news, Japanese people have amazing skin, and I cry myself to sleep at night** because I have no hope of aging so well.)

Anyway, speaking of Tokyo being so exciting, I have a party to show up fashionably late to. I promise I will post more soon!

*Aged ~15 to ~50. I cannot tell, because, again, amazing skin. Given the ages my students have claimed they are, I can only conclude that everyone looks 25 until they're 80, and then they acquire a few fine wrinkles.
**As you may have guessed, this is not a literal statement.