Goodbye, beloved country
Is this "See you later," or "Sayonara forever"?
We’re back in Japan - in my case, just a short spell. What to do when jet lag has you up at 3am? Go to the beach! I got there before sunrise and took in the stars, the sound of the waves, the scent of the Pacific. How I love the beach! Some Brazilian fellows in the parking lot added to the ambience with some lovely tropical rythms.
I found a good spot where only one guy was out. The waves were fairly small but fun, and no longboarders out yet to snake the good ones.
The Saturday crowd arrived early, but I got my share while the sun was just above the horizon. Often I’ll take a pass on gentle, crumbly waves, but though fairly weak, these waves held up for some long rides, almost all the way to the beach. Plus, when it’s surf-trunks temperature, it’s almost always fun to go out, even in slop.
btw, this beach experience is brought to you by Yamaha. And why not, they’re the big cheese in this town.
So why am I blogging about my morning at the beach? I guess it’s because I still feel a little ambivalence about returning to the US, and a perfect morning like this doesn’t help. I’m pretty committed, got my ticket last night and there’s a car in Seattle waiting for me for my drive back to Montana, but it’s tough to leave Japan. There are some wonderful things about this country, in addition to the friendly surfing crowd:
It’s totally safe. There’s virtually no violent crime and you and your kids are safe everywhere.
The Japanese are uber-polite (if not effusively chummy like many Americans/Canadians/Aussies)
things run on time
promises are kept
people mind their own business
they talk quietly
they work hard
women put on nice clothes before they go out
eating out is cheap
buses and trains run everywhere
bicycles are everywhere
sarcasm is rare
the cops don’t hassle you over trifles, like minor traffic infractions
the kids are adorable
the girls are beautiful
my family is here
So why in the world am I leaving again?
Because the entire country has gone bonkers with the covid mania. They are still sounding the alarms, canceling events, urging extreme caution, using plexiglass and plastic screens everywhere, requiring the test for entry, setting up a two-tier society (convenient easy entry at airports for the jabbed- testing and quarantine for the unjabbed- starting soon), reminding you to do this and that constantly on the PA system, and of course, the masks are everywhere. Those beautiful girls and cute children have no expressions for two-and-a-half years running. I don’t know who is beautiful and who is not- everyone is hiding behind the veil.
I guess it comes down to this: to make it here, until things return to ‘normal’, I’ll have to suck it up and put on the mask. And good luck trying to understand what the heck my students are saying behind the cloth. My heart is not in it. Secondly, for all their good traits, the Japanese are basically rule-following, obedient people, no matter if the rules are sending them off a cliff. Like Mr. Hashimoto, my mentor, told me at the high school when we discussed the masks, “We must obey,” and that’s that. He feels the same about the jab.
I thought of opening up a ‘no-mask’ school, but I don’t know- will I get enough takers? I told the owner of the English school who hires me for teaching gigs about that. He looked at me like I was crazy. “No, you won’t be able to open such a school.” Later he said, “Yes, I agree with you; the mask is permanent. But I don’t care. It’s simple - you take it off when you go home, then you put it on when you go out.”
The battle is probably not going to be won here in Japan. I want to return to a place where people are saying “no more” and they are unlikely to go back to weirdland without a fight.
It’s tough leaving, though.
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