Making Myself Proud

 

Judging by the pride I felt, you might have thought I’d just recited the US Constitution by heart in five different languages.  As it was, I spoke one short sentence in Japanese to a woman who works in our apartment building in Kyoto. I’d been practicing the phrase for weeks.  I wanted to be able to express my pleasure in seeing an acquaintance or friend upon return to Japan.

Since my visit last spring I have become a relatively serious student of the Japanese language.  Relative to my earlier lazy dazy style, when I’d pick up a word or two per visit. When my 10 yr old granddaughter began to study the language weekly, my competitive nature took hold and I quickly decided that if she could do it, so could I. So we now share a teacher, if not the same class.  I’m enjoying it and there’s no pressure if I haven’t studied.

Obviously some phrases I’m learning seem more useful than others to me.  I’ll never have to learn to say please hand me the wrench. I’m concentrating on what I am likely to use.    I couldn’t wait to try out this one phrase in particular. Mata aete urushi desu!  or in English, So nice to see you again!

I reviewed it several times and tried it out on my teacher in Santa Barbara when she came to my door a few weeks ago.  She always acts delighted if we learn anything, and this was no exception. I reviewed it several times on my way to our apartment in Kyoto knowing the time for its use was approaching.  Sure enough, I quickly encountered the woman I was previously only able to say good morning to.   I was now able to express my pleasure at seeing her again. When I greeted her  she looked shocked, then delighted and bowed deeply!  I then asked her if she was well?  Genki desu ka? (I’d known that one.) Jai, genki, she happily told me.  Watashi mo, I easily told her. Me too! That was a new one for me. I was thrilled with myself.

My small talk now consisted of more than one sentence.  Feeling brave and building upon my success, I then saw the manager of the building, a serious man who always seems to want to avoid me because he speaks very little English.  It might be for other reasons, but I’ve convinced myself it’s because of the language barrier. Boldly I called out to him.  Sumi masen!  Excuse me.  He had no choice but to look in my direction.  I said the same four word sentence to him I’d used a few minutes ago.  His face brightened immediately and he broke into a huge smile that I honestly did not think he was capable of.

Seeing his smile,  I think I must have smiled just as broadly. Deciding not to push my luck, I moved on saying, Ja mata (see you later) , hoping he never asks me anything more in Japanese until my next visit when I might be more capable.

There’s Still Time

I wanted to love it, and I occasionally did almost enjoy it.  It had its moments.  Just not enough of them.  It was a blockbuster digital art show presented by the Mori Art Museum called Tokyo Lab Boundless.  It is state of the art of digital technology.  Tickets were scarce, but I got one.  I waited in line to enter as my anticipation built, while knowing instinctually that I might not like the manipulated world that awaited us.

How to describe the encounter?  It was an encounter, because the visual overload was close to overwhelming. Visualize many large overlapping spaces contained within a huge hangar. Within the hangar are rooms with different visual displays, mostly relating to nature.  Rooms ultimately morph into other rooms and the spaces purposely become “boundless,” constantly moving, shifting and reappearing. Hints of eternity?

Envision being in a space where every surface is covered with some of the following in a digital rendering; flowers of all kinds and shapes, a waterfall room where people lounged on a large rock as a digital waterfall cascaded over them.  Butterflies flitted and birds flew, thousands of straight strings of l.e.d. lights  changing colors were the Ultimate Christmas Display in my opinion, alluring and transfixing. At the top of a long flight of stairs waited a room with hundreds of suspended  lantern lamps changing colors as well.

Most of the projections were symbols of the natural world. The images covered every surface including ceilings, floors and visitors.  MIrrors added to the illusion of infinite space.IMG_1092

The spaces were crowded. Optimally, I would have liked being the only visitor. Disorientation was part of the experience, but after a while, looking for a way out of this manipulated world became a distraction as well.  There were moments when I thought “how cool, or how beautiful” but they did not outweigh the discomfort I felt at this whole idea.

With our planet in the throes of seemingly unstoppable and accelerated climate change, was this display the way of the future?  An idealized manipulated version of what was the natural world? Is this what will remain when nature collapses?  Just memories lacking the realness of texture of scent of birth and decay?

Was I the only one to interpret the dark side of this extravaganza?  Maybe to most visitors, this would be a more than acceptable substitute for the real thing.  Just as some climate deniers are suggesting we could all move to another planet?

Suddenly I wanted to be released.  Not so easy to find an exit though the endless rooms. I had to first find a worker who slipped me out of an unmarked back door, after I was insistent about wanting to leave.

Relief!  Light!  A genuine, living, glorious flower presented itself.  There’s still time. There’s still time. There’s still time.

Opening to a Different World

My pores are opening to my new world.  I’m a little like a bi-valve when I fly.  Part of me shuts down/closes and waits patiently to arrive on another shore.  If there are periods of turbulence, I shut myself off even more.

closed bivalve

My flight to Japan was truly fine, considering the distance traveled.  I did not have a window seat and my window seat mate upon being seated immediately closed the window shade and put on his tv monitor, thereby  shutting off any connection with night/day/clouds or light for the duration of flight (11+ hours).  I hunkered down, swallowed a sleeping pill, and waited, sleeping a bit.

nose

Emerging on the other side of the Pacific, I had no trouble talking myself into a taxi ride to Tokyo.  A man approached me, speaking a little English. I know I had that just-flew-across-the-ocean dazed-look that made me an easy target.  He offered to take me to Tokyo,   “Do you have a taxi?” I queried suspiciously.  He pointed to his nose!  That’s a gesture I’m unfamiliar with, but, for some strange reason,  it was enough for me to decide to follow him.  He took my luggage, pointed to a bench and just said “wait.”

As I waited for him, I thought about my really unjustified trust in this man. I was too tired to find another more obvious method of transportation.  Before long, he drove up to me in a large van with enough room for at least 12 passengers.  Or would they be 12 kidnappers who would hold me for ransom while leaving me locked up in small cell, torturing me intermittently?  Once more, I asked the man, is this a taxi?  He pointed to his nose once again. I wasn’t making a lot of headway, but I decided to get in.  I did try to check out one of the doors in case I needed to get out quickly.   It was dark and I couldn’t see a door handle.  I decided that he’d probably locked it from the front anyway. Now that my breathing was a bit stronger, I might actually be able to run 2 or 3 feet and get a head start in a pursuit, in case I had to make a run for it.

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I felt a bit of relief when he followed a sign towards Tokyo.  At least he wasn’t taking me in the opposite direction to some vacant concrete deserted building (Like I saw in Homeland) .  We rode along for miles, silently and uneventfully.  I tried to assure myself that my mind was a victim of all the awful news I’d been taking in recently.  After all, I told myself, I’m in JAPAN, a country know for being one of the safest in the world.  Or so I proudly told someone just yesterday.  Was I going to have to eat my words?   I remained vigilant, watching for signs, whenever the road offered options, that we continued to head in the right direction.  So far so good, maybe it wouldn’t be a vacant concrete building, but a place in central Tokyo?

Then I thought of a new question for my driver.  Do you know where the hotel is?  “I know, I know, nice hotel,” he responded.  I wasn’t sure if I believed him since the hotel is a new one.  I realized that question really didn’t accomplish much.  But at least he knew he was being watched.

We followed a sign towards Ginza, the part of the city I needed to go to.  Yes!  Relax, Dianne. Then just as the plane ride had ended, this car ride ended with us directly and safely in front of the hotel.  Thank you Lord.  No need for any heroics tonight.  My defenses relaxed as I entered the comfortable world of the Japanese hotel. I felt relieved and happy as I deposited my baggage and went out for a leisurely stroll, with no need to run from anyone.

A few pics taken:  and a p.s.  in the light of day, I figured out that pointing to one’s nose, must mean, it’s mine!

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street dude
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NIssan showroom

so slick

Am I Waku Waku or Doki Doki?

Waku waku (suru)!  I recently learned, means I am excited.  Or shall I say doki doki (suru),  meaning I’m excited and nervous at the same time?  Either way, I’m off to Japan again in two more days.  My excitement is always a given, my nervousness is a result of being by myself for about two weeks before I’m joined by my husband.  I looked for a travel companion but it was a half-hearted attempt because I was a bit ambivalent about having to think about anyone other than myself while traveling. The timing was not good for those I’d asked and I decided that was a definite sign to go it alone for a while.

So I’ll be setting my own agenda, lingering too long at places, eating too early or too late some days, and in general, just following my own instincts without consideration of any one else.  It will be wonderful at times, a bit lonely at times, but always interesting.

Some well-meaning people will be sorry for me, but I will not share in their sorrow.  I’ve been to Japan many times so I am familiar with the do’s and dont’s of the culture. I’ll use my gaijin license if necessary or when I feel like a bad ass. This means, that because I’m a foreigner in Japan, there’s no way I can possibly know how to do everything correctly, so I am given an imaginary license to make mistakes. Or do the wrong thing, as the case may be.comic

The loneliness I will feel will probably come around meals, but there’s freedom there too, to grab a take out and eat in my own room while watching tv, or writing a blog. I speak a little Japanese now and am eager to try out my new words. I know where to get $$ from atm’s when I run out.  I also know for a woman alone it’s about as safe a country as you can find. This trip, I’m determined to take a few day trips on my own to travel by train outside of Kyoto.

After a bit of a rough patch physically, I’m feeling more healthy than I have been for a while. For those wondering, I have asthma, but I’m now armed with different meds and am able to breathe so much more easily.

I am grateful for my new lease on life.  I am grateful for the wonderful opportunity to return again to Japan to continually find inspiration there.  So doki doki is tolerable and part of the package of moving forward in life.  How wonderful to say waku waku (suru) as well!

Come on a long with me for the journey.  I’ll do my best to keep you entertained and interested.  Follow me on notoutyet.com.http://notoutyet.com