"working on my faults and cracks..."


Brand New Set of Wings

Japan has taught me to look right, then left before crossing. It's taught me to eat first, skip the questions, and go straight to the beer. It has taught me that the old Japanese adage "say one thing, mean ten" is a goddamn lie. It's actually twenty or thirty--sixty if on a Monday, or the third Wednesday of any month. Goes without saying that I've learned a lot in a year.

Sans raucous celebration, today marks the unceremonious passing of my first year in Okayama, Japan. This momentous anniversary actually should have been yesterday, but I missed my flight out of Cherry Capital on that morning. Embarrassing, I know. Ominous karmic foreshadowing to an entire year of missed buses, streetcars, bullet trains, local trains, rickshaws, and pretty much every other mode of human transportation known to the Land of the Rising Sun. If one could physically be "late" for an escalator, I'd probably be the first to make a habit of it. John Candy would be proud.

In my defense though, I made it on the Kyushu to Shikoku ferry on my first and only try, breaking a mean "missed it on the first go" streak, back in July of last year. Not that I'm careless, I simply allot certain measurements of time for "human (re: my own) error," whenever I travel. It's in these flexible measurements that I always end up experiencing a side of Japan that I may not have seen, had I been adamant about a prompt departure. Like the time I missed the last Yamanote train to get home, and begged a taxi driver to get me the 45 minutes back to my hotel on only Y1500 (about $13). Awesome guy. Or that other time my negotiation conveniently skills failed after I missed the last Takahashi train home, had to pay Y13,000 ($120) to a much less talkative driver for his award-winning version of "45 Minutes with a Surly Cabbie." Would have walked, but I had to be at Tokyo Disneyland the next morning. There was even a time where I missed the last Utsunomiya train home, so I threw my wallet and keys in a station locker, and just fell asleep on the platform. Woke up just in time for the first train out. Still had my shirt, and pants, and everything. Granted, in reality Japan may not be as safe as everyone says, but a night on a foreign train station bench without getting raped is safe enough to convince me.

Anyway, are we seeing a pattern yet? Any more 'missed train' stories, you'd probably start to think I just liked the attention. But seriously, the most important thing I've learned here, is that despite the Japanese being punctual to a fault, if you still allow yourself to be late, there's so much more to be experienced in the moments when you fail to arrive on time.

Raise a frosty Asahi, or a warm, wooden box of sake to the months ahead. Damn near a billion trains to be missed.

Stoked to have you along on the ride.

2 contributions to this piece:

Valerie said...

You turned off comments on the last post, and I really REALLY wanted to comment about the guy's scary mask and fuzzy slippers. They're teh awesome.

ikinari said...

Good stuff.

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