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Nihon de: The adventures of Maggie » Hachiko

Looking Ahead, and Behind

Posted by maggie on Jun 1, 2012 in In Japan

I tried authentic ramen the other day. Very good, very big. I liked it, but if I must indulge, I’ll go for the cheapo ones you can buy at the supermarket :)

It’s hard to believe there is only one week left of living with my host mother. For as frustrating as communication can get sometimes, I’m thinking about how much I’ll miss her already. I want to keep up and write letters and maybe send a picture every once in a while if I can. She’s a sweet old lady. I hope she’s not lonely when I leave; true, Hideki-san will be here for a little bit, but then when he leaves I hope she’s fine. I’m pretty sure she will be, though. I’ve learned through some very short, jointed conversations that she sews and goes to dance classes on some days. We even stopped and spoke with one of the neighbors a weekend or so ago. So she has things to do and people to talk to.

I still will worry about her though, because I’ve come to love her like another grandmother. It’s kind of cool in a way; you don’t need to perfectly understand someone in order to form a lasting relationship with them. Regardless of our cultures, norms, locations, etc., we are all human beings with an inherent desire for connection. Being so far from home probably strengthens the feelings, I’m guessing, but it is reassuring in a way. I’ve met all kinds of people in my short time on this earth; good, bad, and everything in between, based on my own biased standards. At the risk of sounding like a cheesy kids’ movie, it would be nice if we could get passed some of the more superficial things that drive us apart and come together as human beings, and my trip to Japan has shown me that it can be very possible if we have the drive and make the effort.

In many of the classes I have taken since coming to college, I have heard all sorts of different policies on people treating other people. I don’t think of myself as an “ist” of any kind, but as I learned in conversations with some of my group members, you can be a racist or a sexist in any situation when it is twisted the right way. And we all have ways of defining these situations by ourselves, so I could go out of my way trying not to be an “ist” and the right person could still argue that I was being one anyway.

Japanese culture and language focus heavily on not offending anyone. There are numerous ways to apologize, varying forms of politeness that you can use in only certain situations, and it is considered polite to be very humble. If someone compliments you, the correct answer is, “No, I’m terrible, really.” You tread carefully so as not to step on any toes or say things too brashly, even if you dislike someone. It’s like working in 24 hour customer service.

To me, it comes down to suppressing emotion and natural inclinations. Here, they are the enemy, only to fraternize with in the quiet comfort of your own home, when Big Brother isn’t watching you. Haha. Not really really.

But even in your own home, you still have to be a little conscious about things if you live with other people. I bring this back to the bit above about human beings all getting along and not being racist or sexist or any form of “ist” you can think of.

I find it important to gain and maintain strong, long-lasting relationships in my life. I realize that is not how everyone wants to be. But I also see that I cannot make close friends with every person I meet on the street. Whether I want to or not, I’m going to offend someone at some point, probably on multiple occasions. It’s unavoidable and uncontrollable. All I can do is try to accept it and move on.

So here is what I think about the “isms” and “ist’s.” True, I don’t want to purposely offend people. I want to make friends, as many as I can, as close as I can. But I can’t spend my life trying hard not to step on anyone’s toes. It’s a lot of hard work with no guaranteed reward other than that they might think back on that nice girl what’s-her-name for a moment and then promptly forget. Also, it will only make me more tired and annoyed when others don’t show me the same courtesy.  I will do my best not to personally insult people for dumb reasons, but I can’t always guarantee that either. I am a human being with emotions, thoughts, and opinions, and while they might get me into trouble every once in a while, they mostly serve me very well. Above all, my emotions and instincts make me human, a smarter animal than most but an animal nonetheless. To try to completely suppress my emotions and natural feelings is, to me, to make me less of a human being, because whether they are bothersome at times or not, they give me the ability to care as well as to hate.

It is a two sided coin, and all that philosophical yadda yadda. :)

Tying back into humanity as a whole, Japan and America are quite different in many ways, but fundamentally, as collective assortments of human beings who strive to make a profit, connect with others, and lead fulfilling lives, we are not that much different. And while I can shake my head at someone who I perceive as being ignorant, I soon realize that there are many things I am ignorant of as well.

I think we take ourselves way too seriously. It’s hard designating which lines should not be crossed, but maybe we could start by not getting so whipped out about small things. I’ve seen too many people getting upset with each other over whether or not Glee is good. I’m bad about it too. Really, who cares? It doesn’t matter a whole lot in the grand scheme of things.

I feel like my musing is very contradicting at times. I love arguing with people over whether or not a tv show or a game or something is good. But I think it is when people get nasty about it is when it starts getting too personal. So someone doesn’t like Star Wars. Or Glee. Or whatever else. Nachos, I don’t know. That’s their preference. Just don’t hang out with them then if it bothers you so much.

By the way, please don’t take this as me nagging at you. This is a message to me more than anyone else. Maybe this gives me more of a motivation to listen to my own advice :) Everything is relative.

I love writing, maybe because I love to talk so much. Writing gives you a good forum, where you aren’t interrupted unless it’s a chat and you type too slowly.

But what did you really come to hear about? The trip, of course! I promised to talk about where I went on Tuesday, and here I keep putting the blogs off. I get easily distracted, especially in Japan where there is so much to look at. Lots of color, flashing lights, bells, whistles, and such.

So on Tuesday, I went to Shibuya to see the Hachiko statue just outside the station. It’s a well-known story over here, that a professor who lived in the area found this dog, and they would meet at the station at the same time everyday. But the man died one day, and the dog just kept coming back to wait at the station every day.


It’s kind of sad, but also sweet. Dogs may be slobbery and not the smartest of animals, but they are certainly loyal companions. Makes me miss my own dog.

So I saw the statue, and then I wanted to go look for the Hard Rock Cafe in Roppongi. I had to leave the station to see the statue; I didn’t want to pay to get back inside, so I figured I’d walk. It’s a bit of a way, but Shibuya and Roppongi aren’t super far apart. It would have taken a while though, even if I hadn’t walked in a giant circle for an hour and 20 minutes. Eventually, I was tired, and decided I had spent enough time wandering to warrant getting back on the train, so I hopped back on and then took the subway two stops to Roppongi.

After 30 minutes of searching, pausing to explore a music store and Japanese cold stone. They sing if you tip them here, too. I saw someone tip them and the song was funny, because I recognized the tune but few of the words. When I finally found the restaurant, it was closed til the 19th, but that means I can come back maybe on a weekend while I’m still here :) I like collecting stuff from hard rocks when I can. It’s not extreme, but if I go to a new country, it’d be cool to visit the hard rock there and grab something. So I’ll go back to that. 

Then, on Thursday, we went as a group to Meiji Jingu, a shrine dedicated to Emperor Meiji and Empress Shouken. The original building was destroyed in World War II; what we saw was the shrine that had been restored in 1958, I believe. It has the (maybe one of the) tallest gate in Japan. It’s a cool place. I hadn’t seen any sacred trees before, but this shrine had two, bound together and each carrying a spirit within.

After this, we parted ways at about noon to spend the day as we wanted to. I followed Cindy to Omiya looking for a kimono shop that had an employee who spoke English, but when we arrived, the shop was closed. So we walked for a while looking for the bonsai nurseries, instead finding the Hikawa shrine, a big park, and a zoo. It wasn’t how we expected to spend the day, but it was a lot of fun. And the unexpected can lead to new and interesting things. I’m glad I resisted the urge to go home and nap, even though I desperately wanted to by that point.





I’m just throwing in pictures all over the place. :)





I feel bad for talking so much this time around. So here I go dumping pictures on you instead. That’s pretty much all that has gone on since the weekend. Interesting stuff, at least. This trip is so awesome. Japan used to feel like a dream, and now home seems more faint and dream-like. I can barely imagine what it will be like to come home after all of this.


Going to bed for now. Thanks for journeying with me again today. Jane (jya-neigh), not Jane, Dad. :)


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