Saturday, 31 December 2011

The Year Of The Baka

So I've come to the end of another year in Japan. Sometimes I think I should just copy and paste what I wrote in previous years, but this year was a little different I guess.

The big mother quake certainly shook things up in a big way. Contrary to overdone media reports I was fine, but it was a perfect time to make a graceful exit.

But I stayed. Why?

Because I don't know when to quit even when sometimes I know I should. For example, I CAN'T stop buying music gear. While I haven't bought another guitar (yet). I did buy some very groovy 80s Roland boxes and a Korg. Even this blog. Maybe it's ran it's course and I'm just treading water waiting to drown.

Catalyst? Yeah there was. I moved out.

I hesitated, but it was the right thing to do, although I STILL question my decision even now. The apartment is great if a little noisy for damn right wing protesters not shutting the f*ck up!

While I've started this rant I may as keep going for a while. Not so long ago I was thoroughly searched by police. Through my jacket AND wallet. I WAS wearing a big jacket. Very suspicious when it's 6 degrees! I was riled. I was going to write a "Don't come to Japan" post, but I relented.

A few days later I lost my bank security token and memory key on the street. With the help of the koban and some kind person I got it back within 30 minutes. Just when I thought all was good, I went to do my washing in my inconvenient coin laundry. I put my clothes in and started the cycle. No sooner had it started, an old man in the confined space lit up a cigarette!

First I said "sumimasen" (excuse me), then "kusai"(stink) and finally "baka" (idiot). For each time he ignored me. I have to deal with smoke because of the so-called "polite" Japanese in public spaces. The straw is getting shorter.

So that's it. My year in a nutshell. 

I haven't connected my Internet and even though I've been extremely bored out of my mind, it's been a GOOD THING. Just don't expect a post so often, ok?



jet said...

Hope things are going better for you since you wrote this post, Jimmy. I only stumbled onto your blog today, because I had googled "are there really no street names in Japan" and one of your posts came up. It was from three years ago, but reading a few entries, I just had to say--what a gutsy move to make! And what pleasant reading your posts are...even the old ones!

I can only imagine how you feel, of course...I don't fly, so I know I'll never get to visit Japan. But, everything I have learnt about it--the homogeneous social aspect, the etiquette, the linguistic barrier...really something to think ponder, apart from the pretty pictures and the charming geiko of Kyoto.

I wish you the best of luck this year, Jimmy, and hope that your moments of doubt are few. You've done a great deal for yourself, more than most people will do--even when they do realise they wish to get out of that binding comfort zone.

Take care and, enjoy your Steve Vai-looking guitar! Hehehe. I've got to hand it to you--you held out for quite some time!

Arigatou gozaimasu, and

Jimmy In Japan said...

Thank you Jet for taking the time to write. Sometimes it's hard to see the worth of what I write, although even for me, I go back and read what I have written in the past, to see my so-called "evolution".

I have my self doubt often, but I also have had many happy, usually alcohol-fuelled moments of elation.

I REALLY appreciate your reply. You've really humbled me. It gives me a smile that is lacking at times.

BTW While most streets do not have names, there are actually some street names for the larger ones. eg. "Shinjuku dori (street)"

Ja ne,


jet said...

Dear Jimmy,

Well, I typed out a massive response (which I thankfully had the presence of mind to type elsewhere first) and tried to paste it in, but it was too long! So, I'll try breaking it into sections and leaving it that way. Here goes nothing...

Well, to be sure, I understand how you feel. There are a number of ways to help put it in perspective, though. If you don’t mind, I’ll (attempt to) make two points:

First, I live in a town which I completely despise. The place I’d love to live, unfortunately, is across the border and, no matter how many friends I’ve got there, and no matter whether I’ve already got a place to stay if I could, I can’t simply up myself and go...just isn’t legal. And I’ve applied for jobs there; I’ve even been contacted in return. But the rules for hiring a foreigner before a domestic worker are strict, and most people aren’t willing to do all the paperwork it would require, especially for a complete stranger.’s just not worked out. Thus, I stay where I am, because I’m not particularly interested in going elsewhere, if I can’t live where I want; I’d be just as dispossessed, no matter where I was. Do I know anything about the town where I live? No. Do I care? Not really. Do I consider it home? Certainly not. Have I even settled into my apartment, though I’ve been in it four years? By no means; I still feel like it’s merely temporary.

Well, in the grand scheme of things, everything is temporary. But, that’s honestly quite a silly observation to make when, in the end, one always must wake up the next day and go about one’s tasks, same as always; that doesn’t change, so the nice and tidy “everyone dies anyway, and no-one ever really knows anything” bow simply doesn’t sit well on the present day (that pun was a beauty, eh!).

Nevertheless, I don’t feel settled and very much doubt that I ever shall. I am a very busy person who can never be too occupied with some sort of project. I have just accepted the fact that, for whatever reason, I am the sort of person who will never be satisfied with just sitting around. I will never be content to “just exist” (though I very much wish that I could). I’ve got to be doing something, I’ve got to be thinking about something, I’ve got to be working away. And why? Just for my own benefit. But does it ever sate me? No—because there’s always something to move on to. In a way it’s stimulating and gratifying; in another way it’s exhausting and a bit disappointing. There will always be a bit of, “but I’m still not quite satisfied”, despite the fact that I’m usually quite a cheerful person with a positive outlook. Why? Because there’s no underlying sense of belonging? I don’t really know. It’s irritating—but, I doubt that, even if I lived where I wanted, I would feel I belonged—I would feel like a foreigner, of course, always trying to fit in and not betray my outsider self.

jet said...

Secondly, as far as your own dissatisfaction, you could have done any number of things which still required guts. You could have moved out to the bush, some place smaller even than Cowra and tried roughing it on a station, or out in the middle of nowhere with only goannas and brown snakes as neighbours. People do that, and sure—that takes guts! But what you did, took guts, too—maybe you’re not in the way of brown snakes, but you took yourself away from where you were perfectly understood (linguistically, if not personally) and put yourself—wilfully—in a situation where you were absolutely on terrae incognitae. You’ve gotten by as best you could on the skills you came naturally-equipped with—English—but you’ve adapted, and managed to make it work. Perhaps, like me, you don’t feel entirely at ease—there’s certainly no sense of compleat belonging when one is so obviously gaijin, so you’ve even got one over on me in that sense—and perhaps you’ve made this place for yourself, but you can feel that it doesn’t stick like dessert rice. Well—that makes sense, too. But how long will it go on? Well, for as long as you wanted to permit it, I suppose.

The thing is, you knew you had to leave Australia, and you did what it took to issue change. I’m sure that, despite my being a complete stranger to you (and for which I hope you’ll pardon me for all this), when the time comes to leave Nippon (as it surely will), you will know. And whether you return to Oz after that, or go somewhere else, well, you will know.

In all honesty, the same thing is true for me. I can deal with living here for the time being—until I get so sick of not having any proper winters that I go so much off my nut that I’m willing to live in ANY kind of bush, just for a good snow again. There are both blessings and curses to geography—and, when it becomes bad enough, the curses will pile up and you’ll know it’s time to get the hell out.

But as a last note, I just want to say that, for all my discontent here, I would never go back and change any of it. I’ve had some incredible opportunities, for which I’m quite thankful. I have a good job, which I enjoy (minus some drama at the hands of childish co-workers). And though I don’t know many people here, and though I don’t really go out at all, while it has occasionally been very isolated, that has not been bad; it’s enabled me to really concentrate on my OTHER work, and achieve a damn lot which NEVER would have happened back home. So, did I have misgivings about coming here in the first place? Ya. But did it work out? Better than I could ever have dreamed. But, that’s not forever. And I suppose, that’s just life—for some of us.

So, you ought to be proud of yourself—because, by all rights, you’ve done something which took guts that not even a bushman has got. You’ve done something which MOST people would have shied away from, even if they wanted some massive change. You haven’t shirked your discontent in favour of complacency, and you’re actively working at that gnawing inside. That is the best thing a person in your situation can do, I think—because, the alternative (shrugging it off and settling for whatever and then loathing yourself till you die) is so, so much worse.

jet said...

Therefore, Jimmy, please do take care; chin up in those sober moments of doubt. And, even when you can’t chin up, try to accept the fact that, sometimes you just can’t totally accept anything--you know?

Kind regards,

P.S. I so hope this doesn’t come off as preachy in any way...begging forgiveness, if so as that’s the last thing I’d ever intend. And, another thousand apologies if I’ve missed the mark and you actually don’t identify with a single thing I’ve said...feel free to dismiss it all as just the mad ravings of a lunatic reader! Haha.

(Blast these 4,000 character limits. And sorry for going on so long! But, it really was so nice to stumble across your blog. I'm glad you've kept it up!)

Jimmy In Japan said...

You wrote SO much, but I read every word and I hear what you have written. Everything IS temporary. (I don't know if you were quoting "Circle" by Edie Brickell) It's called CHANGE. It's what I needed, and while I'm not completely content, I kind of believe everything happens for a reason, and things will work themselves out.

So too. I hope you find your own satisfaction in life. Thanks for your comments. All the best. :D