It feels like this weird Sliders-esque universe where, from a distance, things look fine and normal but once I get closer, things are different, sometimes to the point of insanity. Some of it is expected, some of it is not.
First of all, everything is cute. I expected this, but not to the vast degree that it actually is. Stores are filled with chibi (cute) little mascots, cartoons, and products. Even the cans of SPAM are tiny and adorable. Trucks pass by on the road with smiling and happy spokestoons for everything from garbage collection to first aid. Heaven forbid you go into a multi-level store and wander onto the stationary floor. Let’s just say that I’ve never seen so many stamps and stickers in my life.
Another thing is style. Everyone is dressed spectacularly all the time. Men wear suits most of the time, and women wear smashing outfits with amazing shoes. Indi and I sat on a bench last night and just watched folks pass for awhile and I lost count of how many times she said, “OMG her shoes are awesome!” I feel like a slob in my too-big clothes and t-shirts. At least the weather is cooler here, so I can wear my stylin’ red vest. Run for it, Marty!!
But not everything is wine and roses. Everyone is happy, but it’s culturally required. You can read in some folks’ eyes that they are under tremendous strain, but if they notice anyone looking they’ll perk up like nothing is wrong. They smile, bow, and exude confidence because they have to, or they’ll lose face. I’m in the middle of reading ‘Culture Shock: Japan’ and it has helped me understand this a little better. I’ll report on it once I’m done.
I’ll give you a great example of things not being what they seem. On the subway yesterday, I saw a middle aged man in a suit reading a book. Salt-n-pepper hair, slightly rugged features. I looked closer and noticed he had a charm hanging out of his breast pocket. Upon inspection, it was a little colorful chain with ‘Stitch’ (from Disney’s Lilo & Stitch) on the end of it. Then I noticed his book; it was a graphic hentai novel, and he was reading it as casually as I would a newspaper. 1 + 1 + 1 != 3.
The food here has been amazing and I can’t wait to share my new foods list in a week or so. We’ve met some new friends and I’m working on the language barrier (not many Japanese know English, and my Japanese is terrible). We are having a great time and hope everyone back home is doing well. The holidays are creeping in and I already am saddened by the fact that Thanksgiving will be ‘just another day’. Turkey doesn’t really exist here, either. Perhaps I can find a cheap ham.