The experiences fly by so quickly. I expect that I will find myself in 6 months time back on the farm that inspired the first post of this journey, feeling like I only left yesterday and trying to come to terms with the whirlwind of life that just flew by. I want to reach out and grab onto life, pull back on its hand and and say chill! Slow down, breath a little, make this experience last. But life is as elusive as time. So real and so abstract and so intangible. All I know how to do is to keep chasing after it, stopping and gasping for air, catching my breath when chasing gets to be too much.
I have moved from Berlin to Vienna to Burgenland, and am still trying to find time for my experiences in Japan. When I think of Tokyo now, I think of the people. The gentleness of interaction. The courtesy and consideration. The curiosity, and the helpfulness. Strangers surprising us with english when we’re clearly trying to decipher the public transport networks, “can I help you?” Smiles and arigatou gozaimasu with each exchange. Happiness and willingness to keep trying to communicate when english was less well known. Our broken and I’m sure poorly pronounced Japanese, their broken english, gestures and acted out explanations, even pulling in recruits who might know the words we needed. Everywhere I felt welcome, despite how we stood out. Everywhere I felt calm, despite the impeding rush and concrete of the city. Everywhere I felt respectful, and in turn I felt accepted.
I think of Tokyo and I think of the people, rushing, walking, jogging, biking, whispering, praying, worshiping, observing, living, bowing, working, working, working, sleeping on trains, sleeping standing up, happy because it is their job to be, courteous beyond their own needs. I think of the quiet of the public transport, the signs making it clear that loud conversation was not acceptable and phone calls should only be taken in the waiting spaces between train cars. I think of everything I loved, that made me feel calm and welcome and at ease, and everything that simmered quietly underneath that, that people hid behind courtesy and the soft white cough masks covering their faces.
Tokyo was busy and rushed, perfect and imperfect. Wild and wonderful. In Hamamatsu the pace slowed considerably, but the courtesy, the kindness, the consideration for others, all remained. I fell in love with Japan. The food, the forests, the streams, the temples, the monkeys, the shrines. We ate at a tofu restaurant with unbelievable taste and variety. We walked through the flower garden and beneath Hamamatsu Castle. We drove to the coast and walked along the beach where I could look towards my home in New Zealand, towards another home in California, and I felt at home with that Pacific horizon. Walking with a friend we discussed the repression of emotion and identity that can result from the rules and hierarchy and courtesy of Japanese culture, but I realise now through these reflections that above all else, I truly loved Japan because of the people.