July 9th 2017, Kyoto
Japan…I have always been ambivalent towards this far-away country, I guess I've always seen it as this lonely island, just floating out there on its own. At least, that was the case until sushi fever had taken over the city I called home. And as this fever spread and followed me through Europe, revealing more and more interesting dishes from this mysterious land, so did my own curiosity start to arise. Then, suddenly, a few coincidences later, here I am, just landed in Tokyo.
Tokyo, the city of automated objects, talking toilets, blinding flashy neon lights, in its vastest shapes and forms, home to so incredibly many different people.
Crowded streets crawling with seemingly laid back, strolling folks until you queue on the wrong side of the escalators and everyone starts to shove you politely without any sign of frustration, just mere zen and patience – with a gentle, almost imperceptible push to the side.
People are nice here, they are kind and patient, they see your confused jet-lagged face and they cut you some slack. They seem to understand you think, but then, in the very instant you rely on their understanding, something unexplainable happens and all the logics that you know and base your world on seem not to work here. Once you create an expectation, about anything really, and you start to reason in a way that seems logical to you, everyone and everything around you reacts in the exact opposite way! Confusing, at times very frustrating situations created out of nothing… Like the other night, I walked into a restaurant, immediately at the doorstep, I was stopped by a waiter who wanted to know the size of my party. I politely answered and asked for a menu in English, before we decide to take a table there. He politely brought me one (all of this was happening right there at the doorstep!), we took our time studying it, decided it was ok and I went on to inform the waiter about our decision only to find him apologizing ever so kindly while informing me that the restaurant was fully booked!?!
And all the rules! The Japanese sure love their countless rules, there's a rule for how to walk up and down the stairs, which are different from the escalator rules! There are even written rules on how to use a toilet, and no, I don't mean a manual for a talking toilet, which would be a super helpful thing to have, given that all the funky functions are in Japanese and you kinda have to digit your way around it all randomly.
All these reoccurring misunderstandings about most basic things are really testing my patience, or rather lack of the same, but I am determined to find my own zen. Luckily, many wonderful little things help, like the sweetest old man, who, once he saw two foreigners stuck under a pagoda during a very sudden and persistent cloudburst, he walked back home, got two extra umbrellas and gave them to us so we could get home safely! I was struck and speechless in front of such a selfless act. That is Japan too and I am looking forward to getting to know it better!
CANDI - passionate cook, curious about new tastes and flavours, she loves experimenting.
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