Tokyo is an interesting place. There's an innately Japanese desire to be polite and keep society harmonious at all times which manifests itself in micro-social systems that everyone adheres to to keep everything ticking over. For example, when it rains, all the shops and restaurants put plastic bag dispensers outside for people to put their umbrella's in, so the shop floor doesn't get wet. You learned this the easy way, through me telling you, so you don't have to learn the hard way: a fetish store clerk meekly handing you a plastic umbrella bag ten minutes after you've dripped rainwater all over the place, without saying a word because you wouldn't understand him anyway. This may or may not have actually happened.
Two months into my time here and the rampant, relentless excitement has already started to wane in the face of finding a sustainable work-life balance. My days off are no longer missions to see as much as possible so much as missions to spend as little as possible and not feel like the day was wasted.
This post is going to be particularly narcissistic. I'm going to talk about myself. Not because I want to, but because I feel like something internal and/or external is changing, and my opinion on the matter is probably more transient than even I realize. It's now or never. So, fuck it; now.
Before I left Dublin, I managed to meet some Japanese people through a language exchange website. Some became acquaintances and some didn't, at least four of them I'm now fortunate enough to consider good friends. My impression was of a people that are friendly and interesting and social and I couldn't wait to be among them.
And I have enjoyed being among them, but lately I've found myself unable to shake a strange sense of loneliness that I can't place. I've got friends, I do stuff with friends. Some of them invite me to things occasionally and some don't. It hurts a little more than I ever expected it to when they don't, but I'm not a delicate little flower and water definitely flows off this Dublin duck's back. The surprise of feeling the way I do in this situation gives me more pause for thought than the situation itself.
Last week, as I was doing my Japanese homework in a cafe when a lady sat next to me and started talking to me about it. She asked the usual questions - where are you from, why Japan etc. - and then pleasantly said goodbye. Then promptly returned and insisted we exchange numbers and meet again for coffee the following morning. Which we did. She was married, living in Mumbai, in Japan visiting her mother, her daughter lived in Scotland; overall a fascinating and friendly individual who reminded me of the type of person you'd meet back home. Only after our coffee morning did I realize how much I'd missed that kind of random stranger-on-the-street interaction; a type of interaction that, in a city where people spend commutes with their heads buried in smartphones - or hanging in sleep -, is exceedingly rare.
At 26 I finally feel like I WANT to talk to people. I spent a long time being selectively social, and I don't think that was a bad idea, but I feel different now. I feel like I want to meet new people and that newfound confidence is bullet kicked violently by the fact that it's appeared in a country where I just can't talk to 80% of the population.
This is all sounding very bleak. I'm still happy here. I'm starting to figure out the work-life thing, I've started to find time for writing music and playing video games and all the things that I love, and there's still a whole world to explore here when I get some proper time off.
This is a temporary malfunction. I'm sure of it.