The Grandfather

You know how media only reports on bad things, and hardly never have anything to report that is actually good in the world? Some people maybe have the same tendencies, to only keep in touch when something is needed or when something went wrong, a relationship ended or money is tight. There even used to be a truth in that all art are born in suffering, and no art can be born in affluence. So here I am, fully embracing that cliché in the gorgeous country of Japan. If you have been following my conflicting love/hate relationship with the obnoxious teenager of China, you probably wondered why I got so quiet. Needless to say, I am pretty good at walking away from relationships that doesn’t seem to be working out, and eventually I could gather my senses and leave China, though still not happy with the open end and misunderstandings still hanging in the air. Oh well. Forward is the truth.

Arriving in Japan after dealing with the emotional ups and downs of a teenager (I do call China a teenager, or preferably even a child, and I can tell you all about why over a glass of red.) was like arriving at your grand parents summer place. A sophisticated nod and a smile, a warm welcoming hug, delicious food in abundance and a peaceful reverent silence. Albeit there are no trash cans or bins nowhere to be seen, there is neither any trash laying around. Prime Minister Abe have not needed to employ armies of sweepers and cleaners, like his counterpart Xi Jinping have done in China, but here, the people just don’t litter. If you need to speak on the phone, you do so between the carts on a train, outside of a shop or a restaurant as opposed to inside, or you step aside on the side walk and lower your voice. Public toilets are neatly cleaned, paper is provided and no fee charged for the use of them. You want to visit a temple, take a hike or go to a park? All for free. Try to go anywhere in China without the teenager asking for money, whether it’s peanuts or greens. I can get on a bus or a metro without security checks, I can show up at the train station and buy a ticket for the train leaving ten minutes later and still have plenty of time to do so. I can ask someone for help and the person will make sure to help me solve the issue I am having, instead of a shake of the head and a wave to some unseen, mythological destination of problem solvers. So no, I have nothing to report. Things are going so smooth in Japan, I have nothing to add. It is just as lovely, friendly and beautiful as your grandparents’ summerhouse.

But then. Have you ever maybe felt that your grandparents may be a little conservative, how to say, not too open minded? There’s about a thousand different social stigmas in this culture, of which I’ve probably broken most. I cannot grasp the necessity of them or why certain things are the way they are, or why they keep on being so. I cover up most of my tattoos, it’s all fine to do so as the weather is not too hot yet. But when sitting on a train, or basically any where in public, I find it real hard to simply sit with my feet flat against the ground, and not to cross my legs, which apparantly is a really rude gesture. It’s like my lanky legs simply were made to be crossed while sitting, I don’t know how not to! I got used to using slippers all the time inside while in China, but in Japan you need to be using different slippers for different rooms. Specially for the toilet – slippers which must only be used while numbering one or two. Then about the walking – sometimes it’s on the left, sometimes it’s on the right. Please let me know the rules for this as I haven’t found an applicable pattern of in which situation to do what. And while you’re writing these instructions, please include one manual for the train lines/metro systems as well as one for the toilets. I know they are both hyper modern and well advanced. I just never thought it could be so to the extent I simply cannot use them!

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