Leaving on a Jet Plane?

For those of you who don’t know me personally, I am, for lack of a better title, an “air force wife”.

I stay at home. I take care of the kids, the homestead, and my wife (when she needs it). My wife puts on the uniform and brings home ‘the bacon.’ Hence how we ended up in Japan.

If there is one chunk of esoteric Japan trivia I’d like to share with you, it’s that the Japanese are somewhat fanatical when it comes to photography.

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Take these gentlemen as an example.

There’s a certain phenomenon here. Every time a new plane stops here, these ‘professional’ photographers reenact the scene in World War Z when the zombies swarm that one wall.

LOOK AT THEM! WITH THEIR PHALLIC LENSES AND TOTAL DISREGARD FOR GRAVITY!

Maybe they’re freelance photogs? Maybe this is some sort of kinkThe only thing that I know for sure is that I am constantly amused at the length they will go to in order to get their shot.

Dig for Fire.

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Aaaaaannnd that’s why shit is so hot in Japan.

If there is one piece of esoteric knowledge that I could share with you, it’s that Japan will challenge your internal compass as well as your ability to process urban planning.

Example? Coming from the States as I did, I like to think I had a strong sense of compass directions. As the continental U.S. is a gigantic landmass, it’s not hard to figure out where North and South lie if you can figure out where East and West are. What if you started living on an island? Or more to the point, 6,000+ islands?

For the record, I have given up figure out the compass directions.

Then, there’s urban planning.

Spoiler alert: there is no ‘urban planning’ as you would understand it. Streets do not follow the traditional grid structure that you would find in the Americas. And with a population that is as dense, how could they plan urban areas effectively? I’m sure that they do, just as I am sure that they have a system in place that works for them.

For the sake of argument, I live in the ‘countryside’. This is a bit of a misnomer because while you may think of farm houses and rolling hills, they do have that here. But they also have major urban centers located within a mile of most farms. Take the picture above. Here you see local farmers harvesting fire in order to sell off to the local kundalini yoga practitioners.

I am pretty sure that they’re doing some form of composting. I’d ask but I am still a bit sensitive about being stared at like the white devil that I am. If it looks like shit and smells like shit, it will certainly burn like shit which is also the only bad thing about living where I do.

SUNNY DAYS! SWEEPING THE CLOUDS AWAY!

It’s no big secret: there are a lot of people who call Japan “home”. Sunshine for most of the year, exotique experiences, the opportunity to find out why Jiro, really, dreams of sushi…

Who wouldn’t want call this place home?

Since the population has grown exponentially during the decades  of “post war” Japan, the need for “particular” services has become paramount. ENTER the Child Removal Services, CRS.

Not everyone should be a parent, not everyone can be a parent. LET CSR HELP YOU!

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Our trucks patrol the neighborhoods of lower, central Japan on a weekly basis. It is our goal to place your unwanted or unnecessary child in the right “hands”.

As long as your little “bundle” is properly bound and placed in the proper receptacle the night before a pick up, Child Removal Services will be able to take your prom night dumpster baby away!

EVERYONE’S A STAR WHEN THEY USE CSR!

Wheel Chair wally

The “Wally” that I am referring to is not this guy.

During the mid-90’s I attended an all boys, Catholic high school in Lakewood, Ohio. Since I did not come from a family of ‘means’, I never had a car of my own to get me there nor did I ever have any friends that I could ride in with. My only option was taking the busEveryday the bus would take us by this old folk’s home. I have no idea what type of facility it was. The only thing that I remember for sure was that there were always old people coming and going. 

One of said ‘old people’ was Wally.

He was just this scruffy old man who was always stationed in his wheelchair, facing the street. Obviously, he was a resident of said establishment. Regardless, my teenage brain always thought that he looked ‘like a cool guy’.

One day, well after I graduated, I drove down to see if he was still there. The weather was phenomenal that day. It was the type of day where it would be positively criminal to spend any amount of time indoors.

When I drove by he was out there in all of his scruffiness.

Before I knew what I was doing, I had pulled into the closest spot, got out of my car and I started walking towards him. I had no idea what in the fuck I was going to tell him. The entire four years that I was there, I had never even bothered to say ‘Hi’.

So I introduced myself and I told him that I went to the high school just down the street. I also told him, that I never said ‘hello’ in passing and that I came out here to correct that and to let him know that I was thinking of him.

He was completely tickled by this. As I drove away, I honked my horn and yelled goodbye at him. He waved, enthusiastically, and saluted me.

That was about ten years ago. I never learned any specifics about him. A regrettable fact now that I’m older.

He’s never out there anymore. It’s just an empty piece of sidewalk now. But whenever the weather turns nice, my thoughts turn to him. At least I finally said hello.

Some Survival Tips Should You Find Yourself in Japan.

ONE

One of the first things that I learned about The Land of the Rising Sun is that if you are new here, and you want to do something on the weekend, don’t.

While I have no substantiated facts to support this claim, I can unequivocally state that everybody and their mother (with respect to the Japanese people) will be out and about, doing their “thing” EVERY Saturday and Sunday. They will not falter. If you are amongst the uninitiated Traffic will seem near catastrophic. Elevator rides, and train rides, will give you a glimpse of what life in a petri-dish is like. Shopping malls will be on par with participating in a human car wash.

My wife and I made this “mistake” within our first month of living here. She wanted to see what Joyful Honda was all about. Me, being the stupid white male that I am, I immediately assumed that it had something to do with cars given that we can see the building from 10 miles away. And, well, Honda.

Suffice it to say I was wrong. Ever wonder what it would look like if Home Depot, Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club, and Target all existed within the same building? Picture that and you have what Joyful Honda is all about.

We went on a SundayDriving there, finding a place to park, and then seeing the entirety of the local population under the same roof imbued in me a fresh, new terror. I can imagine Moses didn’t see as many people when he was balls deep in the Exodus.

(ETA: It’s been almost a year since we’ve moved here. The shock of seeing so many people in one place has become routine. But if there is one thing that I have learned, it’s that the Japanese population, for the most part, are unbelievably patient and kind).

Can’t avoid the weekend rush? Plan accordingly. Find hours of operation for whatever establishment you’re trying to frequent. Consider walking, riding a bicycle, or taking public transportation. Most importantly, be realistic: you’re not the only one trying to accomplish something.

TWO

Travel, let alone living in a foreign country, is a daunting task. Supposedly, the more you do it, the easier it gets. I guess that this ‘ease’ comes from the repetitiveness of ‘doing’ and planning?

However, the best laid plans can go tits up for a variety of reasons.

When that has happened to me, I have had consistent success by being exceedingly nice.

That’s it, that’s all you have to do: just be nice.

If you’re in a country that is not your home, you need to make peace with the fact that you are now the minority. To put it bluntly, you’re now in a stranger’s home: don’t get huffy because you can’t deal with change.

Point of fact? Since I have started living in Japan, I have made it a goal of nodding/waving (while smiling) at any lookey-loos who’s path I may cross throughout the course of any given day. In doing so, should my plans go awry, the Japanese peoples are generally willing to be patient while I fumble with Google Translate, since they know that I am friendly (read: a shorter version of Clark Griswald). 

In doing so, I have maintained a success rate of 86% returned greeting from all I have interacted with. (The remaining 14% were generally Japanese males who appeared to be old enough to have served in WWII or were indoctrinated with the belief that all Gentiles were white devils by their father’s who had served in the very same war).

In short, when in doubt, be nicer than you usually are.

THREE

It has been my general experience that when Gentiles travel to foreign lands, they get all puckered up when it comes to figuring out the local currency and what the exchange rate is. This is totally understandable given that the majority of the world is monetarily driven.

When it comes to Japan and figuring out how the Yen exchange rate is going to impact your pocket book, there’s nothing to sweat.

All you have to do is move the comma over to the right one space, baby (Bootsy Collins voice).

So, if you’re out and about and something catches your eye that costs 1,090 yen, in American-ese, it’s going to take $10.90 out of your rapidly depleting checking account. Don’t worry about exchange rates, how much Yen is worth on any given day, and why it fluctuates so damn much. Just move the comma over to the right by one space!

Having Goals Whilst Living Abroad.

While living abroad (and with life in general), goal setting should become a crucial part of your life. Not only will it help you adult, but it will also take the sting out of being a stranger in a stranger land.

One day I went out for a bike ride. On that ride, I saw what I had believed to be a hawk. He was sitting on a fence post taking in the summer sun. Me, never seeing one up close before, I nearly endo-ed my ride just to appreciate that majestic fucker.

After dismounting my bicycle, I crept as close as I could to him, and I very politely whispered, “Good morning, you majestic motherfucker.”

He looked at me like:

and then flew the fuck away.

As his ass receded into the horizon, I made my first goal in Japan: getting a picture of that son of a bitch.

That was back in July 2016.

Every day since then I would ride my bike as much as possible. There have been plenty of near hits. He’d let me get close enough to get my phone out and then he’d be nothing but a puff of feathers. Other times I would be driving in a car and cursing his still presence on whatever perch of his I just drove past.

Then, one day back in December 2016, I saw him. Fortune had decided to smile on me. There were airplanes going over head and I happened to be downwind. He had no idea that I was there.

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Really, I caught him while it was early in the morning and he was taking a shit. See?Granted, I am not Ansel Adams but I still got my picture.

The moral? Goals are only as effective as your willingness to follow through.

How I Came into Fatherhood.

Here’s a quick history of how my son, Finn, was shuffled onto this mortal coil.

It was 2005. My wife and I were talking about having a baby. Basically what that means was that she was yelling at me a whole lot and I was trying to stay calm.

What we decided, amidst talks of having children, was that we needed to move.  We were paying too much for the apartment that we were living at and we wanted to find some place cheaper and smaller. And that’s what we did: We went from ghetto living to trendy neighborhood as most young couples do in their mid-twenties.

In a poorly decided attempt to save money, and because I had the most flexibility in my work schedule, I decided that I would let our leases overlap so that we would have one month left in our ‘soon to be’ old place and one month all ready started in our new place. The idea behind this was for us to move into our new place at a leisurely pace.

I had a set work schedule and no other commitments so I would be doing most of the work by myself. I was ok with that because my wife was working full-time and going to school. She would be relied on for packing. No biggie.

What really happened was I did all of the moving except for two days. One of the days, I needed my brother to help me move the furniture and the other day my wife jumped in on the last big move. Prior to her jumping in at the last-minute, she yelled at me the entire month.

I couldn’t figure out what the problem was. I worked a full-time job. I was sociable when I was home, and I was moving us. On my own. Everything I did was wrong. Yes, I admit that I was a little unorganized when it came to unloading the van. I was by myself and everything was in the general area of where it needed to be.

I couldn’t win.

All of this happened during the month of July. Eventually, August rolls around. It’s still ‘ain’t no fuckin’ way I’m wearin’ underwear today’ kind of hot. She’s still yelling. I try to get out of her what’s going on, and it’s a lot of generalizations and non sequiturs. I seriously start to question things. I get to the point of mentally preparing myself for going our separate ways.

 

Towards the end of August, I get a call from her while I was at work.

 

(her) “I got good news.”

(me) “ooook.”

(her) “I’m pregnant.”

I don’t remember what in the hell I said after that. I couldn’t talk very well. I couldn’t think. The only thing I could do was move. Everything was sooo clear to me right then.

The entire drive home from work, I kept thinking ‘She’s pregnant. That’s why she’s been acting like such a whack-bat. She’s pregnant.’

When I got home that night, we talked. About what, I don’t know. I was just happy that I knew what was going on.

The next nine months flew by.

Finn at age 3

(Yes, he’s under an umbrella in the house. But what the camera isn’t showing you is that he’s also naked).