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 Sunday. Driving 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.
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.
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!