Come October, I would’ve done two years in Japan. Saying, anything like, ‘it feels like yesterday that I first landed in Nagoya’; would not be justifiable by any means, for the two years did feel like TWO YEARS, or rather, TWO EONS, to be exact. Call it time dilution, or anything, time is on a slow bike race here on the island, and at times, sure might win over the snail by quite a big margin.
Many things, good and bad happened, as it always does given ample time and space. Learned quite a few things, and forgot a good number too. Made visits to great places, and some dump places, and made lists for future tours. Even with all these things happening, I would’ve spent more time in here, in the lab, than anywhere else.
Here are a couple of things that I found interesting with this land, a couple of things that caught my attention, and couple of things that happened to me here in the land of the rising sun….
When I became and Alien
Yup, I am an alien on this land, and I have a card to prove that!
The first thing I was asked to do, when I reached these shores, was to report at the city hall, and get a ‘alien registration card’. “Alien”.. yup, that’s what every foreigner is called here.. hmm correction.. ‘was’ called here. The new cards (issued after April this year) are different, and is no longer called an Alien card.
But I still am an Alien, and have the card to prove that!
The windmill that never turned.
The windmill stood tall and high, right next to the University dormitory. I saw, it for the first time, the day I came to Japan. It was something, that you could not miss, for it stood white and tall, right next to the base-ball diamond, on the sea-shore. The first few days, in the university, I used to use this tall structure, as a land mark, that could guide me back to the dormitory, and it did give full credit to this assigned task.
All those days at the University dormitory, any time I had to tell, where I was staying to any one, I would say; “you know, the brown building near the windmill, right.. I stay there”.. But, then there was a problem. Many here, didn’t know what a windmill was. They had seen it. The had photographed it. They have also seen an array of windmills on the nearby hill-top, again, something you could not miss; but they didn’t know what it was called. Then, I would venture into crude descriptions, “the big fan, like structure, big, white, near the base-ball field”, some would understand, but many would stare back with the blank expression of indifference, that I am getting used to these days. Couple of these exchanges later, I learned the Japanese for ‘windmill’, and stared using it; “風力タービン”. It should have solved the problem, but not really. Many people, in the university, had never seen this tall structure, something, I thought, was so prominent, that, nobody could miss it!
Now, the first thing I noticed about this huge structure, that was overlooked by many, was that, it had only two fins, and never turned. Later, I found out that, the windmill was built and maintained by the engineering department; and was an ongoing project. Some time in the last spring, I saw huge cranes near the mill, and got interested. They were fixing the third fin. That was like 5-6 months after I first saw it. The whole process took more than a week, and the mill stood majestic with all the three fins attached to it, but again it won’t turn. They had locked it, for fear of a typhoon that might be coming soon. The typhoon came, swept havoc across the island, left, and was forgotten, but the windmill still stood ‘not turning’!
All this happened a year before. Last fall, I shifted from the dormitory, and got an apartment. But my lab being, not far from the windmill, I still saw it everyday. As days, went by, the windmill became a forsaken figure. But then, the cranes came again. This was sometime in the last week. People were gathering around it. The parking lot near by was closed, and heavy machinery was seen in action. A new life being given? Alas, what lay ahead for it was not that good, being stripped off, of all its three fins. Wonder if I can still call it a 風力タービン!
The land of four seasons or two?
Japan prides in being a land of four seasons, and people asking about the seasons in your country, is part of every conversation, you have with a Japanese person. Then they go about, asking whether you got accustomed to the seasons of Japan. And the next question, beyond doubt, would be, what season do you like the most? The other day, one of the small kids at the kindergarten, wanted to know my third favourite (forget about first and second) season; and that was the first thing she asked!
Japan also has activities and festivities associated with every season. The 花見 (hanami, flower viewing) in spring, 花火 (hanabi, fire work display) in summer , お月見 (otsukimi, moon viewing) and 紅葉 (momiji, autumn leaves) in autumn and the winter illuminations are things that any Japanese person could never miss. Add to that all the seasonal foods and festivals, the idea of seasons are so well etched in the minds of people here, that I for one, coming from Southern India, where we have either rains, or sun for the whole year, was kind of surprised.
But do the Japanese really have four seasons? A fellow blogger, once wrote about, the 12 seasons of Japan, and how she reduced that to two. Thinking of that, Japan truly has only two seasons, forget about all the festivals, flowers and leaves, the two things that everyone says here is ‘熱い’ and ‘寒い’ or ‘あつ’ and ‘さむいいい’ to be exact… and the 2 questions that would pop up between every other conversation would be, “も日本の熱に慣れましたか？” (have you got adjusted to the heat of Japan?) and “日本の寒さはどうですか？” (how is the cold of Japan?). So for me the two seasons would be “hot” (熱い) season and the “cold” (さむいいい) season!
The かわい factor
Everything with Japan is super cute. We have actually come up with a scale to measure cuteness. We call it the cuteness factor (cf for short). Points on the scale range from a minimum of 0 to a maximum of 10, and guess what, most things Japanese score more than an 8!
I have had a heated arguments with friends; who come from alien soils (yup, anything out of Japan is alien), about cuteness, and how it is different from being beautiful or gorgeous. To put it simple, beauty attracts admiration, and demands a pedestal, while cuteness, attracts affection and demands a lap.
At times, here in Japan, you come across things that is so cute, that it doesn’t even fit in the cf scale, and demands the making of a super-cuteness scale (めちゃ可愛)! What else can you call, a bunch of kids, all less than 3 years, wearing their pink, blue and yellow kindergarten caps, being pushed around in carts (each cart carrying as many as 6-8 kids), by girls who are equally cute – めちゃ可愛 it is!
The lady and the umbrellas
Japanese people, I had read, way before coming to this land, are super kind. Being 矢指, is like, one of the most important quality, which describes a good person here.
This happened in May this year. I was taking my uncle, aunt, cousin and sister around Kyoto. It was not the perfect day for walking around in Kyoto, for it was raining.. as they call it back home.. ‘cats and dogs’. We had parked the car near the railway station, and decided to walk around. Doing all the walking when the rains let us do it, and spending all of the rest of the time, inside the umpteen museums and temples.
We did get a fair share of the rains when we walked, but we were braving it all, and were kind of running on the side walks to the next museum or temple. That was when the Blue Prius came by. The old lady driving the car, saw me and my cousin first. We were drenched, and were still walking. She stopped the car, next to us, waved to us, asked us to stop, got out of the car, and came running to us with her umbrella. We were hesitant to take it. But she insisted on us taking it, and was sorry that she could give us only one.
We thanked her and she left. By this time, the uncle, aunt and sister, who were quite behind us had caught up with us, and we gave them the umbrella. The lady in the car saw us, in the rear view mirror, did a U-turn on the street, stopped by us again, and offered us a second umbrella, the one she was using. She wouldn’t leave, unless we took the umbrella…. 矢指!
all this and a lot more happened in the past two years.. but all that has to wait for another post!