Reflections on healing trauma, writing, and books by Tokyo-based memoirist
 
A Letter to LA

A Letter to LA

LA,

I’m not sure where to reply to your comment. I know that WordPress doesn’t email comment replies unless you have that turned on, and I don’t know if you check back for comment replies, but I do know you read this.

Thank you so much for your lovely words. Everything you said makes me feel really seen. Not only are you reading, but you’re paying attention. I can’t tell you how much that means to me. Reading your comment was such an unexpected reward, and I wasn’t even expecting anyone to read my last entry, at all. You’re so sweet and kind to take the time to lift my spirits that way.

Lately, I’ve been trying to figure out the best way to market my platform. Would you mind if I used part of your comment as a testimonial?

I might gripe about the lack of recognition for my efforts, but, other than washing the dishes, I do what I want. The things I do might look boring and painful from the outside, but the constant challenge is what keeps me from getting bored.

The other day, I was watching a short documentary on Netflix about the making of the Queen’s Gambit, and the Anya Taylor-Joy described Beth Harmon as, “a little bit obsessive.” Personally, I’d describe Beth as over-the-top obsessive. I’m a little bit obsessive. I’m nothing like Beth Harmon, but my personality leans in that direction.

Like Elizabeth Gilbert says in Big Magic, “If I’m not actively creating something, then I’m probably actively destroying something.” I relate to that statement more than any other in the whole book. I’ve just got one of those minds.

I also drop plenty of things, or stop things for a while and pick them up again. I didn’t do ballet for three years because living in Japan was challenging enough. I like the social aspect of salsa, but the dance itself bores me. My foray into knitting was so short that I probably didn’t even bother mentioning it here. I love plants (I’ve long admired the various incarnations of your garden), but I don’t have the patience to tend to them.

I love that people are so varied in what delights us and how we delight ourselves.

Can you link to the Shibuya traffic cam that you watch? I can wave to it, but I need to know where it is. When I go through Shibuya Crossing, it’s almost always spontaneous, but it’s usually in the middle of the day on a weekend. I can message you maybe a half-hour beforehand. If it’s like the Times Square traffic cam, you can scroll back in time, so it’s not a big deal if the timing isn’t exactly right.

The world is full of really cool places to visit, and I don’t think you’re losing out if you don’t come to Japan. I just want to respond to what you said about it.

The first thing is that Japan got over 31 million tourists in 2018, and many of them were tatted up. Tattoos only matter in onsens and gyms (and they just want you to keep them covered there), so unless you’re planning to get naked and/or sweaty, they truly don’t care. Japan prefers giving one-year work visas to college-age Americans, and I’ve yet to see one without a tattoo. No one thinks tattooed foreigners are yakuza or criminals.

You’re right that Japanese people are much smaller than Americans on average. The number of overweight people is probably equal to what you saw in the 1970s and ’80s in the US—very few.

From a practical standpoint, western-style hotels are western-sized. Public spaces are built open and large to accommodate crowds. On average, Tokyo stores and restaurants have more square footage than your average Manhattan place of business. Sumo wrestlers live here. You’d fit, physically.

People always say to me, “I’d love to visit Japan, but I’m too fat/too black/too tall,” etc. I think it’s so adorable that westerners think they’d have any chance of blending in, otherwise. You’d stick out, for sure. I stick out, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

In the west, our localities so suspicious and scornful of outsiders that feel we must adopt a disguise when we travel. It’s for safety. We even have to be wary of the local cops when we drive through a different state.

It’s not like that here. It’s not dangerous or shameful to be an outsider. They don’t hate foreigners for not getting everything right the first time. People are not crueler because we’re different. They’re kinder. They’re more accommodating. They don’t expect us to look like them or act like them. They’re so complimentary when we try to speak Japanese because they don’t expect us to try. They see that as us doing a completely unnecessary extra thing, just to be sweet.

If you visited, I couldn’t promise no one would be rude or nasty, either. If there’s one thing you can count on in any society, it’s the presence of assholes, but, as a whole, the people here aren’t trained from infancy to be assholes.

It’s not my place to tell you whether you should or shouldn’t be comfortable here. I just wanted to say that Japan isn’t as rigid and unaccommodating as that. And, also, Tokyo isn’t old-fashioned. They rebuild constantly, and they always rebuild with more accessibility than they had before.

Yeah, sometimes it hurts my ego a little bit when I end up looking dumb for some reason or another, but that’s life in Japan as a foreigner. My discomfort is mine, though. It has nothing to do with them.

Anyway, let me know about the Shibuya Crossing traffic cam, and the best way to contact you. Is it still through FB messenger? I wasn’t sure.

Short normal entry:

Speaking of being a little bit obsessive, I’ve been in that mode ever since I discovered Caroline Girvan. I’ve ordered a couple of new sports bras in anticipation of more frequent workouts. I needed some new ones, anyway.

Adam has a degree in exercise physiology, so yesterday, we had the following conversation:

Me: “What do you do when your muscles get so tired that you can’t do the exercises properly, anymore?”
Him: “Stop working out.”
Me: “But, what if the workout isn’t over?”
Him: “It’s over. Stop working out.”
Me: “What if I rest longer between sets?”
Him: “If by ‘rest longer between sets,’ you mean that your next set is tomorrow, then yes.”
Me: “But, what if you want to keep exercising…”
Him: “You stop before you injure yourself or make yourself sore for several days.”

My legs are so sore today. Walking up and down stairs is a horror, and I wish I could stop myself from working out again today. Don’t worry, it’ll be a different body part.

Before I do that, I have to wash the dishes, though. *sigh*

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