A Change in Perspective
I’ve just landed in Japan.
It’s my first time here and it’s raining on this night. It’s late December and the rain is cold. I know where I’m supposed to sleep but all the signs are in Japanese and I’ve seen bowls of spaghetti with more organization than this metro map which I’m presently trying to decipher. Maybe it’d be easier if I wasn’t so jet lagged. Maybe it’d be easier if I could read Japanese. It doesn’t matter, I’m here and I’m jet lagged and I don’t speak the language and I need to figure this out. I look through my backpack to find that crumpled printout I stuffed away before I left home. The budget hotel’s address is there and so is something I hadn’t bothered to notice before that’s going to be a life saver now: plain English instructions on how to get to my bed for the night.
Wow, that train was nice. It’s hard to make out much detail from a moving train window on dark, rainy nights such as this but the city’s neon lights were bright, tall, and condensed for at least the final half hour. Is Tokyo really this big? Is this overwhelming electric mess really an everyday kind of normal for so many people? I would feel like I’m in a dream but I’m quite sure that I’m not because I’m wet now and more awake and I’m no longer certain I’m walking in the right direction. The ink is starting to fade into my still crumpled and now sodden printout which I hold in my hand, and all the bright lights are behind me as I continue forward along this foreign backstreet. Maybe it’s a little further.
My instinct tells me that I shouldn’t be here on this otherwise isolated road, carrying on my back everything that’s familiar to me within the nearest 5000 miles. But if I actually were 5000 miles away, in this same situation on a random backstreet in Los Angeles, I’d already be in trouble. I squint my eyes and peer through the cold rain. I see bikes left unlocked outside on the street. I see no trash. I see well kept, moderately sized houses and I see my first glimpse of real Japanese life in Tokyo. And then, I see my hotel.
That I’m cold, wet, and tired completely escapes me and I can only smile upon entering my tiny room. I place my bag next to the tatami mat which I’ll sleep on later. I grab two Asahi beers from the vending machine in the lobby downstairs and return to the room for a small but much deserved toast to the night’s adventure. It dawns on me that all I really did was find a hotel, and I suddenly wonder what kinds of adventures foreigners find toast-worthy back home. Perhaps I can take more pleasure in the little things, the mundane, repetitive normalcies of life, if I simply change my perspective when I get back.