Welcome to 2015!

[Sumimasen, Nihongo amari hanasenakute ano… Shinjuku doko desuka?]{Excuse me, I don’t speak much Japanese, but umm… where is the Shinjuku line?}

This is about how complex my world feels. Two days in with no-one to hold my hand. I’m grateful for the chance to muddle around at my own snail’s pace. Today, I wandered through the barely busy streets of 池袋 {Ikebukuro}. On a single street with three-quarters of the shops open, a tiny crowd gathered. A crowd that, in Bellingham, would have been a hoard. Here, however, it felt as if the city was slowly opening its eyes after a brief hibernation. After two days, its heart is still not up to pace. There are fleets of bikes, rows of shop windows, alleyways packed full of lights and hanging flags. There are wide walkways with “up” and “down” clearly marked. Cars stickered with dark pink signs that read: “Women Only”. A whole world just laying in wait to be crammed full to the brim. I can feel it like a yawn slowly building.

By the fifth, the city will be alive and I will find my way into its bloodstream. I am learning all sorts of things in a very tight space. Cramming in as much as I can take so I am a blood cell instead of a virus in that rushing flow.

I have learned that if I’m lost, stand off to the side while I stare about helplessly. No-one will bother me; I feel eyes averted more than on my face, my back, my lost confusion staring up with a blank face at a sign I cannot read. The sheer number of lines contained in such a small space puts my processor into overdrive. Then, most of the time — it just burns out and I stand there, looking at my phone that doesn’t download maps and even if it did — they are no help.

The flow of bodies ebbs around me as I find a corner to tuck away and hide in. And if I need help: I have to ask. But, you know what? Something about that just feels right. Like I have been waiting my whole life to hide in these corners while others let me sort it out until I am ready to come and ask.

Today, when I logged on to wordpress, I saw I had accessed the 日本語 [Nihongo] {Japanese} site. I got excited and decided to convert my interface. There wasn’t enough confusion, apparently.

Ah, but any little bit helps. I have memorized:

田=da or ta
大=long o
西=nishi = west
日=ni, except when it doesn’t. (I still have yet to figure out this kanji’s other readings)

Sometimes instead of kanji, the katakana 三 [mi] and ハ [ha] is used. (No idea why yet.)
And “shin” has at least five kanji I know about.

It’s slow going and I am finding more and more that roumaji is not an efficient way to learn anything. Perfect example: Tokyo has two long o’s. In roumaji, one could put a line over both o’s, spell with two of them (looks like “moo”) or with ou (which looks like “you”). Sometimes, any indication of the long o is left out completely. The kanji is: 東京 (and gives no hints).

Also. I hope all of my readers have sorted out now that they will need to download Japanese fonts to their computer. It isn’t that I will be typing exclusively in Japanese after this. And it isn’t that I won’t translate — as I have above. But it’s a way of parsing the immense confusion I feel. A way of exorcising it into thin air. Into ghosts. 妖怪 [youkai]{ghosts}.

I have to face full the things I don’t understand. I have to sit on trains and get lost a hundred times. I have to stand in the flow, gaping blank-minded at signs I have no hope of reading. I have to stare into the rising sun. I have to take destruction head-on.

I have always believed that burning hot and fast is the way to go. If I never stuck my hand in the fire, on the stove, scaled it with boiling water — I would never know. Better to experience what comes to my feet than live a life running afraid.

I am tired of being a child brought up on the taste of fear, unbounded. With punishments that ended in threats. Always stated in terms of “or more” instead of “or less”. Always beaten to blood first and then told, “Do it again and just see what happens.” Always living in the gap between the desire to find solutions and the inability to problem-solve. Always trapped in purgatory for sins not yet committed.

I find action beats sitting on my hands. And study beats wondering. And trying something I’ve never done beats always thinking: “I just can’t.”

So here’s a new year’s toast to doing most things wrong, but doing them at all. To not being afraid to say “I’m sorry.” ごめんなさい [gomen’nasai].

乾杯![kanpai] Cheers!


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