Today marks the official 2 year anniversary of my embarking on my Asian adventure. More highs and lows than a fat bird with a chocolate addiction (that would be moi). To be fair, the seriously underwhelming lows have overwhelmed the highs. Itâ€™s really hard to score narcotics to ensure any kind of meaningful high here. Jokes about getting high, but scoring anything milder than tobacco is notoriously difficult here. That said though, here itâ€™s illegal to possess marijuana but perfectly legal to possess marijuana seeds. Now pray tell, what on earth do the authorities is going to happen to those seeds?
October 2007 saw me facing the prospect of homelessness as the company I worked for went belly-up, leaving thousands of employees scrounging around wondering where their next meal, or fix, was going to come from. There is a lot to be said for unemployment though which gets too much of a bum rap. Whatâ€™s not to like about spending half your waking hours sleeping and the other half labouring in front of inane Japanese TV. Although the volume can never quite drown out the sound of wolves baying hungrily at your door as the prospect of homelessness looms large and ugly. I eventually found myself prostituting myself again on the corporate machinery and became yet just another number in a long line of lifeless faceless cogs. And I still get the same asinine remarks and questions in my â€˜newâ€™ job as I did in the previous one. A young Canadian colleague recently informed me that Africa was a country. I thought, foolish me, here all these years on this God-given earth I thought it was a continent with 53 countries. It must be my poor Third World education to blame.
March 2007 was a particularly dark period. My former housemate was found murdered by one of her private students.
Now to my litany of complaints on what I have come to loathe about this place, and I say this in the nicest and least profane way possible. My patience is sorely tested every time I leave the house and walk up and down the streets. To put a stereotype to it, Japanese people as a rule donâ€™t seem to walk with any sense of purpose, less so the women. They amble along at a pace even the snail would be most discomfited by. Iâ€™m hardly a hard-faced, hardened Londoner barreling my way through the great unwashed, but the speed at which people here drag their lifeless carcasses around is enough to make me want to pull out the remaining thinning curly black hairs on my head. The moniker â€˜Louis Vuitton dinosaurâ€™ is often bandied about to describe the bow-legged lurching high-heel shorn walk of the Japanese woman and her penchant for all things designer. Incidentally LV is the label of choice for upstart women with designs above their station in this country. A lot of which they purchase by either selling their bodies or their used underwear to dirty old men. I kid you not, itâ€™s a whole burgeoning industry: young girls sell their used underwear to men for resale for anything ranging for ten to fifty dollars. The womanâ€™s movement is very, very strong here.
Getting back to my original complaint about the pace of people on the pavements, the travesty is compounded by an evident inability to walk in a straight line, a certain innate crab-like instinct. No one seems to be able to stick to one side of the road with each person making it their personal mission to cover as much of the pavement as possible. Or trot in front of you and then proceed to slow down. I mean, like WTF? If there is road rage, I frequently suffer from pavement rage and have found myself shoulder-tackling the occasional errant fool who has the temerity to walk into my path.
The less said about my students the better. It would take more time than I have been guaranteed on the planet to detail my complaints. Not to put too fine a point on it, the question is not so much â€˜What is wrong with them?â€™ but â€˜Whatâ€™s right with them?â€™. The one thing that I love about Japan is that it has brought out the misanthrope in me and helped pare some of my misconceptions about myself: I am not a â€˜niceâ€™ person, I am too bitter, twisted and cynical for that. I may be a â€˜friendlyâ€™ person, but definitely not â€˜niceâ€™. The chip on my shoulder could replace the rainforests being depleted elsewhere.
A Japanese woman recently complimented me on my teeth. In any other country, she would definitely have been taking the piss. But man! Does dentistry need some major help in this country. This stunning girl steps up, beautiful face, lithe body, gorgeous rippling hair. Then she opens her mouth to speak. And the rest as they say, is history. Think Dracula with several rows of teeth growing over each other and the teeth an interesting stomach-churning shade of caffeine-nicotine heavy hint of beige. And just when you thought it could not possibly get any worse, some twinkling silver and gold flashed at you in the midst of all that rot and decay. Delicious I tell you. Myopia may have its drawbacks, but when it dulls the full impact of such sights, more power to myopiaâ€™s elbow.
So, in my 2 years of being trapped in Japan (more about the bane of that green bomber Zim passport later), I have lived in 5 different places. In house number 2 I had the misfortune of living with one of the 7 deadly sins made man, or woman in this case. Her name was Alia, an American lass. Now, for the most part, I have a death-defying affinity to filth but this girl put paid to my claims. She TKOâ€™ed me from my perch in a move that would have had Muhammad Ali firmly on his feet. The one day she did a rather large number 2 which left skid marks so significant the whole F1 race track could have passed through, which she conveniently forgot to clean on the excuse that she did not have her glasses on. I am thinking, this shit is literally bludgeoning you around the head, this stuff is even talking in tongues it has such presence. My misery did not end there, used sanitary towels all over the apartment were my next gift from her, dishes left in the sink for weeks till they were almost moulding were another of her legacy. Granted this may all smack of kettles and black pots, but I am antique silverware to her blackened and charred three-legged cast iron pot.
What account would be complete without examples of peopleâ€™s idiocy to foreigners, especially a Black African Female. So the first time I went to church, I went to one of these happy clappy ones. After the service, some Japanese guy comes up to me and says â€˜Oh, you should have been here last year, we did Quincy Jones. I know you would have liked itâ€™. I looked at him blankly for a few seconds, blinked, and then replied â€˜Ohâ€™. The assumption here being that all darkies sing and dance, a question unfortunately I have had to field rather too often, the annoying thing being that I do do both, and rather well, so itâ€™s like fcuk! Here I am fulfilling the stereotype and there is nought I can do about it.
Then there is the issue of personal hygiene. Itâ€™s perfectly acceptable to pick your nose in public unashamedly, but God forbid you ever think about BLOWING your nose in public. And itâ€™s also quite ok to sniff and sniff and sniff and sniff until youâ€™ve sniffed your brains into your intestines but God forbid you ever think about BLOWING your nose. â€˜Urghâ€™ do I hear anyone say?
Japan does have its redeeming features, alcohol is cheap, like one US dollar for a beer, its safe for the most part and the common person is quite honest. Itâ€™s not unheard of to leave your wallet on the train and have it returned to you within a few days, contents intact. The trains for the most part run on time except for when it rains, or snows, or its windy or there is a typhoon, or an earthquake or an accident (read suicide, the method of choice for people wishing to take their own lives and inconvenience thousands of others) or some idiot train driver has overshot the platform or some sexually repressed man has groped a woman on the train and needs to be ejected from the train, or some drunk fool has fallen onto the train tracks and needs to be hauled off, or that there are many people on the train taking too long to get on and get off.
I have met some good people while I have been here, who have all helped me cling on to the knife-edge of sanity. A sanity which I dare say is threatened by my continued presence here. However, the joy of having that green bomber Zim passport makes if difficult to get a working visa to many other countries. I really wasnâ€™t aware that there were that many doors in this world. That could be slammed so hard in my face as to leave wood carving shaped marks on my face. Anyway,Â it will make my own return to my home country that much sweeter when it eventually does happen. So hereâ€™s to wishing that there will definitely NOT be another 2 years of this place. And if through all this I have given the impression that I am not enjoying myself, whatever on earth gave you that idea?