procrastinating blogger in japan

Okay, I confess—I’m a procrastinator. (As if you didn’t know. At least, I can spell it right!) I had been thinking about writing the best blog entry about my eight-day stay in Japan to visit my sister. It’s been two weeks since I arrived and I am yet to post that perfect entry! Woe is me…

Maybe that’s the problem: I want it to be the perfect entry. Whoever said that a novel is perfect until you write the first word made perfect sense. I can totally relate, except that I don’t write novels. So now, right here—in this corner of Seattle’s Best in Baguio City, I am blogging. I will resist the evils of procrastination. I motivate sluggish self with the mental image of a gun pointed at my temple; there’s an invisible hand threatening to pull the trigger if I stop tapping on the keyboard for more than 15 seconds…

I did jot down some thoughts while in Japan, mind you. Let me search my computer files and paste some of those here… (Uhmm, imaginary shooter, hold your fire, please…)

Here goes…

DAY 3 | October 3, 2006
Saijo, Hiroshima, Japan

It’s the end of my third day in Japan. (As I write this, my arthritis is protesting the autumn cold by pestering my left leg—surely a small price to pay for the opportunity to travel). I’ve been meaning to keep a daily journal of my eight days here in the Land of the Rising Sun. But, well, procrastination has managed to sneak into my luggage, keeping me from tapping on the keyboard…until now. Hopefully, I can catch up and not miss any important detail.

Tonight, my sister arranged for us to have dinner with her Japanese ‘tutor’, the one who helped her settle in during her first few months of studying in Hiroshima. Her name is Tokomo. She’s a pretty and petite woman in her late 30s (but you could never guess that just by looking at her!) Tokomo spent two years in the UK for post-grad studies in English Lit and now teaches English to Japanese high school students. We had okonomiyaki, a Hiroshima specialty that my sister calls ‘Japanese pizza’. Served on a circular hot plate, okonomiyaki is made of stir-fried thin noodles, bean sprouts, cabbage, and a choice of main ingredient (sausage, cheese, etc) layered on top of the other and then topped with scrambled egg. Tokomo and my sister squeezed mayonnaise and something that tasted like teriyaki sauce on top of their servings. I followed suit. We then sliced the pie into smaller parts and then ate with our chopsticks. Oishi! I liked how it tasted—something old (because most of the ingredients are familiar to me) and yet something new. Thankfully, the stuff stuck together so I had minimal difficulty picking pieces up with my chopsticks. The conversation was light but spontaneous. It helped that Tokomo was a very good English speaker, so there wasn’t too much awkwardness. She was very pleasant. It’s no wonder she and my sister hit it off as friends (and food buddies!) even after the formal ‘tutor-ward’ relationship.

At the restaurant we ran into Masa, a Political Science senior at the Hiro University who’s part of my sister’s international Bible Study group. He says he isn’t a Christian but likes to join the Bible Study sessions anyway. I extended my right hand to shake his, but his hands were wet and couldn’t return the gesture. Masa is Japanese but he speaks English quite well, with an American accent to boot. (The way he said ‘Really?’ is perfectly Hollywood!) We chatted about my trip and the plans to see some sites. He was very eager to keep the conversation rolling that I started thinking maybe he just wanted to practice his English with me. Hehe. By the time we wrapped up our conversation his hands were already dry for a handshake.

My sis and I capped the night by meeting with other Filipino students. As it turned out, the upperclass Pinoy students were welcoming the new batch of Pinoy scholars who just arrived in Hiroshima. We met them at YouMe Town where they were buying grocery. Sis went in to find the group while I stayed near the entrance. Time for people watching!

The Japanese are very fashionable. Ladies wore boots and layered tops. Men strutted in leg-hugging pants and assorted tops, some of them touting what seemed to me ladies’ bags! Everyone was sporting funky, layered hair. It was definitely interesting to these eyes accustomed to seeing street fashion in Manila which comprises mainly of shirt and jeans. (I had tried to fit in by rumpling my hair a little more than usual and wearing a maroon shirt under a black collared shirt—the sleeves and the tail of the maroon shirt peeked from underneath the black shirt, of course. Hehe…)

It wasn’t hard to notice the Pinoy group when they got out of the store and walked toward me. They were smiling and chattering! Ah, the warmth of the homeland had descended. Standing in a circle, we exchanged names and shook hands. Having been in Hiroshima all of three days, I blurted “Welcome to Hiroshima!” to the new scholars, like I had been here eating sashimi, bowing, and wearing layered clothes for five years! The old-timers broke into a surprised gasp and laughter. Kapal ng mukha ko! Well, it broke the ice—at least for me. Hehe…

Over coffee and fries at McDonalds (yet another reminder that we live in a global village), the old-timers Alyn, Nina, Johanna, Tess, and Liza (my sis) entertained the questions of newbies Ruel, Lerma, and Maribel. Three-day old Aleks couldn’t keep his mouth shut, but hopefully I didn’t offend anyone with my jokes. Laughter is just too good a thing to pass up even with new friends…

There are many things to learn from these Pinoys. I sensed they were brimming with insights and stories so I just had to ask them, What would you take home with you to the Philippines from Japan after your stint here? My sis cited the discipline of the Japanese. Of course. If only we could buy that off the counter and infect everyone in beloved Philippines with it. But, yes, discipline is a good thing to imbibe in huge doses for us Filipinos, but hopefully not at the expense of our warmth and spontaneity?

Then Johanna and Nina began an impassioned discussion about learning the Japanese language and how their experience of Japan has been enriched by their purposeful effort to learn the language. As I understood it, they believe that the key to understanding the Japanese and their admirable ways is their language. There is no better way of probing the Japanese mind and heart—and then distill valuable lessons from the process—than by immersing oneself in their language… I could have learned more serious stuff from these transplanted Pinoys if only I had held the reins on my comedic one-liners… Hehe.

* * *

There’s more! The late-night karaoke with the Pinoys. The tear-jerker visit at the Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima City. The bullet train rides. The day in Tokyo Disneyland. Sister’s cooking (hehe). My favorite Japanese word: ‘Gomen nassai!’…  

I turn around and the imaginary hand with the gun is gone. The procrastinator is free! For now. Next time I’ll try to threaten the inner procrastinator with something more frightful. A nuclear bomb? Nah. Bad joke. Bad.

Next time. Soon-ish. Promish.

 

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