My girlfriend looked pretty. It had only been a couple days since I’d last seen her, but after two days in an airplane-and with all the strangeness of everything around me-time had stretched as if I had gone on an intergalactic voyage.
I gave her a warm hug and told her, “See, I made it all by myself.” Now she was the one reflecting on my trip: Havana – Amsterdam – Tokyo. I believe that she was not only figuring out how many hours I had spent in flight, but also how much I had left behind for her.
However, to my astonishment (almost fright), when I looked at her I knew that this is where I should be. I still could not balance out the pluses and minuses, nor did I want to have to.
I had been trained in that method of classifying things, in terms of costs and benefits, it was always that way. But I think that old habit didn’t relate to this new perspective. After three months in Japan, I’ve forgotten that way of weighing things.
Life is unfurling before me, and I’m living it. There are no stones in the path, or oases, just the regularities of the landscape. It’s a road with varying characteristics, one that you have to decide to walk or not.
Since the hotel was close to Tokyo, the following day we went there to walk around. The science fiction films I’ve seen seemed more real than that what I saw. It wasn’t so much for the technological marvels of that city, but how people move around.
Everything functions in this mega city with tremendous speed and efficiency. People never stop more than 20 minutes in any one spot, not even in coffee shops, which have been plentiful in each city I’ve visited.
Technology is placed at the service of the simplest and most basic tasks. There are fully automated bathrooms everywhere, as well as electric escalators and walkways, and doors with electric sensors that on contact open up to new and uncommon places, all outfitted with heating systems.
Completing the party were the enormous and well-lit buildings, of different colors and with signs on which there might first appear something like a drawing, which would then expand to reveal letters in Japanese.
However, this was not what fascinated me the most.
I had arrived in this country with two small backpacks stuffed with my old clothes. So here I was, dressed almost worse than a beggar. Nevertheless, in any place I entered they treated me the same as people dressed in suits and ties.
Two explanations for this occurred to me: either we are all potential clients, or these are acts of simple kindness.
I now believe that neither of those two reasons is accurate. Rather, I think that this behavior is the consequence of centuries of a culture that has instilled in people that this is the most efficient and correct way to live.
It’s true that everything works at a rhythm that I wasn’t looking for, and there’s a technological splendor that makes me feel alien, and sometimes seems exaggerated. Later I might discover other things that compensate for this overabundance of disproportionate shimmer and vibrancy.
Spring is now beginning. The trees of Sakura, which are everywhere, are covered with flowers, and in the air you can breathe a soft aroma. I’m living with my wife Yumiko in Ibaraki-shi, a city of Osaka, and these days seem both distant and a little more real at the same time.
Everything rushes and loses weight in this city. Still, it is calmer and has helped me to little by little note that my reality has changed and will continue changing like this country’s seasons, in all their varying shades.
But also like the seasons, one day I will feel the cycle has been completed – a thought I find appealing. Starting from that day, I will begin to step with assurance once again, like I did in Cuba through pure adaptation over the years. But this time I will walk of my own decision-making, and along wider roads.