Saturday, March 03, 2007

Things I Can't Have

One of the first neighborhood kittens we encountered in Japan was outside of my brother-in-law's apartment (when he lived in the same neighborhood as us a long time ago). This picture was taken by him. He's a much better photographer than I.

For the most part, living in Japan has been more beneficial and very likely more educational (both mentally and spiritually) for me than living in the U.S. For instance, I think my husband and I have formed a tighter bond because of the feeling of being a tiny island of gaijin-ness in a sea of Japan.

I'm also sure that I've learned a great deal about perspective and how to look at things from the other person's point of view. Once you get used to keeping an open mind about a culture, it's easier to keep an open mind about personality differences and perspective shifts based on differing backgrounds among people in your own culture though I'm still not as good at this as I'd like to be.

I've also learned about framing information for an audience with limited understanding so that they may understand with minimal confusion. This is one of the good things that you get from teaching students who can be relatively rigid in their thinking. You find the right door to open and let the communication through.

Of course, there have also been some bad things that have occurred as a result of living in Japan but I'm not going to go into that. Generally speaking though, I realize I have a pretty good life as a result of being here. It may or may not be a better life than I'd have had in the U.S. but that's pretty irrelevant since a fairly good life shouldn't be held up against the prospect of a imaginary "better" life.

There are some things though that I can't have which I find myself wistfully longing for at times. One of the biggest things is a cat. I've always loved cats but pets aren't allowed in our apartment. Even if it weren't for that restriction, I'm not sure that my husband and I could have ever owned a cat in good conscience. If you don't know for certain how long you're going to be somewhere, it's unfair to take on the responsibility of a pet. After all, you can't rely on finding it a home when you leave and it costs a fortune to take a pet home.

This cat belonged to a neighbor and was actually partially "ours" at times. It'd come inside and stay with us for extended periods of time. It's hiding under our sofa cover here. We know it belonged to someone because it had a collar and was quite tame. I think the owner eventually moved and we haven't seen any cats like it around here since, unfortunately.

Another is having a car. I know people can have cars and live in Japan but it's really out of the question for me because I'm neither confident of my driving ability in the ultra-narrow streets nor could I afford to pay for the parking expense. Space rental for parking can cost half the rent of an apartment or more in Tokyo. It's not the car that I miss as much as the freedom, convenience and comfort it provides for travel and doing mundane daily tasks.

I also sometimes wish I had access to an English language library. The local library has an extremely small selection of books in English. Other than that, it's pretty much the used or new (on-line) book stores. With a real library, a cornucopia of materials are at hand and you can browse them and choose what you fancy without having the money spent on having bought the book pressuring you to read it all and get your money's worth.

On balance, these are not so many or great things to deny oneself and there are things we don't have to worry about because we don't have the first two. Still, every time I see a picture of a blogger's cat on the internet, I feel a twinge of envy.


Luis said...

I took that photo? I'll be danged. But yeah, I do recognize my bro's Birkenstock, even if I don't remember the kitten.

Shari said...

Indeed you did. In fact, there were several others which are very nice of me holding the cat and your brother looking over my shoulder which I won't publish because I'm uncomfortable with my picture being on the internet. There are a lot of really great pictures you took of your brother and I from the early days.

Helen said...


If you're interested in any of my books let me know. If you wouldn't mind paying for the takkyubin fee I would be happy to lend you some. I've had a deal with a friend of mine in Chiba. She borrows a box of books at a time...the cost is around 1000 yen one way...and there's a lot of books in the box!

If you check out my bookworm pages on my homepage you'll see what I've read over the last couple of years. I don't know if you like my kind of books though!

Just an idea.....

Shari said...

Thanks for the very kind and generous offer, Helen! I had a look at your book page but I'm afraid that my tastes tend to be a bit odd so we only have a few books "in common." I tend to be more into non-fiction on the whole though I do read some fiction on occasion. Thanks anyway!

In terms of the library, I think it's more about the casualness of the experience and the access to magazines and computer books. Right now, for instance, I'd like to be able to thumb through a book on Photoshop or on an operating system without feeling obliged to read it all.