A kindly host will see that I'm drooping and say, "Do you want to rest for ten minutes?" No, actually. I want to rest for an hour. Or an afternoon. I hardly know how to begin resting in ten minutes.
Japan is the only place I've visited where people eat more quickly than I do. The food arrives. I cradle my teacup in my hands, and as I take the first sip, glance up and see that everyone has inhaled their meal and are politely waiting for me to begin.
Speaking of eating, meals are served with individual plates for each different flavor. So, you can end up with a stack of seven or eight plates by the end of the meal, more if you have gone to a high-end restaurant. But the chopsticks are almost always single-use disposable. Imagine a nation of 127 million people using three pairs of chopsticks per day and tossing them! I asked why people don't have lovely designer chopsticks, just like their lovely plates. The answer? It would be too much work to wash them for each meal.
Electronic multitasking is taken for granted. Cars have TV's and GPS on the same screen, and it is not uncommon to be driven by someone who is switching back and forth between TV and GPS, texting on their cellphone, and trying to chat in a foreign language. Answering a cellphone during conversations is common and one of the few things that doesn't merit an apology.
At the school, after a short conversation about what would be a good lesson for the day, we're asked to summarize the options in a sentence apiece, with time needed. I seldom know the answer, since I don't know what the parameters are. There is a pattern to when things need to be exact and when they can be sloppy, but I don't know what it is yet.
When I return to school this coming week, I've been asked to do a few crafts workshops. About an hour apiece. For origami, maybe I could do that. But for card weaving? Drawing? A sewing project? Hard to imagine.
Sightseeing is accomplished at breakneck speed. I like to poke around, stop to sketch, wait for a serendipitous event. In a group, with a tight schedule, that's simply not an option. We arrive, sweep the area, and we're outta there. I find that it is indeed possible to gather the essential feel of a place that way.
English lessons are a strange combination of intense and superficial. Instructions are in Japanese, even though that's a clear-cut place where English could be taught and used. Individual grammar or vocabulary points are mentioned and then we're done. I think that students are expected to take notes and memorize the material later, but the fact that even after years of instruction few people are that fluent indicates to me that more classroom time in English would be a good idea.
One good thing about all this is that in order for things to work this way, they have to work. I haven't noticed anything that's broken. Problems are addressed at once. If I mention that I'd like more fresh food, we veer off to the grocery store and get some. We asked about adapter plugs and bam, we went to three electronics stores until we found one, and only then went back to the day's sightseeing plan. It is common to slide in to the train station with exactly enough time to buy the ticket and trot through the various checkpoints. The train will arrive the moment the schedule says it will, and leave half a minute later.
Word of the day: soro-soro: Let's get this show moving, folks!