Tokyo stroll on a sunny day

Japan has never resonated with me the way it does for many people. I don’t really know why. I have always enjoyed the people who are generally courteous and thoughtful.

But here is an observation. In the mornings I take the metro to the Shinjuku station. When I exit the station, the street is completely full of people walking to work. The sidewalk is chock-a-block with people. I have to walk about 7 or 8 blocks and so I flow along with the mass of people on the sidewalk. When we come to a crosswalk, everyone stops. Even on small streets, where there are no cars and a glance both ways shows there are not even any cars in the distance, the people wait until the light turns to green before they walk across. They are natural conformists. I am on the other hand a natural non-conformists. Tell me to do something and chances are I will do the opposite–even at times when I understand there is a potential consequence. So, maybe that’s the difference.

And I don’t find the food in Japan that great. I love Chinese, Indian, Thai, Malaysian–but Japanese food is more bland to me. I have had some great Japanese meals, but in the list of my favorite ethnic places to eat, it appears pretty far down the list.

But I did learn something very interesting the other day, while having lunch with our solution architect SiChwen. He taught me how to eat sushi, which I have been doing wrong for many years. First, the ginger is a palate cleanser and not meant to be eaten with the sushi. Also, when eating nigiri, you flip the sushi over and only dip the fish. All these years I have been making both of those mistakes. The thinking on the dipping is that the special sauce, if you will, is in the way the rice is prepared and the soy masks that. The rice is considered the most important component.

Also, there’s this. I am an early morning person. I have evolved to that out of professional necessity. I am at my mental peak in the mornings and my emotional peak in evenings. But I tend to get paid far better for my analytical skills than for my writing or reflecting ability. So I’ve trained myself to get up early, when I am sharp, to produce meaningful productive work (or at least seemingly) that finds value in the marketplace. My heart may well be in other pursuits, but it is my brain that pays the bills. The Japanese tend to start early and go late. For example, there is a lovely coffee shop just near my hotel. Great coffee and pastries. It opens at 9:00am; 4 hours after I have been up and 3 hours after I leave for the office.

And if I want to go do something with colleagues here? They often only go out after 9:00. I like to be in bed by 10:00, but in Japan that is just when things are beginning. Boring as it is, I am just not a night person anymore. Years ago, I was briefly engaged to a beautiful Puerto Rican princess. When we visited her family, we would often only go to dinner at 10:30 or 11:00pm. Then it was dancing and drinking until 2:30 or 3:00. My body and constitution, conditioned to being up at 5:00, objected. So when I was abruptly dumped, I took the opportunity to wallow but also to sleep for about 6 weeks.

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