The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is a mixed bag. On the one hand, it’s a tough one month period because, after the calendar turns to December, the mind begins the countdown towards Christmas. On the other hand, there is something indescribably jolly about this time period. It’s not just the shopping for the gifts, the colorful red and green illuminations, the Christmas carols and the holiday dinners. Japan has embraced the commercialization of the Christmas season as much as the United States, but there’s a distinct difference that I suspect comes from cultural differences that can’t be simply imitated. For all the materialism that seems to drive Christmas, the holiday season has an intrinsically special meaning for people that puts everybody in good spirits. And happiness breeds more happiness, something I observed even while I was living in the perpetually grumpy New York.
There is only one good thing about the summer, and it’s that it is followed by the most pleasant season of the year.
I was born in August, right in the smack of the summer, no doubt on a hot, humid and miserable day. My mom always wonders why I hate so much the season in which I was born, and my guess is that I was forever traumatized by experiencing at birth the worst of what this world has to offer. Coldness is something you can deal with by putting on more clothes and putting on a cap to keep you warm. There is nothing I can do about the heat of the summer. I can strip naked, take a cold shower, and it still won’t change the fact that I’m always hot.
The saying goes, “it’s like riding a bike,” but I now take that phrase to mean that if you had once mastered something but have gotten away from it for years, you will die when you try to get back into it.
Take, for example, smoking. That’s something I hadn’t done since my underclassmen years in high school, but when I was offered a smoke at a club the other day, I figured what the heck. As I took a cigarette and put it to a light, the darn thing wouldn’t lit until the person who offered me one reminded me (twice) that I need to breathe into the cigarette to light it (anyone who passed chemistry would know this). The inhaling part was a bit suffocating but smoking seemed so cool I had to try a second.
After I finally got home that night, very early morning, I felt a nausea I hadn’t felt in years. I sensed death, then realized that while smoking may be cool, the surgeon general reminds us that it causes death. That’s when it hit me.
Cigarettes kill because it’s just like riding a bike.
(Original in English) The food is great in Tokyo. By that I mean the taste, not the portions. Compared to America–where they feed you like a horse–the portions at Japanese restaurants are ridiculously small. It’s pretty much assured that whatever dishes the restaurant trots out as a full-course meal
(Original in English) The rail system in Tokyo is so reliable you wonder how New Yorkers ever function with the disaster that’s the MTA. I’ve never had to wait more than 10 minutes for a subway, regardless of the time of day or day of the week. There’s certainty because
(Original in English) I am starting my new life in Tokyo, where new challenges await. I’m really excited, but the move still feels quite surreal. I don’t think reality has quite sunk in. Twenty-one years, 3 months and 10 days passed between my residency in Japan. That’s a long time.
(Original in English) At the end of August, I will be transferring to my firm’s Tokyo office. The change is dramatic and spontaneous. I’m really psyched. I arrived in the United States on May 12, 1990. It’s been 21 years, but I remember the days and months that followed surprisingly