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O Fim duma Viagem

Tests, Plums, and Cats

JAPAN | Monday, 28 March 2016 | Views [390]

On Wednesday my religion and culture class was cancelled, which should have made the day seem shorter and better by comparison. It didn't.

In part this was because we had our second Japanese test, immediately followed by two hours of project work. That was not fun. Especially since the test once again took over an hour to finish. Yamaguchi-sensei generously gave us extra time to work on it… specifically, the ten minutes between the end of the test period and the start of the first project period. Then she gave us even more time after second project period, but by that point my brain was fried and I needed a break.

This break took the form of eating lunch and catching a train to Osaka castle. Once there, rather than going directly to the park or castle, I went to the nearby Seattle's Best that was supposed to be open on weekdays. It was.

Unfortunately, the Seattle's Best allowed smoking (it's kind of disconcerting how many buildings in Japan allow smoking inside. Even in Paris that's pretty uncommon at this point, and Paris is a city where the stereotype involves people wearing a beret and smoking a cigarette) so I went outside to finish my coffee. This meant the majority of my ascent up to Osaka Castle was spent looking for somewhere to throw away my coffee cup without making it obvious that's what I was doing.In part because I wasn't entirely sure outside food was allowed in the park, in part because I still have a hard time understanding cultural feelings on what things are OK to do while walking.

So for reasons, putting my empty coffee cup in my coat sleeve seemed like a reasonable thing to do. It was a nice day, and the only reason I still had my coat was because I hadn't realized how warm it was when I left the apartment. And as long as I was careful about how I held my coat, both hands were free to take pictures, or write something, or dramatically photobomb other people's pictures. Plus I felt less awkward passing all the “please don't litter” signs when the casual observer wouldn't be able to tell I might be inclined to litter. (Tip to anyone who is ever responsible for a park, or even a building: if you really want to reduce littering, put a trash bin beneath every “please don't litter” sign.)

I let the search for a trash can guide me up a hill closer to the castle itself, since I figured the presence of stores that sold food would increase the odds of finding a place that let me throw out food there. Sure enough, there was a trash can past the benches where paying customers were sitting and eating their food. So, nonchalantly, I walked past them to throw out my coffee cup in the customer trash. Only it got kind of stuck in the sleeve, so I had to fumble around by the garbage can for a while. Once I finally had it out to throw it away, my coat was in a very precarious position and I nearly dropped it, so I couldn't even slink away.

It's days like this that you just take advantage of “gaijin privilege.” Basically, you're a foreigner and can only be expected to do dumb foreigner things. When you live in Japan, 80% of your time is spent trying to defy this stereotype. The other 20% is spent taking advantage of it. Like… you know when you see a road, and you're not quite sure who has the right of way? So you hesitate, and then decide you really hate this side of the street so you go running across while cars and motorcycles glare at you? Imagine stopping at the other side of the street to smile and pose for a picture, maybe saying something like “gaijin desu!” That's what gaijin privilege feels like. You're not expected to understand Japanese culture and, for all the work you put into trying anyway, there are days where it's really nice to put that aside and not care about being judged. I mean, you're still being judged, but you're not being judged that much more than you would be if you'd done everything you were supposed to. Which, depending on your mood, may or may not be a good thing.

Anyway, now that I was no longer trying to hide a coffee cup, I could go back and enjoy the plum trees. Or try. Since the last time I'd gone a little over a week ago, most of the plum trees had lost their blossoms. The few that still had them were relatively crowded.

At least the castle is always pretty.

Plum Trees and Osakajo

After finishing up the castle and park, I went back to my room and tried to motivate myself to work on homework. There's nothing like a brutal test followed by two hours of project work to make you wonder why you bother doing anything and if you really need to do the reading for the next day. So it wasn't that long before I needed a break.

During this break, I was walking past a house, heard a jingling, and looked up to find the calico cat from earlier, meowing and demanding to be pet. I could certainly do that. So I sat down and pet her for a while. Then I decided to see if she would be content in my lap, so I picked her up and put her there. She immediately left. But within a few minutes, she'd crawled into my lap of her own volition and just stayed there, purring.

This was very nice and all, but much as I wanted to stay there, I did still have homework to do. So after a while more sitting there and petting her, I pushed her off and started walking home.

She followed me. Initially I encouraged her by pausing to pet her every time she plopped down in front of me, then I started just stepping over her. She continued to follow me. All the way to the house before my apartment. Then she went behind the gate and didn't seem to care when I opened the door to my apartment and went inside. Which, although disappointing, was probably a good thing. “It followed me home” might not be the most convincing excuse to the owners of the cat.

Still, if she'd followed me just a little further then stood staring at me pathetically, I probably would have found someone else to come keep her entertained while I did homework. The apartment is full of people whose days could have been improved by petting a friendly cat.


Tags: castle, cat, coffee, plum trees, tests

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