Rice Stubble

posted in: Uncategorized | 20

Things have been so hectic lately that I’ve had no time at all to concentrate on the internet, let alone blog about anything. I haven’t even had time to get out for a walk or run, to take, pictures, or contact friends and family. First it was the end-of-the-year business of student tests and make up courses, attempted semblances of preparing for the coming classes, and university administration. All the other teachers had already taken off while I sat in the office typing away. In one way it was good, because I was just too busy to think about being the only person in the entire school sitting there at night while a storm blew itself to smithereens outside the window.

The next step was looking for an apartment to move to. For the last two and a half months I’d been staying at the university guesthouse to give myself time to settle into the job, get used to the area, learn about where the best place might be to live, and relieve the enormous expense of continuing to maintain the old apartment where my wife will remain until I’m settled down and she can find a place in Tokyo, while at the same time renting a second apartment. I had to look for the cheapest place possible and think about something that would allow me to get around without a car. This of course limited my options pretty severely. The original area I wanted to move to, called “Toke”, which was actually quite nice and very convenient, ended up not having any apartments available in my price range, so I decided to use a so-called “short-term apartment service” with the nationwide company Leopalace. I found an apartment in a small town called “Naruto”, which, location-wise is not bad, in that it is about a 15 minute bicycle ride from the university, has a direct train connection to Tokyo, is about an hour bicycle ride from the Pacific Ocean, sits right near a big area of hills and forests where I can go for the long walks that I’ve so longed to do, and has the basic amenities needed for daily living, but it certainly is a run-down little place, and the apartment building itself located at the end of a drab and stark end of town. I keep wondering if I’m going to be all right, what with everything changing, not knowing anyone (and because I am a foreigner, very unlikely in making friends with any neighbors), and all that is happening with my wife still raw and uncertain. So far apartment hunting, within the maddening Japanese system (on average you have to pay six months’ rent when starting out, only two of which come back when you leave… and then even that maybe be dipped into by the landlord for “cleaning expenses”), is as always a frustrating and infuriating experience. Japanese renters don’t need guarantors when using Leopalace, but when I sat in front of the agent yesterday before signing the contract I was informed, “You will need a guarantor.” When I asked why, he responded, while wringing his hands and apologizing profusely, “Because you are a foreigner.”

“What difference does that make?” I asked, feeling the bile quickly rise.

“Too many foreigners suddenly disappear without paying rent,” he said.

“Excuse me, Sir, but that is an outright lie. Japanese do the same thing. And I’m certain that if you look at your records you will find nothing to suggest that foreigners are less trustworthy than Japanese.”

He looked appropriately ashamed and then shook his head, “Be that as it may, you need a guarantor. And you guarantor must be Japanese.”

It was useless to argue. This happened everywhere in Japan, legally, and there was nothing a foreigner could do. I wanted then and there to make all the thousands of Japanese living abroad go through the same experience, many of whom have the audacity to come back to Japan and subject foreigners here to such racist policies, with the unending excuse, “This is Japan”, as if that explains anything.

“Oh,” continued the agent, “Even though the advertisement for Leopalace says that it doesn’t matter when you decide to leave the apartment… you can stay as little as two weeks if you like… we do have the stipulation that if you leave before fulfilling the year-long contract you will have to pay a Â¥50,000 ($500.00) penalty.”

I thought I would grab his tie and twist it several turns too tight. “That’s cheating,” I said between gritted teeth. “After looking at all those apartments, reading your advertisements, and you telling me all this time that I could leave any time, now you tell me that I have to pay more if I leave before the year is done? Of all the underhanded…”

He smiled. “It’s still much cheaper than getting a regular apartment.”

And that was the catch. It was true. I couldn’t argue with him on that point. And I had no other choice.

Seething, I signed the contract and handed over the money. Things like this make me hate Japan and the Japanese. Constantly they have foreigners over a barrel and legally there is nothing we can do to fight back. My Japanese friend who was helping me with all this gave me a glance and I could see the anger there… that at least reminded me that not all Japanese are like Leopalace or agree with such practices. Afterwards my friend condemned Leopalace with a few fierce, reluctant tears. “I’m ashamed to be Japanese,” were the words that came out.

For the next week it will be packing boxes, throwing away accumulated junk, stripping the apartment of the last five years of my presence. It is almost like erasing myself. Meanwhile my wife lingers and the memories harangue her. She sent an email the other day talking of having had nightmares. It seems as if every other sentence we say to one another is, “Are you okay?” We both smile and answer, “Yes, don’t worry about me,” in an attempt to alleviate the worry and sadness of the other, but the truth is that we are both not all right. One person even said, I guess in an attempt to be understanding and helpful, “You are not the first to go through a divorce and feel this way.” How do you respond to that? It is almost as if I ought to feel guilty about being sad and broken up, as if I am somehow weak and immature for the devastation that my wife and I feel. Others say, “Make it swift and clean. Get it over with.” That might very well be the answer to how to deal with all this, but I suspect that there is no one in the world who really knows what to do or has the right answer to any of it. Personally I cannot for the life of me understand people who end up hating each other. It seems utterly selfish and immature, a complete unwillingness to accept that the other is a separate person, that things change, that just because something painful happens or someone you love needs to move on, you must therefore resent the other person for their wanting to do what they want to do. I will always love my wife. She will love me. We love one another simply for the other being who they are. And that love extends to each other whether we are together or not.

Gosh, I ended up writing about this personal topic even though I didn’t want to reveal such things on the blog. I guess holding it all inside is just too much. There is no one else to tell it to, so it has come spilling out here. I hope I haven’t stepped on anyone’s sensibilities.

One more day till 2007. I hope all of you have restful and memorable holidays. I’ll be thinking of you.

Hot tea all around!

Peace and Good Medicine.

20 Responses

  1. Thinking of you and wishing you peace and all good things in the new year.

  2. Tough post. From one foreigner Leopalace resident to another, best of luck.

  3. Thanks Pascale for the warm words. I hope you the same surrounds you with the coming new year.

    Perrin, a fellow Leopalace victim? This is my first time and I was quite surprised by the experience. How do you find them? Are they reliable and trustworthy? Are you planning to stay with them for a while? Whereabouts are you? Hope your new year changeover is a good one. Just dropped by your site and left a comment. Good selection of books!

  4. While my attention is unable to concentrate too much on money matters (although, of course, it sucks to be treated this way!), I enjoyed very much the efficacious description of your new neighborhood and of the thought process that led you there. The fact that the place is not exactly a five stars residence may be at first unpleasant but it is mostly an emotional impression. I think that one can become attached and feel comfortable in any place, as long as one is in peace with himself. You could also become friends with some locals, one never knows.

    As regards your conjugal relationship, perhaps it is possible to stay in a marriage with different expectations from the ones that you had at the beginning. Perhaps the marriage could change its nature and you two could stay together in a different way than before. It is terrible that you both are torn by the sufference of splitting yet, I presume, for different reasons.

  5. It’s good to see you back here, butuki; I rather guessed your attention would be in places other than the blogosphere these past few weeks.

    Intentional or not, your heart found a place here to share its burden, and a blog, for all its paradox of being both public and private, is probably as good a place as any in which to do that. Perhaps too sharing helps to dissipate the load somewhat.

    Here’s to the road ahead in 2007; whatever may be around the next corner, may the road be trod in the companionship of good friends. Warmest wishes for the new year!

  6. this is sad, i’m sorry you’ve had to go through this

    may you find solace in your art and in your teaching, and in the opening in your life the new year brings, the fresh horizon and possibilities

  7. Butuki, I for one am grateful for your honesty. I will be thinking of you and wishing you peace, strength, and some of the solace you have longed for. I’m glad you finally feel able to make some definitive changes – and they should eventually tell you what you need to know about planning your future. Hope the computer issues resolve too, and that you will be back here writing more regularly. Happy New Year, with love.

  8. Thanks for sharing all this. Happy New Year.

  9. Peace to you, Butuki, today and in the days and months ahead.

  10. I’m so very sorry for all your troubles. I hope this New Year will bring you some peace and solace, even some joy and abundance. I thank you for sharing your thoughts, hopes and fears and for your friendship, Butuki. Happy New Year.

  11. Butuki-san.
    How lucky and blessed you are to have readers that are so compassionate with someone they only know by words. Another blessing having a place to express & share yourself to people, even a blog. Even though public perhaps even easier than facing someone. Yet again you have the blessing of an ex who still deeply cares about you although your paths have changed. Many couples can to stand to be the the same room with each other once split. I could never understand that, how could you once love someone enough to want to spend your life with them then have that turn into pure hate? It is good your both still feel the love. Perhaps you could as another said find a balance in a new relationship with each other. Live one moment, one day at a time. Life changes, people change, seasons change. We grow and adapt to each. Be the bamboo…

    Gambatte!

  12. A very touching post. I’m glad that you are moving into the new year by settling down again and looking forward to new, long walks in your new neighborhood. It seems from your words that you and your ex are still in love and who knows – maybe your new relationship with each other will open a new dimension of your shared experience in this life.

    Sharing these things is never easy, but when it has to come out, it really has to come out. Talking about it may clear your mind and give you the necessary perspective on your life. I know from your writing that you are a very deep thinker and this change will sure swirl around your mind for a long time, but at least in this blog you have an outlet to shape those thoughts and hold onto them.

    Good luck with the new apartment and live life every day. My motto is always, to enjoy every single day, even the crappy ones. They come around only once and hating a day is wasting it.

    Have a Happy New Year and Gambatte!

  13. Happy New Year to you Butuki. I hope that your new year is one of inspirement and creativity. Good luck to you. ^_______^

  14. I es an imigrant 2oo, i ruv de new amertica, it is good wit everyting. I ruv amertica, the rand of the free

  15. Laurent Fairon

    Been reading you for a couple of months now and I’m always moved by your posts. Not sure though wether outsiders (e.g. in the comments) can be of any help handling the couple’s difficult relations.
    You should resume taking photos, like you did previously, it may smooth out the difficulties with the environment.
    I live in Paris in a tiny studio with which I’m pretty happy.
    Best wishes for the new year.

  16. Happy new year Miguel. A new apartment, and a new start is good. Keep writing, it’s good for you and apparently good for many more who read here. Including me.

  17. Wow… you drop off the grid for a week and look what you get when you come back! Thanks everyone! I haven’t been able to access the internet much for the last week or so so I haven’t been able to respond to your comments here. I just finished all the paperwork for the new apartment and went to visit the new town where I will be living for a while. It was actually somewhat of a surprise… quieter and closer to the ocean and the forested hills than I thought. And I read last night that the area has some of the best birding in Japan. So that will be something to really look forward to. I also hope, if I can organize my university work a little better, to get a book written this year. If nothing else, I want to use the opportunity of being more solitary than I have in a long time to finish some projects that I’ve been too distracted to get to over the last ten years. I mean, if I’m going to be alone, I might as well embrace the advantages of being alone right? Doesn’t all have to be doom and gloom.

    May, for a long time I dreaded the prospect of being alone like this, because for so long I’d been living daily with another person. I won’t say that I won’t be lonely… sometimes very lonely… but it all comes down to how you choose inside yourself to face the silence. You can scream at it to drown out the emptiness, or you can embrace it as if it in itself were whole and then feel yourself billow out into something more than youself.

    The time apart from my wife will be an opportunity for both of us to see ourselves clearly again and wash out all the accumulated dust and grime. I’m not at all sure it will lead us back to each other, but at least we have already come away with the feeling that we will both survive this and still care about one another.

    Andy, your words about the blog being a place to reach out to friends and share painful burdens really struck a note with me. For a long time I’ve been wondering exactly what a blog and blogging is, and perhaps more than any other statement I’ve heard that most clearly defined what it is that we all seem to be doing here… a reaching out and pulling together, in a way. The longer you blog the more this seems to carry weight.

    rb, maybe it’s sad, but though I do feel the sadness quite often, especially when my wife and I are together, for the most part it just feels like a passing phase in life and every day it feels more like a very necessary part of getting through life and growing as a person. I’m trying to find a passage that feels right and dignified, that allows me to filter out any anger or resentment I might feel, and to discover strength inside me that I didn’t know I had. In many ways it is important for me (maybe because I tend to be stubborn and irascible) to avoid taking the easy way out and simply hold on to a way of living that doesn’t require me to look at myself or question my assumptions about how I live or how I relate to others. Going through this has already taught me a lot about problems in the way I communicate with my wife; things I would never have seen otherwise. So it’s sad, but it’s also instructive and strengthening.

    Beth, I know I seem to have been in this rut forever… probably as long as we’ve known one another. It’s been so long since I’ve sat around with good friends and just had a good, honest, unself-conscious laugh. I keep asking myself when I ever became such a fuddy-duddy. But then I realize that I’ve also become more considerate and less self-righteous in the meantime, too.

    Dave, serendipitous bearmarks… hmmm. Signs come in all sorts of guises. As long as you don’t tell me that you flushed a woodcock (the first I’ve ever seen) out from the wood’s edge on New Year’s Eve, I’ll be fine.

    Pica, our friendship has already extended beyond these pages and that means a lot to me. Thanks a billion for both your and Numenius’ kindness and warmth. I hope to reciprocate with vellum and nib sometime soon, and hopefully this year with a trip to the States, if I can swing it.

    Marja-Leena, you’ve been one of my most loyal readers. All without asking anything in return, even though I don’t leave comments on your blog nearly enough. Thanks so much for the two years of shared discussions.

    Zen, it’s really quite amazing isn’t it, the flow of visitors and the bonds you can create in the ether. I still have to respond to your email from last week. Thanks for your constant, spirited words.

    Thomas, I’ve been wondering if you’ve had a chance to come back here to Asia at all. Japan, China, Thailand perhaps? Will you be coming around here again any time soon? Let me know.

    Ni-Chan… a Happy New Year to you, too… and everyone else here! It’s the Year of the Boar, so it’s full of good luck and camaraderie.

    Madoka the Troll… hey there little troll. You still here? Enjoying yourself? Making yourself comfortable? Got any other nonsense to share with the rest of us? Must be lonely hanging out there under the bridge, mumbling to yourself.

    Laurent Fairon, a tiny studio in Paris… well, I know how small apartments can be in Paris, but I’m not sure comparing Paris to Naruto in Chiba really brings together the gamut of the best human endeavors. I mean for a town of about 10,000 having… I counted today… 15 barber shops and hair dressers you really have to question the imagination of where I am about to live.

    Kent, I will definitely be writing again and taking photos. Just give me a little longer. It’s amazing how the torrent of little things to do and think about can leave your brain so fizzled out. If I have to explain the spelling of my name to another government official one more time…

  18. dear Butuki, warm new years greetings to you, may it be filled with new promise and possibility. It sounds like you have much to look forward to despite the present challenges. blessings – lisa

  19. Working late at school is 100x better when I see colleagues doing the same. As long as I don’t feel like some kind of chump then I can engage the task with humility and right-mind.

  20. Miguel, My warm wishes for a fresh start and a new year full of an abundance of happiness. Glad to find you still writing. Hugs!

Leave a Reply