April 29th, 2022Just sayin’… with Donna Kelly
IT WAS really interesting having a chat with Cecilia Macaulay last week – check out her story on page 7.
If not for Covid, she would be heading to Japan pretty soon where she spends our winters every year. She loves Japan and Japanese culture, and I do too, but I think we have different takes on the land of the rising sun. Or maybe I am stuck in the past and need another trip, when they open up again. Still closed to the world, and you think we took a long time to get the tourists back.
I remember being in houses that were so cluttered the only way to declutter would have been a skip. Don’t get me wrong, they were fantastic, but if you think you have a lot of crockery, head to a Japanese house and pop into the kitchen. From floor to ceiling, stuff stacked everywhere.
And out in the dining room, well, the dining floor, it’s not just you and the family on the ground, you share it with a rice cooker and a huge electric urn. Which is great because you never have to stand up for an extra serve of rice or hot water for your green tea. Most of the rooms, back in my day, also had a couple of overflowing ashtrays for dad.
I worked as an English teacher when I was there, aged about 22. Well I was an assistant English teacher. Often working with English teachers who had no English speaking ability at all. Not their fault, just the way the system was. Lots of written English, just not much speaking. Which is why they shipped in a load of assistants from English-speaking countries around the world. But it could be hard going. Like the time in class when a 13-year-old boy asked me in very polite English if I was a virgin. It was a yes/no question, just like the teacher had asked the students to prepare. But I was not prepared and just opened and shut my mouth. The teacher turned to me and managed to say “please answer”. Things got strange after that. And the kid got a hell of a beating. Once again, just the system at the time.
Lots of people also talk about how beautiful Japan is, which is true, if you look in the right direction. I don’t think many people would say Tokyo, with its high rises and electric wires everywhere, is beautiful. And there are plenty of lovely gullies, or perhaps were, filled with no longer wanted rusting cars. It is the land of throw away – I knew many foreigners who were able to furnish their apartments just from a stroll down the road. And that included almost new TVs.
And I am not sure all Japanese people love their countryside. I lived there, after the government teaching stint, in an apartment with my Japanese boyfriend. We had no parking spots so we parked over the road outside a shrine. I went over one day to use the car and found a stack of cigarette butts next to it. He had just cleaned it out and dumped them as an easy tidy-up. I went off my head and not long after that found myself back in Australia. I think I realised despite how much I love the country, and I do, I was Australian after all. Mum was pretty happy with that decision too!
Anyway, as soon as the borders are open I am heading back for the first time in perhaps four years to enjoy a pretty bento box and a cold sake (only bogans drink it heated) and Kyle can have an ice-cold Asahi and one of those fluffy white sandwiches with absolutely no nutritional value at all.
And if we have to wear masks then that’s OK. Japan has been well ahead of that curve for years. Even a visit to Japan with a mask would spark joy. Just sayin’…