Since last week’s post was all about the realization of a new life here, it is only fitting that this weeks post is concerned with the nature of that new life and all of the new adventures it brings. Naturally, the experience, as with every one, has not been an incredible, paradigm-shifting one, but just a general slice of life. I have work at 8:20 every morning, and I normally wake up two hours to an hour-and-a-half beforehand. In that time, I shower, make breakfast, brush my teeth, dress myself and hop on my bike to make the five minute commute to work, and when the day is done I ride my bike around Kiryu before eventually making my way home. However, though this may sound mundane, it has been a rather interesting week of discovery in more ways than one.

Through this first week of routine, I have found my own rhythm to the mornings when I wake up. Like many other college students and recent graduates, I am still accustomed to the “work hard, play hard” school of thought which usually resulted in me waking up fifteen minutes before class began to then arrive on time in a huff of drowsiness, self-loathing, and frustration. However, I can no longer be afforded that lifestyle, and, as such, I have begun to go to bed at a reasonable hour and then awaken early enough to be prepared for the day. I shower after waking up, and then I make  my breakfast, which consists of green tea, miso soup, rice, fried eggs, and some granola w/ dried fruit. In college, breakfast was almost a delicacy during the week, and it is astounding how much better my days start off now that I have made it a mainstay in my diet. I am also afforded the time to make myself presentable rather than showering quickly and throwing whatever looks decent on. As much as I may hate to admit it, the old argument of “early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy wealthy and wise” seems like it may hold some water.

Additionally, my time at work has been very fruitful with respect to both my work as a teacher and my personal love of Japanese. I have spent the past five days developing lesson plans and activities to engage my ESL students and studying Japanese, be it through books and online resources or simple conversations with my newfound coworkers. These discoveries are similar to the ones I have made as I have developed my morning routine in that they have helped me to determine the limits of my ability, though these work-related discoveries have allowed me to test the ways in which I push myself rather than the effectiveness in how I push myself. Yet the discoveries that I have been most excited by I have all been made after I leave work and ride around on my bicycle.

In Japan, travel by bicycle is much more common than it is in America, and this was a distinction that I had not quite grasped until I arrived here. Because of how much I drove while in America, I had developed a certain disdain for the bicycle, as I felt that it could not match the freedom that the car can bring to its user. Yet, since I have arrived here and been forced to use my bike as my sole means of transportation, I have developed a great appreciation for the freedom which I does offer. A freedom entirely different from that of the car.

When you drive a car, you are always going at someone else’s pace, be that the speed limit set by the government or the speed of the old lady in the car ahead of you who should really move over from the passing lane. She’s just keeping us all from where we need to be. A bicycle, on the other hand, will go as fast or slow as you want it to, and you may stop or turn around whenever you like, and this freedom I find to be so much more liberating than that of the car. When I am on the bike, I do not worry about anybody’s pace but my own. I am never late, nor am I early. I arrive precisely when I mean to.

Along with this sense of freedom comes many new opportunities for exploration, opportunities which I have made sure to capitalize upon. In the last seven days, I have stopped to several Shinto and Buddhist temples, discovered ramen shops, bought new books, found a dojo where I plan to learn judo, and even just stopped to take photographs. I found all of these places because I had the freedom to stop and take in my surroundings whenever I liked, and I am truly thankful for these discoveries and eager to see what future ones I will make.

In my Fraternity, many people have partaken in Journey of Hope, a philanthropic, trans-national 3-month long bike ride from the West Coast to Washington D.C. sponsored by the Ability Experience to raise money and awareness to help those with disabilities, and I have always been envious of those who were able to go on it for the freedom and adventure that they seemed to enjoy while they made the journey.  Now I have a much better idea of how much freedom they really do enjoy, and I am even more envious now. But there is not need to be envious.

I am over here on my own journey in Japan, just as my brothers are on their own in America. I can make the same type of discoveries and memories that they have made, and I know it will mean just as much to me as theirs does to them. All journeys can bring us these things, and we all experiences them in tandem.

Mine is just 13 hours ahead.

Song of the Week

Memoirs of a Gaijin Playlist

“Get It Right the First Time” by Billy Joel

Just before I left America, I was staying at the home of my good friend and fraternity brother Peter, and on the first night we listened to Billy Joel’s The Stranger on vinyl. I had never heard the album all the way through before, and it has stuck with me greatly in the last two weeks. I find that its a great one to listen to as I ride around Kiryu, and I thought it fitting to use one of its songs in this week’s post. I decided on “Get It Right the First Time” because I want just that. Be it a new introduction or simply riding along on my bicycle, I want to to be the best it can be as soon as it can be. Because you never get a second chance at a first impression.