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Sometimes, during my time in Japan, I’d have a moment when the trees would part and the wood would become eminently visible. The details would somehow shift out of view into blurriness, and I’d get this overarching awareness of some higher level of where I was and what I was doing. I called these moments ‘Holy Crap I Live in Japan’ moments.
These moments could strike at any time. I walk down the main road at the end of my residential street, where large used-CD/DVD/Video Game stores sit next to intensely bright Pachinko Parlours with ear-splittingly loud music blaring out, all with massive neon signs flashing combinations of words in English, Kanji and katakana symbols. The metaphorical camera zooms in to my face: “Holy crap, I live in Japan”.
Mrs Fuiru and I run in the rain to a nearby ramen noodle cafe. The entire place goes from bustling to silent as the two gaijin sit down and look over the menu. We ask for large bowls of pork ramen with gyoza on the side from the waitress, eagerly blowing on the hot tea she puts in front of us. The other customers go back to their meals, their curiosity sated. I shake my umbrella and try to dry off, and something hits me in the stomach: Holy crap, this is my home now.
I visit a friend in Tokyo, and step out of Shinjuku Station to see crowds and crowds of people swarming across pedestrian crossings like a massive concert or sporting event has just finished. I stand on the sidewalk and they politely file around me, an ocean of commutors and I, Canute-like, a tiny stationary rock in their way. A penny drops and I hear a gong: Holy crap, I live in Japan.
It’s been six years to the month since I moved out of Japan, and it goes without saying that I haven’t had the Holy Crap I Live in Japan moment in that time. But now I’ve discovered that I have a new Holy Crap moment, one that’s no less shocking when it happens.
Yesterday while watching the Olympic closing ceremony, I had Audrey in my arms and was rocking her to the music. She was smiling and cooing and pulling faces at me. At one point, I stopped, and turned my attention to the television. “She’s staring at you,” my wife said, and I looked down to see my daughter looking up at me. I pulled my tongue out at her. After a few times, she did the same to me.
Holy crap, I thought, I’m a father.