From a work of fiction, being written by Michael Gillan Peckitt, tentatively entitled ‘Foreigner’.
Mornings seem forced to me. – Osamu Dazai
Sleeping on a futon has ruined me, it is too comfortable. There is something about a bed I now find to be too soft, I prefer a harder mattress than a bed offers, it is fine if you have company, but a bed is way too big and harsh on the back if you’re alone. The futon allows a deep slumber, good for a back, but not for encouraging you to get up early in the morning.
I slowly emerge reluctantly to consciousness, dimly aware of the theme music from a NHK TV program, some Japanese lady singing a love song, no doubt about a great and long lost flame, and how she misses him. Why it never occurs to her to stop singing about it and find someone who actually loves her is beyond me, that would be a song worth listening to, but alas, apparently, that is not done thing, and the singer rather pathetically wails on about the loss of her paramour. He left you lady; get over it, I think to myself. Annoying as such music can be, I do like some of it, the voice of the singer is often so loud and imposing that it’s quite useful as an alarm clock, and as the last verse is cried out I’m completely awake. Actually that’s a lie, I am almost completely awake, but there is still some residual debris from the night’s rest that only caffeine will wash away. The temptation is to close my eyes, to embrace the idea that there is something rather arbitrary about mornings, why must we get up simply because the sun has come out, why does a ball of fire determine what our waking hours should be? But arguing against nature is no use; it is a new day, for better or for worse. Get up, start moving. But inevitably I stay horizontal for another half an hour or so.
Finally I arise, turn on the TV, and the morning chat show is on, Japan’s morning serving of cooking shows and celebrities. The show usually begins with a starter of chefs and their food, maybe followed by the main course; an interview with the celeb de jour, for whom they prepare a meal and today is no different, the hostess explains to the latest soon to be has-been that the right way to make a meal of barbequed chicken. According to the host of the show, there is a wrong way to skewer chicken, it is apparently not enough that you stick a metal rod through the poultry’s backside, you must insert said rod in the proper way, to fail to do so would be very bad and result in ill-tasting chicken. The chicken does look good and I consider going back to sleep to dream of fried chicken. But no, alas I have to work today, so about that caffeine. I only started drinking coffee after moving to Japan a few years ago. Before moving to Japan I found coffee to be one of the most inconvenient of drinks, a trait it shares with all hot beverages, I mean, you’re thirsty and perhaps really thirsty, so what is the point of drink you have to leave ten minutes to cool down before consuming? I do like the occasional expresso though, but not today, today will be all about soft drinks, and ultimately, the best reason to take up the habit of drinking coffee is to use the WIFI at Starbucks. Cola and cheese on toast, a breakfast that reminds of my student days, no essay could be completed without such necessary sustenance. I eat, shave, and find my keys, wallet and resident card. The iPhone is fully charged and I put on my headphones, although I am not actually listening to anything, the mere inserting of earplugs creates a sometimes necessary haven of solitude, a buffer between me and the world. What is it about the wearing of headphones that suggests to the native people of Japan ‘let’s chat?’ I leave the apartment.
It’s called The Land of the Rising Sun for a reason; the morning vista can be something special, a crisp blue skyline with the brightest yellow sun. If I were a morning person, I would like the mornings here, but I like my futon too much and have to work today, so it is difficult to appreciate the view. I enter my local conbini, a 711, to buy a drink and a sandwich, ‘Irrashaimase’ exclaims the cute girl from across the counter. I smile awkwardly and nod upon hearing her words and grab a copy of The Japan Times from the newsstand, fold the paper and present it and yield five hundred to the lady behind the counter. Arigatogozaimasu she says, and Arigatogaimashta I say as I exit the conbini. Since I am need of a good internet connection, I linger outside the train station, pacing up and down as I listen to YouTube videos and podcasts. There are many benefits to standing near a train station. You are outside, so there is good internet and a means of escape should, to put it kindly, troublesome individuals turn up, individuals such as The Newbie, whom has just come up on the elevator and is making a beeline for the ticket machine. I close my eyes and focus on the sound of the talking head being emitted from my headphones and imagine a world where, since I could not see The Newbie, he could not see me.
Alas we do not live in such a world.
Dr. Michael Gillan Peckitt is an academic who lives in Suita, Osaka Prefecture, Japan. He runs the Japan and disability related website ‘The Limping Philosopher’ (https://thelimpingphilosopher.wordpress.com) and you can find him on Twitter @Peckitt. Check out his ebooks on Amazon.