Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Returning from Japan to Work the Problem

I think things are going to be different since I’ve returned from Japan.  In fact...  I know they are. 
Going to Japan marked an end of an era for me.  It was the return trip I wanted to take, “some day,” for quite some time.  Eight years.  After my first trip, which I enjoyed so much, I was waiting for the opportunity to arise when I could go there again.

I waited.  And I waited.  And waited. 

And finally, I made the decision to stop waiting.  The last “chance” was the WorldCon in Spokane, when a group of Japanese science fiction fans put in a bid to have the 2017 WorldCon held in Shizuoka, Japan.  The bid finished fourth out of the four cities vying to host the convention.  Only the write-ins, most joke selections, finished lower than them.

So, I decided not to wait.  I used a Japanese convention to target my trip, but that essentially and excuse to get me to the country.  A way of setting a target date, arrange travel plans, etc..  A way of getting me started. 

It gave me a mantra that I find myself using more often.  “Work the problem.”  I want to go to Japan?  Then work the problem.  I need, what?  Airline tickets.  Places to stay?  Both during and after the convention, right?  Work the problem of getting there, and finding places to stay.  Then work the problems that come up after that. 

And I got there.  I pretty much went where I wanted and pretty much got there when I wanted.  A lost passport kept me in Osaka, where the nearest American Embassy is, a day longer than expected, and it shortened my time in Kyoto by about the same amount.  But even then, I buoyed myself with that new mantra.  Work the problem of finding the passport and/or getting a new one.

And once evening fell, and I had done all I could do that day, I went to the baseball game I was there to see in the first place.  I wasn’t going to let the ticket I’d bought go to waste.  The Tigers won, 6 to 3.  The Japanese person sitting to my right gave me a slice of his pizza.  The Japanese person sitting to my left gave me a “jet balloon” to send up halfway through the seventh inning, what they do during the seventh inning stretch. 

Here’s what that looked like:

7th Inning Stretch at Koshien.

My balloon was one of the yellow ones.

And when my passport was found by someone in Numazu, where the science fiction convention was held, I worked the problem of getting it back, cutting back and forth across the country to return there and then head to Kyoto, where I climbed to the top of the Fushimi Inari shrine, the main reason I wanted to return to Kyoto in the first place. 

I’ll write more about my trip, I’m sure.  But on my first full day back in America, while taking care of things like getting unpacked, refilling my refrigerator that I’d ran down before leaving, going to the bank and the gym, I’ve been considering what having returned from Japan meant. 

If getting there was the end of one era, when I would wait for things to come my way, then what is the new era I’m in all about.  What changes will it bring. 

Things had already started to change before I left.  Things are alway changing all the time.  But signposts were springing up in my left to say, “the coming days and years are going to be different.”  Different not just because they’ll change on their own, the way they always do.  Different because I am going to move them forward.  I’ll work the problems of getting what I want to happen happening. 

On my last day in Japan, at the Meiji-jingu shrine, I went through the purification ceremony, washing my hands and mouth, then the handle of the ladle I’d used, tossed in a coin as an offering and clapped my hands three times, done to attract the god’s attention. 

I didn’t pray, per se.  Not to the deity at the shrine.  But I did close my eyes and say to myself, “I want to do better going forward.  I want to be a better person.  I want to achieve greater things.  I want live more, love more, experience more, make my heart beat faster than it’s done, sample what’s out there and live for life.” 

I opened my eyes, bowed and turned around to head to the airport after that.  To head home.  To work the problem. 


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