One firework? One, single, solitary spark?!? That’s all I got to see? Sigh…Well tonight, for the third year in a row, I’ve missed the Tsuchiura fireworks. For the past two years I actually didn’t make any plans to go, so it was no big deal. But this time was different. I arranged to meet with three of my Japanese friends after I had finished working to catch the last hour or two of the fireworks. I missed my karate class, and actually should have been helping with Halloween decorations after work.
At 7:01 pm, I charged out of work, hopped on my bike as fast as humanly possible, and made it home in a record six-minutes. I changed quickly, slathered on some deodorant, and emailed my friends. 7:30pm…waiting…7:40…still waiting. I got an email around 7:45pm saying “The fireworks are almost over, we will get to your place soon. Let’s buy some fireworks and do them together instead.” My mouth dropped (my heart sank a little, too). I REALLY wanted to go, and missed karate to do it; these fireworks only happen once a year, right?
It had already been a long day at work, and to be honest…I was a little bit hot about it. I got even hotter, when one of my friends made a joke saying “zannen” (too bad in Japanese)…”but WE had a great time.” Internal dialogue: “I don’t want to hear about your **^#%^* good time!! I was supposed to be there!!” I laughed it off, but I was a kind of mad.
There was that awkward pause after we all met. I hear lots of “Doshio kanas” or what should we do in English. In the end, one of my friends (God bless her) hopped in the car and quickly tried to drive to a spot to see the last of the fireworks display. She was really James Bonding it, too: speeding, tight-turning, light-ignoring…stunt driving. I heard the boom, saw a brilliant white flash, and the subsequent sparks faded almost as quickly as my hopes of seeing this year’s show did. After that, there were no more…so we came back home. And with a “maybe next year,” I said goodbye to my friends for the evening.
After repeatedly having experiences like these in Japan, I can’t say it gets any easier to deal with (at least for me). But I am able to recover far more quickly that I used to. About a half-hour afterwards, I was okay. I can’t say exactly where the communication broke down…but, somewhere….it did. When you live in Japan, be ready for this. There may come a time when you get lost, or miss a party, or get left behind, etc. It might be for host of different reasons: miscommunication on your part, or miscommunication on your friends’ part, work, directions, etc.
When it happens to me, I rely on a hobby, or something I really want to learn…and do it. Initially it’s quite hard, but once I get into it, it lifts my spirits. During my first year in Japan I learned picked up quite a bit of piano, because I had so many frustrating days. I didn’t know how to play, couldn’t sight read (still can’t). All I knew was which key represented that oval note on the paper in front of me. I would sit and play (excuse me…try to play) until I felt better. I would pick harder pieces on purpose, because I knew I was a beginner, and that I wasn’t supposed to be able to play them. Honestly I make lots of mistakes playing piano. But I have fun doing it. It actually works.
So if you’re ever frustrated in Japan just remember that sometimes sulking can make a bad day even worse. I know it’s easier said than done; no matter how many times I tell myself this, I can’t always help it. Find something you really enjoy doing, and try to do it for at least 30 minutes (during the first ten minutes, you’ll probably still be too upset to focus well).
Chin up, okay?