Oct 16, 2018
In the time I’ve been here in Japan I've had two bad experiences that I would like to share with you guys.
As everybody knows, if you live outside of Tokyo, you must have a bicycle. I have a beautiful one that I bought from a second hand shop. It's a very common bike , violet in color, with a basket and a lovely bell. I love it. I keep it next to the bicycles of my neighbours in a free space we have at our building. There are a lot of bikes "resting" there.
But the story I want to tell you is not a happy story.
One day my bike was gone. Someone took my bike, my wonderful bike.
I can't explain the feeling I had when my husband told me that my bike had been stolen. "This doesn’t happen in Japan." "Why did they take it? Why my bike?" "Maybe someone borrowed it and will gave it back in a few days..." I was in shock.
I'm from Argentina, where insecurity events happened all the time, so I'm used to it but I never thought that this could happen in Japan.
But it happened. It happened because, even in Japan, thieves exist and security is vulnerable. Japan, a country that seems so secure is not a wonderland, it is a real country like all the others.
The difference between Argentina and Japan, and this is the beginning of the happy ending (spoiler alert), was that we approached the police station to make the report of the robbery and a few days later the police came home with my bike, my wonderful violet bike. It was a miracle!
They explained to us that they found it in the parking lot of a pachinko place (that’s when my “borrow theory” went to the trash -- you needed my bike to go to a Pachinko? Really?).
My beautiful bike had cigarette burns in the seat and a few marks of oxide -- proof that it was left outdoors. It was a sad image but she was finally home and that's what matters.
Keeping up with the security subject, the second story is about women’s safety.
I take Japanese classes in Noda's City Hall. My teacher is a very nice, retired old man. I bring him up because he always tells me that I have to be careful and that I should not walk alone at night and that kind of stuff.
This may seem rare to you as it seemed to me every time he told me this, but what was even odder was the reason why he had to warn me: "You are a beautiful young woman and, even though most of Japanese people are good people, there are a lot of crazy ones."
I thought this was an old man’s warning and nothing more. Well, I'm just going to say that I learned why, here in Japan, they have carriages on trains only for women, a law that requires cell phones to make a noise when they take a picture, and a lot of signs in public places that remind us it is forbidden to take pictures of women's bottoms on escalators.
So, because I didn't listen to my teacher and ignored all these things, life had to take charge and teach me a lesson.
One afternoon, I was on the train coming home from a meeting with friends. I was tired so I felt sleepy. I woke up with the hand of a stranger, a man, holding my right hand. It was the creepiest thing I have experiences in my life. I didn’t know what to do. This man was holding my hand while I was sleeping. For how long was this going on? When and how did it start? What was he thinking? What was he expecting? What should I do?
This last question, when you live in a foreign country, jumps up in your mind on several occasions because you really don’t know how, in my cases, Japan expects you to react. I know what I would do if I found myself in this particular situation in Argentina, but in Japan who knows?
Well, to make the story short, I ended up pretending that I woke up scared, like if I thought I had missed my stop or something. So I jumped out of the seat shaking all my body, particularly my right hand, pretending to be disoriented, forcing this man let go of my hand. He acted like nothing happened while I walked to the door.
I got off the train at the first station, even though it wasn’t my stop.
I hope these experiences show you that, even though Japan is a beautiful and comparatively safe country with a lot of good people, is not a paradise. It’s real. And as we all know, in real life, bad things happens.
So, my advice to you is to be careful not to lose yourself completely in the charming waves of Japan. Get lost enough to enjoy it, but not completely.
I'm a 32 years old Argentinian woman who decided to change her world and leave everything to experience living in Japan. This is my story...