To Conclude, I Still Have Much to Learn About Japan – and Baseball…
Before I start today’s story, I wanted to go back and talk about a poem that I was taught back in high school called “Moon” by Natan Alterman. Alterman, a famous Israeli-Jewish poet, explores in Moon the idea of observing something old from a new perspective, being in this case: the scenery from his house’s window. The hidden message in the poem is truly thought-provoking: reliving a memory is in actuality a new memory in itself.
I believe my first week in Japan has been a similar experience. I decided to come early and visit Tokyo before I started my study abroad adventure in Kyoto. I am truly glad I did, because 1) I learned something new about myself, and 2) I discovered a new appreciation for baseball.
Five years ago I visited Japan for the first time, and it was a MAGICAL time. The first trip influenced my decision to apply for American University, helped me go through the tough times I faced during the pandemic, and even took part in strengthening my relationship with God. I am truly blessed to have gone on that trip. However, this trip (although still exciting) didn’t quite have the same feel to it. I wasn’t a naïve 18-year-old anymore. What if Japan is not as great as I remembered it to be? What if I don’t have another life-changing experience?
During my week in Tokyo I visited my old language school, the street I lived on, the train stations I used to visit often, and even went to eat at my favorite Okonomiyaki (savory Japanese pancake, picture below) place. They were all as I remembered – but they didn’t harbour the same feelings of excitement they used to in the past. I came back to my room a little more disappointing than I care to admit, when my hosts offered me to go with them and their kids to a baseball game. We got ready, boarded the train, had some dinner, and eventually seated ourselves at our designated seats. We came a little late to the game, and the score was already 1-0 for our team, the Tokyo Swallows. As we sat down, the crowd was batting their bats to the beat of the chant, when suddenly I realized our team made a home run.
The next thing that happened was pretty unexpected.
All the spectators opened simultaneously small umbrellas that had the Tokyo Swallows emblem on them and started waving them from right to left. It was almost an entire stadium of little, floating umbrellas. I was amazed, and not only by the umbrellas: by the massive amount of Japanese people that were still wearing masks while the rest of the world moved on, the beer girls with the beautiful flower pins and amazing stamina to run from up and down the crowd serving refreshments, and more than anything – by the fact that I was enjoying a baseball game.
Looking at something old in a new perspective is difficult. I believe it requires a level of maturity where you are willing to let go of your feelings and expectations. I don’t think I am quire there yet, but I am on my way. In the meantime, I can recognize that the reason that I was disappointed was not because the food was less tasty or the attractions less fun, but rather that I let myself fall into my obnoxious know-it-all self. There is always something new to learn, and something new to experience.
To conclude, I think I am a person that is ready and excited to learn more about Japan, myself, and most importantly-