I am going to Japan. I have dreamed of going all my life. I will be training in the headquarters dojo of the Ki Society and if I’m lucky catch a glimpse of a living treasure Koichi Tohei Sensei ( I actually put my hands on him when he visited the Portland dojo grand opening years before).
After reading several books on the complexity of this polite culture, I am worried I’ll make an ass of myself or worse embarrass the group I’m traveling with. Don’t point, don’t blow your nose in public and for heaven sakes don’t mention the yakuza ( mobsters) theoretically they don’t exist. These are obvious, perhaps, but there are little things to trip you up; there are slippers for indoors and ones used only in the bathroom. Place the chopsticks on the little tray provided, never stick them into the food when done.
On top of this, I don’t like flying ( ten hours both ways). I don’t sleep well in a strange bed, I’m not adventurous with food ( despite my insistence on having Japanese meals) and too timid to just wander off and explore, preferring to stick close to the hotel.
The trip has a lot of sightseeing involved but it sounds suspiciously touristy. I was kind of hoping for more than temples and museums for the nice foreigners to see. There is also the issue of the Japanese language which is difficult for a student let alone a casual traveler. I keep telling myself there will be people around who speak English or can translate but it’s another barrier to full interaction with the natives.
At the risk of writing fiction as my friend Martha says, I’m afraid of being disappointed, exhausted and embarrassed. I’m beginning to have second thoughts about this trip. I do not want to fuck up. I figure the best thing to do is keep my mouth shut, my head down and try to stay out of the way. øf course doing so will make me appear sullen, uncommunicative and dull. People often mistake my silent retreats as rude disinterest. Despite my brash veneer I am often paralyzed with shyness in the presence of strangers and this group might as well be, I barely know any of these people outside of class.
So I’m going to a country with a foreign language and customs with a group of people I’m not familiar with with little advance orientation. What could go wrong?
This is why I stay home.