One thing that has always made me laugh when in Japan is the way that Japanese people thank me whenever I say something positive about the country, as if it was a personal compliment – which of course it isn’t!
My friend Shari has written a superb little piece on this common phenomenon, which I would encourage anyone thinking of coming to Japan to read, as it’s something that you will no doubt come across during your stay.
In fact as with all of Shari’s writing, the entire post is well worth a read. I wholly subscribe to the views portrayed in the last 3 paragraphs – not that she needs me to validate them 🙂
I believe the paralysis may be passing. I say that as if I am a victim of it, not the perpetrator, ridiculous I know, but life can seem a lot easier if one passes the buck, at least in the short term. I had this idea that in order to revise properly, I needed to transfer all my grammar points and example sentences to my Mac, and so spent hours yesterday typing up just a week’s worth of grammar – leaving the other 9 week’s worth for the weekend. Clearly, it wasn’t going to work, considering the exam is on Tuesday, then I thought that perhaps I should just use the little index cards that I have been making on a weekly basis ever since I began this degree in 2004. They really are fantastic. Just bog standard index cards, each one with a single grammar point on and example sentences, arranged in alphabetical order.
Thoroughly recommend the system to anyone who wants a record of what they have studied, and a quick way to refer back to grammar points that may have become a bit hazy. I think I’d feel somewhat scared if I didn’t have this record, as those points which I don’t use on a regular basis would have simply vanished into the void that is forgotten knowledge, and which could only be recovered through consulting numerous grammar dictionaries. (We’re now studying JLPT2 grammar, and I am yet to find a grammar dictionary that contains more than half of these points). I never want to be in the position where I think, “hmm, I wonder what we actually studied at university…” – a course that is costing me over £20,000 ($40,000), oh, plus interest.
I’m continuing to read up on the power of thought. Wow. Imagine if children were taught about the power of imagination and a positive attitude in school! Of course, in some education systems creativity and a belief in one’s ability to do incredible things is actively encouraged (such as at the Steiner School that I was fortunate enough to attend, or Kinokuni, the alternative school that *Twinkle* attended in Wakayama), but in others (take the Japanese education system as an example) it seems that the emphasis is more on conformity, and temporary retention of facts for regurgitation in exams. This works well in some ways – it has benefited an economy that until now has relied upon a steady supply of graduates who accept the notion that getting a job doing something that they really enjoy is something of an ideal that is unlikely to be fulfilled – but I don’t think it does much to lift the overall happiness and contentment of the country (see here for an interesting survey which could be thought of as an indication of the state of the (allegedly) somewhat unhappy Japanese mindset).
Looking back, I can now see how my life has indeed been shaped by my beliefs. One example is that of *Twinkle*. I have for many years had a picture of her in mind. I always knew that I would never really be truly happy with anyone less than this person, and thus it comes as no surprise that all my previous relationships have eventually come to an end – it was always on the cards (and the times when I didn’t consciously think that were few and far between). She also pictured me, and in fact told her mum (prior to even stepping foot in the UK) that she’d be coming back with me. As she did, 15 months later, on the same plane.
Another example of the power of thought: Before arriving in Japan this time around I had a clear picture of myself in my Japanese class at Rikkyo, surrounded by really nice classmates whom I liked, and who all liked me. The teacher was one of us, and we all had a great year together and would be sorry when we went our separate ways. And lo and behold, that is exactly the situation I am in. Coincidence? I don’t believe in coincidences any more.
A final example could be that of me and my kanji. I have struggled with the kanji from the start, and vocalised this “inability to remember them” many times. “I’m not too good at Kanji” I told others, and then opted out of the optional kanji tests. Looking at my kanji ability today I can see that, surprise surprise, I still struggle with Kanji. Well isn’t that funny! My situation today precisely mirrors the situation I have been thinking that I would end up in!
I’m guessing that many people would read these paragraphs, and think that this is all common sense. But I don’t think it is. If it was, and if people believed in its power, would you still hear people complaining? Say for example you caught a cold, and you felt pretty grim. It wouldn’t be unusual for you to tell your friends “Oh, I feel just awful. I’m really sick. I think it’s going to take me at least a week to get over this”. Surely, if you believed in the power of thought, that’s the last thing that you would want to do! If you think you’ll be feeling grim for a week, chances are you will be! On the other hand, if you were to say “I’m not feeling too good right now, but I can feel I’m really on the mend! My immune system is fighting off this this little bug and I’ll be as right as rain in no time!” – before you know it, you’ll be feeling better.
It’s just amazing what power we have to shape our futures. Try it. Pick up some books on the subject. See if works with you.
With this in mind, it’s important that I look towards next year – our year apart – as a positive thing. There are some positive aspects, relating to strengthening our bond, personal space etc.
I set about buying tickets yesterday. Crikey, if ever you want to take Eurostar (the one that goes under the channel between France and the UK) give DeutscheBahn a call. Through them I got a ticket from Cologne to London for only £35! This is a 4 hour journey that usually costs over £150! I’ve also got my night train booked from Berlin to Cologne (got 60% off that ticket as well),and am now trying to sort out the one from Moscow to Berlin – I think that’ll be about US$180. As for the rest, I think it may be a case of picking them up along the way.
I was back in the gym this morning after an 8 week break. It was nice to know I’d been missed, by Jesse, the American guy, and thingamijig, the rather odd Japanese chap who I’m pretty fond of. It feels good to be stretching my muscles again after the long post-walk splurge.
Anyhow, I have an exam in a couple of hours. Best be off. After I’ve watched that iPhone musical video one more time.
I’m with you on the power of positive thought thing, although it doesn’t ALWAYS work, and you kind of have to be prepared for that. But even when it doesn’t, if you approach the fact that it didn’t work in a positive way then it’s all ok in the end. Positive thought, yay!
And related to your earlier post talking about Tanabata… I had the interesting experience of actually teaching about 6 of my Japanese friends the story, which everybody found highly amusing. To be honest, it doesn’t really surprise me sometimes that I know more about Japan than some Japanese people do, because I have a special interest in it, whereas Japanese people just happened to be born here. Hmm!
The world is made up of two kinds of things. Things which we san change, and things which we can’t. Very few people understand this. Of those people, fewer still have noticed that the things we can change are infinately more abundant than the things we can’t change.
Thank you for your moving and insightful post.
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