Cough, cough.. ugh… smoke

As though to remind me that I do, in fact, want to leave, Japan gave me lots of smoking tonight.  It was by no means ‘a lot’ of smoking.  However, compared to no smoking, it a was really a lot.  My eyes burned a little, everything with me smelled horrible afterward, and my throat, hours later, still hurts a lot.

As I mentioned the silly situation of how the “non-smoking” was set up in the restaurant, – one table in the center, with  all surrounding tables being the smoking section – I noticed how I have never seen a single advertisement of any kind that commented on the dangers of smoking.  The closest thing I’ve seen has been the posters reminding kids that people under 20 can’t smoke or drink.  Otherwise, though, no one seems to want to spread the word about how smoking is more than just a nasty habit, but an incredibly dangerous one.  I guess that’s what happens when the government has a big hand in the tobacco business.

Total bummer.  Otherwise, I could have had a chance at actually enjoying Japan more than occasionally.

Post-a-day 2017

Becoming myself through depression

This depression thing sure is interesting.

Tonight, as I sat eating dinner on a beach, thinking about the last time I’d had meal on a beach (a topless beach in Barcelona, Spain), while staring at the water and the highway above it, I noticed how much myself I had been tonight.

I had spoken up proactively about not going to an izakaya (Japanese bar-restaurant), expressed easily why I didn’t want to go, and even answered questions about why (drinking nomihodai (all you can drink) is not one of my favorite things, and smoking just makes me miserable (most establishments allow smoking indoors in Japan, it seems)).  And I did it all with a sense of easy, calm comfort.  I was not afraid to be myself and to admit, ‘I don’t want that, and I don’t support it, so I’m not going to do it,’ although I have been so much in the past.

Although there are plenty of times at which I feel completely not myself with this whole depression thing, there are also times like tonight, when I feel more like myself than I have ever felt in certain areas of my life.

Perhaps it is the fact that I have been so not myself, and that I am really having to work on myself and my life, such that I can be rid of this overpowering funk that seems to control my life in such painful ways, that I am having breakthroughs in certain areas of my life.  Because I have made this conscious effort, and continue each day to make it, to be… well, to be what, precisely?  Is it to be myself again?  Perhaps it is to be the best myself that I can be.  

I suppose that only makes sense, right?  I want to be the best “me” I can be, and so, eventually, that starts to happen.  Even though the bottom-dwelling funks still occur, the breakthroughs are becoming stronger and stronger…  I guess what I’m failing to say clearly is that, since I established that something was incredibly wrong in my life and that change – transformation, actually – needed to happen, I have been working to my core to make these alterations to create a transformed me and transformed life for me.  And so, things that weren’t too bad before my depression are getting cleared up entirely now, because they are being addressed.  (As opposed to being left alone before, since those particular areas/things were ‘good enough’ as they were.)

Anyway, I’m exhausted, so I’ll sleep now.  Today was an interesting day for me both in terms of what happened, as well as how my mind had to work to manage it all.  I found myself cursing and expressing utter dislike for Japan, as I stood in the cold, after missing a train at six in the morning (due to the system of how the trains are labeled, and its being completely unhelpful as Inwas rushing to make an important transfer), and yet I was able to let that be so while still being able to look forward to my trip.  The first didn’t ruin the latter – they were separate entities.  Things similar to this incident have happened all day long for me, and I handled each one similarly to this train scenario.  A very tiring task mentally, when so many things go poorly in a single day.  But it was almost unbelievable progress for me, and I am so happy, it makes me cry with relief (and a bit of exhaustion, too, of course).

So yeah… there’s that for today.  🙂
Post-a-day 2017

Smokers in Japan

Today, in a Facebook miniature back-and-forth, a few friends and I discussed the extreme situation of smoking in Japan.  I specifically mentioned how I had thought that Europeans smoked a lot.  That is, of course, until I came to Japan.

Here, in Japan, people smoke practically everywhere.  There are signs on the sidewalks declaring it illegal to walk and smoke, yet people do it anyway.  There are official smoking stops around all the public places (train stations and malls and such), as well as smoking rooms in most establishments.  However, smoking is also permitted in the main areas of most establishments (mostly restaurants and bars of almost any kind, it feels).  And, even if it is not allowed, and there is a separate smoking room, you will find your hair and clothes fully permeated with the reek of cigarettes after your meal, as the air systems just pull smoke right from wherever people are smoking, into the restaurant where you’d thought you’d be free of smoke.

Essentially, once I leave my apartment (save the grocery store and clothing stores), I am surrounded by either diesel or cigarette fumes.

And, possibly the worst part about the smoking, is that people smoke the crappiest of crap cigarettes.  You know the ones, I’m sure – the ones that just plain hurt, they’re so nasty, and which hardly even have a tinge of tobacco (as opposed to ones that uphold the original intention of smoking tobacco by smelling of tobacco).

Now, while the floor in malls with restaurants usually allows smoking, the levels with shops do not allow it.  There are usually several smoking areas in these malls, though, oftentimes indoors, but sometimes only outdoors.

Tonight, as a friend and I were wandering a mall to find food, we stopped at a bathroom on one of the shops floors.  And, in the bathroom, what to my wondering ears and eyes should appear, but a terrible smell and a grey line of smoke.  Rising from the occupied stall next to mine was an undeniable rising of cigarette smoke.

I mean, Really?!?!?!?!  Goodness gracious, Japan.

I told my (Japanese) friend when I left the bathroom, and she couldn’t believe it.  “Go look!”  I told her.

She did.  She came back laughing at the utter ridiculousness of it, and in near-disbelief.  We were both flummoxed, though I somehow was hardly surprised at it.  People here just smoke like no other.  Truly, they do.

They be crazy up in here, yo!
Haha
Post-a-day 2017

Beer & Cigarettes

Chatting with an acquaintance recently, I sort of weasled some interesting information out of him.  The weasling wasn’t exactly intentional, – I was genuinely just curious – and it was more that he opened up after I shared information about my family and friends, as well as the general population in the US.  But it was still some info that he was obviously super-hesitant to share.

It all came from our chit-chat about nothing special, and our never-ending back-and-forth about his smoking.  We both agree that smoking is something terrible, both for individuals and the world at large.  And we both agree that he is 100% addicted, and doesn’t really feel like he’ll fall to bits in his early- to mid-forties.  So we occasionally have little goofy bits of conversation, which leave us both tickled and chuckling, usually as he goes off to smoke a cigarette.

A recent little anecdote was when he asked how I was doing, since he knew I’d been sick.  I commented that I was doing alright, but was tired and had a bit of a cough still.
“Oh, me, too,” he said, accompanied with a coughing gesture.
“Oh, you’ve been sick, too?!” I express, concerned.
“No…  Because I smoke.”
We both laughed.  And coughed, actually.

And so goes our acquaintanceship, for the most part.

Recently, however, as we were chatting about the browning of his teeth, and that it does not match the obvious effort he puts into his daily physical appearance, I happened to ask him when he even started smoking.  He smiled, and got real quiet for a minute, and I wondered if he was figuring out what to say.

“Twenty,” he finally said.
I raised my eyebrows.
“When I was twenty,” he repeated.
Really?” I declared with pure doubt.  (Think SNL’s “Really” skit from Weekend Update.)

He then reminded me unnecessarily that 20 is the age in Japan for smoking, I asserted my knowledge of the fact, and we moved on.  I talked about how I remember my brother discussing his secret first cigarette, shared with siblings in the backyard as kiddos.  I described the general standard for kids in the US with their first cigarettes and first drinks of alcohol, and how everything pretty much seems to happen around high school.

Eventually, this acquaintance, with a lowered voice, suddenly had a new story.  No longer was he the follow-every-rule individual he initially (albeit hesitantly) declared himself to be.  He was, in fact, just like all the kids back home.  First drinks (beer) were at 16, and the first cigarette was not long afterward.

Now, there are two main things I pulled from this conversation.  1) I wonder if this is standard for Japan, the way it is for the US.  2) Was this bit of honesty a step towards our becoming friends, instead of just remaining mere acquaintances?

I, of course, know the answer to neither of those inquiries.  However, I have a mind to figure them out!  Plus, I’m really glad he opened up to me with the truth of it all.  Not that it’s necessarily any big deal, but with how closed off people have felt to me here, it was really refreshing to have some openness, and on something that seemed rather sensitive.  (Okay, there’s a third things that came out o f the conversation: What is the Japanese viewpoint on breaking that law of ‘No one under 20’?  How quiet he grew and how unsure he was at first about answering my casual question really make me wonder…)  😀

 

Post-a-day 2017