Normal Now

The other day I decided to head out and find a fabric store that I had been told was nearby. And, as I was walking with T in tow, it occurred to me that the formally highly unusual has now become normal. So, thought I would share one of my ‘normal’ outings with you.

First of all, this is us:

During this season, the day might hold a beautiful clear sky or complete grayness and rain, always cold. When you discover it will likely be wet all day, instead of changing plans, you just add some layers and grab an umbrella.

Demonstrating the walking culture that exists here, you often come across a shortcut of stairs that cuts off a large bend in the road or scales a hill that you would otherwise have to walk around.

Perhaps this electric pole ad means…make a u-turn to see the dentist?


It may be hard to see here. Look closely. There at the end of the crossing is a small yellow bucket. Inside, there are yellow flags on plastic yellow poles.

When you decide to cross the street at this crossing, you grab a yellow flag on one side and hold it high as you cross the street, then insert it back into the yellow bucket on the other side of the street. I guess I only see these near schools, so they are probably intended for kids. Entertaining none-the-less.

The home and shop décor and landscaping have become a commonplace sight.

Here in Japan, they are red.

As we have come to expect on any random block, in the middle of a neighborhood, along a busy road, next to a parking lot, next to nothing…a vending machine, complete with its 3D display of 20+ options. This is something we will miss someday. During this time of year, they even stock warm drinks—warm tea, coffee…creamed corn soup, you know, all the usual you would expect.

This day, we walked along the train track for a while, a train whizzing by every few minutes or so. Why did we decide to walk again?

Typically, as we walk, I play my own game of Japanese Balderdash, as I attempt to use my limited letter recognition skills to read Japanese words. If you ever see me walking along smiling to myself, most likely I have just successfully understood a sign along the road. For example:

The last 6 symbols on this sign spell out Keetzu Randoe…if you say it over and over you can eventually come up with its intent…Kid’s Land! (Insert my smiling face here). I suspect it is a day care center.

As we approach the station, we see evidence of how busy it must be in the morning as all these bike owners are arriving. Yes, they are in perfect order, and I cannot see for sure, but I would bet they are not using bike locks. Safe society.

So, now, we are close to the fabric store destination…I think. Which building should I choose?

I chose the one on the right. Turned out to be correct. Sweet.

Now, this next one is one of my favorites, you have to let it soak in.

Yes, these long, thin plastic bags are the perfect shape to fit your wet umbrella and are provided for use before you enter the store. I used my gaijin (foreigner) card and forwent the bag.

Ah, the fabric store. Arts and crafts do create somewhat of a universal language. Though, I am not quite sure what these price tags are indicating. From what I can make of it, I think that they charge by every 10 centimeters.

Yup, after sparse words, pointing, and sign language, I have confirmed that the fabric is priced by the 10 cm. The 10 cm price goes down a bit if you buy a meter. So, I bought three different fabrics, a meter of each…did I really just pay almost $30 for three yards of fabric? Yikes.

In case you have forgotten, T is still hanging from my torso, and it is still raining, and it is very cold. So, how about a stop at a familiar, warm place to rest (and wiggle) a while…

Maybe things have changed in the States since we have been gone, but before I left, I never saw this…

There, right next to the napkins and stir sticks and cream, are blankets. Come in, grab a blanket with your coffee, and settle into the living room that is Starbucks.

As I sip my coffee, T wiggles and wanders. She makes friends with the people next to us and then beelines over to her giggling, doting new fans.

I wonder how she will react when she no longer receives celebrity attention. Oh, and do not miss the mask the gal is wearing. It is worn to protect others from any sniffle or cough that she might have. Very common. So thoughtful.

I opted for one of those whizzing trains to get home, so here is the sign I decipher to figure out when and where my train will take off.

Back to our home station. Byobugaura. Isn’t that what you see in this sign?

There are familiar signs occasionally, too.

A few more stairs before we make it home. Ok, 211 of them. Yes, I have counted them.

And…finally…the familiar sites of our apartment building and our reflection inside the elevator!

So, there you have it—a bit of what has become normal around here. Every outing, as innocent as it might seem (e.g. finding a new fabric store) has the potential of holding a little more adventure and a little less certainty than I experienced in my pre-Japan life. It turns out, that feels normal now, too.


5 thoughts on “Normal Now

  1. That is simply fabulous! Your blog stirred my memories with joy. How other-life-ish to think about the days being ‘normal’ in China, but being completely removed for almost 5 years now, I question my memories if they were real sometime…did I really carry eggs in a bag or squat to pee, did I really read and speak Chinese every day and crave spicy skin-tofu?

    BTW… I laughed at the umbrella bag picture. It’s common to see in FL on rainy days too.


  2. Great job of bringing us along on your outing!! Some (maybe even most) of these scenes look very familiar :) The only difference is how cold it looks…love the Starbucks blankets…nice touch!!


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