So, in my past posts, I have sort of touched upon this, though just barely, and I would like to launch in depth about it at least once.

There are so many moments to choose from, but I will just highlight a few of the moments I’ve had here where Japan has left me baffled (by generosity or just simply baffled, as my title infers).

There is a quality of generosity that I’m afraid many Americans do not understand that is displayed by the people of Japan.  This is not to say that Americans are not generous, because they are, but the Japanese bring generosity to such an astounding level. I suppose the best way to describe this, is with a couple stories, so lets have at it. 

I can’t recall, how many times I have been somewhere and someone, even strangers, just hand me something, a bag of fruit, a bouquet of flowers, or even a homecooked meal (I am not even kidding about this one, I have had people show up at my door with dinner). 

One of my Japanese friends, when she found out I had no car to drive during the sumer, and that I had hurt my foot, so I couldn’t walk, came over to my house unannounced and dropped off bags of groceries and insisted I not pay her.  Here I was, wondering how in the world I was going to eat this month, when a local townsperson came over and dropped off a plethora of produce without me ever asking.  These moments always astound me, and suffice it to say these types of things happen rather frequently.

When my mother came to Japan in October, she got a bit confused at one of the train stations about which line to take to come to the Blue Forest.  She told me a Japanese man, who spoke a little English, saw that she was in distress, stopped what he was doing and told his wife to wait at that station while he took my mom to the next station so so he could take her to the correct line.  Generous Japan strikes again, leaving the gaijins dumbfounded and humbled by our own selfishness.   

Now, there are other reasons for being dumbfounded here, and while they are not bad reasons, they emanate the strange.  I suppose these are what you would call ”cultural differences” and what usually leave us foreigners a bit confused, and sometimes even mildly amused.

For example, last year I had a friend who was a teacher here in the Blue Forest who’s school made her go to the hospital to take a test to make sure she had not gotten the swine flu, or influenza as they say here.  She was reluctant to go because she felt that she didn’t exhibit the symptoms that those with the swine flu get, and was certain she just had a regular cold.  Her school insisted, so she found herself coerced into waiting in a room filled with a pool of sick people, mostly elderly people, for hours until the test could be administered.  

When it was her turn the doctor took a cotton swab and right before he shoved it up her nasal cavity, went, ”This test is only 50% accurate.”

Needless to say this story had my friends in stitches, during which one of them offered up the advice, ”Why didn’t they just flip a coin?” 

While I call this a random act, perhaps it wasn’t quite one since as I reflect on it more, it comes to mind that Japan is a very bureaucratic society, and I think she may have needed to take the test just for the sake of taking the test. Luckily, she didn’t get sick from anyone. (Also, Japanese people make you go to the hospital for almost anything.)

I suppose if I were to pick of one of the more geniune random events, it would probably be when my friends and I were at a party being thrown on the streets of Hirosaki in front of a tattoo parlor.  And one of the Japanese boys we met there decides in the middle of the party to pull his pants down with no warning to moon us and yell proudly in a booming voice, ”I AM JAPAAAAN!”

This, of course, was met with reams of laughter, from both Americans and the Nihonjins present, the American laughter tinged with confusion. 

It’s random moments like when the elementary kids in my town ask the second Princess, with her big blue eyes, if she is Japanese, or when one of my high school girls yelled out the window if she could date me please in Japanese in a loud voice that echoed down four floors and across the parking lot to this baffled American woman teacher.

It’s moments like these, these embodiments of the bizarre and the strange that to me make Japan such a delightful, and the same time mysterious place.

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