Wednesday, September 27, 2006

First Impressions of Seika

I’ve been in Seika for about 3 weeks now and I’ve been pretty preoccupied by setting up my apartment and getting accustomed to my new job. So far I really haven’t had much time to explore the town or meet that many people, but it seems that everywhere I go people seem to know exactly who I am! The first few projects that I did as the new Coordinator for International Relations was to write an introductory article about myself for the town newsletter, get interviewed by a local newspaper, and give a short speech in front of the town council meeting that was apparently televised. So even though I don’t know many people around town lots of people have read all about me and recognize my face from the pictures in the papers. Wow, this is a completely new experience for me!

Having lived in big cities like San Francisco and Tokyo and never having had even one minute of fame, I am used to a life of complete anonymity. I don’t know if any of you have ever had this experience but it is strange to be recognized by people I have never even met before. In a small town like Seika I feel like a celebrity. At first it was alarming to hear that people actually read the articles I wrote and saw my pictures in the paper, but now I am starting to see how close of a community I live in and that I actually have a position that people take notice of.

So this is the Japan I always heard of: Not the glitzy buzzing frenzy that is Tokyo, but the small town where people know each other and actually say hi on the streets when they pass. Everywhere I go people are friendly and are happy to help if I have what seems like a random and possibly stupid question. For example, I actually stopped a women in the market to ask which was the best type of rice to buy. She seemed pleased to take 5 minutes to explain to me all the different types of rice and how to prepare them. Also it seems like it may be impossible to actually pay for a meal when I go out as I always end up having a lively conversation with an unknown person sitting close by who ends up treating me to my meal. These are things that I heard happened in Japan but never actually experienced having lived in Tokyo for a year.

Seika Town seems to represent the essence of small town Japanese life and is truly a great place to live. Now I am really starting to see why my predecessor said that I was lucky to have gotten a job in this town.