Sometimes it's little things that highlight differences between where you live and a new place. This was what happened for me on my regular walk from Saho's place to the supermarket or train station. Like a picture in miniature of all sorts of stuff that's quite different from Auckland. Or London. Mostly not better or worse, just different. Here's what's I see:
Lots of temples: There's one attached to where we live, there's another right across the street, and there's a small shrine right by the station where people seem to say a quick prayer getting off the train.
People in face masks on bikes. Why? Surely you can't infect anyone with your cold when you are riding along... And there wasn't any noticeable pollution.
No one saying hello as you walk past, or even smiling. Is it politeness? Rudeness? Indifference? Not wanting to intrude? I used to play a game of deliberately smiling and saying konichiwa when I met someone. I rarely got any response. Even when Saho, Ben and I tottered around the neighbourhood dressed in kimonos, dabbing in a sad fashion, no one even grinned. Inscrutable.
Rice fields in a built-up area. I like that.
Flowering water lilies, in a bath, in a back street. I like that even more.
A goat in the garage. I feel a bit sorry for him. Or probably her.
Signs on the pavement reminding pedestrians not to crash into a bike. "Wowser nanny state", is what my former boss Warren Berryman would have said. Not even knowing about the goat.
People leaving stuff out, without it being nicked. For example, the lady from the plant shop leaves a whole lot of her pots out overnight. And these onions are just hanging there right next to the pavement.
Vending machines on every corner (well lots of corners). No one even thinks about vandalising them. While I'm on that topic, I must tell you one of Ben's stories from his time at a Japanese school last year. He said his classmates (year 12 kids) were super-obedient about the rules - wearing the right uniform, doing their homework, keeping the school tidy etc. The only deviance: the rebellious boys would go into the toilets at break time and (wait for it...) put gel in their hair. Naughty!)
The Hotto Motto takeaway. Don't you just love that name? In English, not Japanese, of course. I can't imagine calling a takeaway that in Auckland though.