Yesterday morning I received a nice gift of persimmons from a neighbour. He is a pleasant old man and I appreciated the gift. I would perhaps, however, have looked slightly more enthused to receive it had he not popped round at 7:15 a.m. on a Sunday morning in order to present it to me. Where I come from Sunday mornings are lazy lie-in days where you don’t usually risk calling someone much before noon. You certainly don’t visit them at that time! Most of Britain understands that Sunday morning is the time when we quietly read the papers with a collective hangover. Now, I understand Japan is not where I come from and I can’t expect the nation to fall in line with my way of thinking, but still, 7:15 on a Sunday!
People here do seem to get up terribly early. It is not unusual for kids I teach to get up at 6:00 every day, and for their mothers to rise at about 5:30. On weekdays, I suppose that is understandable. They have jobs and school to go to and getting kids out of the house, I gather, can be a very trying task. I wish, though, that once in a while we could all just remember that we are not farmers and enjoy a bit of quiet and wasteful idleness on Sunday mornings.
Alas, in my life anyway, it seems not to be. In my first apartment in Japan, my neighbours had an almost daily game of ‘Let’s see who can beat the futon the loudest before breakfast,’ and when I finally moved, I took residence below a chap with an apparent obsessive compulsive disorder that saw him begin each day, weekends included, by dragging furniture all around his apartment. Here, in my current house, I have a neighbour who can find no better way to greet a new dawn than with the sound of an electric drill. Seven years I’ve lived in this house and yet he still hasn’t run out of stuff that needs holes.
Sometimes I even have to join in with activities. Community events such as cleaning the local parks, which almost always take place on Sundays, are invariably scheduled to begin at 8:00 a.m. I suppose it is, to repeat an oft-quoted reason, ‘the Japanese way’ and I know if I want to fit in I must play along. But I wish I could just bury my head under the covers and play truant or that we could at least make it an hour or two later. It’s embarrassing always being the only one who shows up with bleary eyes and the beginnings of a beard. Well, me and old Mrs Tanimoto who owns the local Snack, that is.