This year’s three-week vacation in Canadawas a longer than usual trip for me. As always, my experiences reinforced some of my impressions of the comparisons and contrasts of Canadaand Japan. When I visit home in the winter time - which I have not done for a few years - I notice that Canadians seem to be what I call “sweater people,” meaning that the Canadian passengers have a propensity for wearing colorful, heavy sweaters. Well, why not, after all? But in the summer time an unbecoming casualness is the fashion. In my own country I feel frustrated by the provincialism of the place, coupled with the unbecoming, inflated self image that Canadians have of themselves. But having said that, it is a marvelous place to live: very quiet and quaint.
My hometown is very green - bursting with trees and grassy parks. In fact, a city bylaw that restricts the height of buildings means that you can approach the city with no indication that there are 125,000 people just over the next hill, because from the highway heading north from the nearest freeway it looks like forested countryside all around.
I took my 8-year-old son on this trip. We were lucky to see a lot of wildlife right in the city: birds - robins, crows, cardinals, redwing blackbirds, blue jays, woodpeckers; water fowl - Canada geese, a Blue Heron, swans, Mallard ducks; snapping turtles (laying eggs, no less); fish and tadpoles; squirrels and chipmunks, of course; a groundhog and a skunk; finally, a small group of deer.
Every day we visited my brother’s house to jump on his trampoline. (I recommend every home owner buy a trampoline. It will increase the value of your property.) Tired, we stopped jumping and just lay there on our backs, looking up at the green Maple and Oak canopy above. They were warm summer days with a breeze rustling the leaves over us, like the angels whispering prayers for our contentment. I tried to think of an appropriate metaphor to describe this experience of lying and listening to the leaves, and beams of sunlight filtering down. What was that sound? The sound of angels whispering? The sound of a 15-year-old girl’s underwear slipping off her thighs? Something like that. I settled for describing it as the sound of linen brushing against your lover’s skin.
I returned to Tokyo, a fast-moving city of business. More than Toronto, where people want to work to take it easy - and taking it easy has priority - Tokyo is a place of getting things done. I like that, although the Japanese manner of getting things done is not always to my taste and often downright annoying. Nevertheless, things get done. Things work. Things do not break down as easily. People are reliable and prompt. Airline pilots do not go on strike and the mail is always delivered.
Returning to Tokyo from Canada makes me feel that I have left the land of the passive and returned to the land of the proactive. It’s a fantasy, of course, because little could be further from the truth of the Japanese character and manner, but there you have it. It is a fantasy that plays into my limited experiences. When I travel to Canadathere are always certain things that I want to do. To accomplish these things requires that I actively engage in doing them. But time after time, year after year Canadian people - my own family especially - counsel me to “Take it easy before you make yourself sick.” If I listened to them nothing would ever get done because they do not seem to understand that in order to get things done you actually have to do them. Nothing gets done by itself.
Vacation to me means not that I relax and do nothing. It means that my time and actions are my own, and I am not on someone else’s clock. I do what I want, when I want, in the manner that I want and at the pace that I want, with impunity.
This was an unlucky vacation. My eyeglasses came to decorate the bottom of Georgian Bay - incurring a $350 replacement cost; I lost my pocket angel good luck charm, a sentimental little talisman whose loss upset me considerably; and my dental night guard, for protection of teeth from grinding, broke after 25-years of use.