I am a foreign student in Japan. I’ve had to be exceptional to get here. Where a simple essay would do, I would produce the essay, and a video documentary with graphics and music.
I walk down a windy street with friends, and go into my tiny flat.
Inside, I select a flouncy white shirt, and multi coloured trilby as my look for the day. Here, I can wear whatever I like. I’m invited to a friends house. I make my way there through an enclave of little Britishness. Shops sell marmite and twixes. Everyone speaks English.
At my friends place, there’s a children’s party on a covered balcony. The wind lifts the floor slightly as it gusts, and rattles the plants offering us some protection from the weather. I think how much bigger this space is than my apartment. My friend invites me to visit her at work the next day. I agree.
I pop into my friends office. They are a design and IT consultants. We chat, and she asks me to help a customer by changing the o and e in oesophagus into œ. This will take me a few minutes, so I agree. She says she can pay me £300 for doing it. I’m surprised that such knowledge is so valuable.
I sit with the customer, an old man and his older mother, and make the corrections. I offer to show them how to do it. They don’t want to know. They have seemingly endless questions about their document. It contains a logo, a 3D model of a pair of binoculars. They want to edit it, so it looks more like a sextant. I suggest replacing it, but they insist on editing what’s there. I use their computer to edit the object. It is made of thin, white, plastic. The kind you get in packaging. The keys are embossed on this bending, flimsy surface. I try to find my way around unfamiliar keys and terminology. Instead of ‘select all’ there’s a key labelled “term” that requires you to select the beginning and end points of whatever you wish to edit, and then select other modifier keys to complete the action. I’m confused. A passing office boy stops. He shows me how it works. He chats to the old people, telling them it’d be easier to use a new 3D model. He inserts one into the document and they are overjoyed. This is exactly what I suggested. I’m quite pissed off.
My friend tells me the office boy now gets my money, as he made the customers happy. I point out that I did what I was requested to do before his intervention. She asks me to come back tomorrow.
I do come back. The old people are in a meeting with the office boy and my friend. On a white board I can see a flow chart, hand drawn, for a product development and marketing plan. Where I saw only the need to explain a detail of how to modify a character, my friend saw the opportunity to sell their services to wealthy and disorganised customers, who weren’t really sure what they wanted.
The office has outdoor showers, with beautiful views of the sky and a roof garden. I decide to take a shower. I talk to the conservative, old man customer as I shower. He’s embarrassed by nudity. Another worker showers next to me. We talk about living in Japan, and thinking big.
I leave the office. With friends, I try to skateboard up a steep hill. At the top, a gorgeous flower meadow. We walk across and jump down the short cliff on the other side. My boss talks about amplification.
I get in my car. A policeman stops me. Parts have fallen off behind it. I apologise. He says I should take the boat, pointing to a moss covered, semi sunken cabin cruiser in a shallow pond. We lift the boat out, and into another shallow roadside pool. I can’t see how we’ll ever get anywhere in this.
I remind myself that I live in Japan, and that everything is an adventure.