Friday, June 15, 2007

Identity Multiplied- Tokyo 6.14.07

It's been raining since 4 pm this afternoon. Tokyo is drenched in the middle of its annual monsoon season while I too had been soaked in freezing and sporadic showers since 4 pm while looking for a 100-yen shop around Kichijoji area. For some reason I haven't had much luck coming across a 100-yen shop or 99-yen supermarket this time. Right in my neighborhood there are 4 convenient stores, but the dollar-store hasn't found this area fascinating enough to stay. From now on, grocery shopping will need to be done slightly creatively - either mid-day shopping is required in neighborhood mom-and-pop grocery stories, or a ride to the end of the train line would become necessary in order to ensure that life doesn’t go broke by the end of the month.

I couldn’t decide for the longest time whether or not I want a full- or twin-size comforter today while standing in the crowded aisle of this mega discount store. The store lady obviously realized that I’m not a local as I keep pressing her with the question of what the difference is between a “single”- vs. a “double”-size comforter. I can’t believe that I attempted to ask her whether or not a “double” = “full” (fo-lu in katakana pronunciation). “Huh?” the lady gave me this blank look three times. Never mind … it’s not like the store carries anything else other than these two sizes.

That was when I realized that the ability to move around a lot and so much is a blessing yet a curse of its own. The up side of the story is that one gets to travel to a new place and meet new people and encounter things never experienced before; the down side of it, however, is one needs substantial amount of money to keep him/herself financially sustainable, especially in one of the most costly cities like Tokyo. I can’t say that throughout the years I haven’t grown wearied of always buying the second-hand or from a garage sale or stacking up my tiny apartment with dollar-store-quality products. Yet there really isn’t any point or reason to fill my apartment with brand new items if they are only to be left behind 10 months or so from now. One day when I get married, I guess I should just forgo the wedding registry and ask for donations of one of the best items from each household, yah?

I’m beginning to miss that traditional market downstairs of my apartment back in Shanghai where I get my whole bedding set ready in mere 10 dollars. Now the same bedding set would cost me 10 times more and a rice cooker could go as high as 200 dollars. If only I were to have more than one stove I would resort to my previously acquired skill of cooking rice from scratch on a gas stove.

Somehow going to the municipal office today and getting a million forms signed and ID cards applied for, though, made me realize that I am beginning to become a local resident of this part of the city called Meguro-ku (ku is the measuring unit for different sections of a city in Japan). Somehow being bombarded with at least 5 copies of *different* information pamphlets (some in mere words and some in hand-drawn cartoon illustrations) on how to separate the cans from the bottles and from the combustible/non-combustible to the recyclable papers and milk cartons, I’ve begun to take pride in becoming a good citizen of Meguro-ku by obliging myself to such tedious rules. I can’t recall ever developing such loyalty to the city of Cambridge or the Harvard University property; perhaps both governing bodies should acquire the skill of building modern residence loyalty through the art of “trash propaganda.”

And after the Japanese gov’t reveals to me that all I have to do is to pay $80 a year to become fully entitled to the national health insurance plan – I’m sold!

So there we go, in merely one day, my ID has been doubled – now I am a resident of Meguro-ku, Tokyo Municipality as well as a research student at Tokyo University. 2 more ID cards in my wallet and 2 more identities to start getting used to.

Journeying on, in this increasingly complex layer of identities.

梅ちゃん at 1:15:00 AM



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