I’m sitting in southern Japan in an izakaya restaurant run by my wife's aunt. The village is called Aso. We are surrounded by mountains. Sixteen months ago there was an earthquake and still the devastation remains. Open scabs of earth streak the mountain sides. A waterfall pours from what had been a highway. The campus of an agricultural university sits abandoned, half its buildings erased.
It's raining outside. A hard drizzle. The greenery is rich and deep. Rice fields are across the road. A Japanese woman in a white hat dips beneath the rice’s yellow tops.
The izakaya was built by my wife's aunt and her husband three years ago. The construction is basic but the finishings shabby-funky-artisanal. Metal spirals made by the husband are affixed to every surface. In the corner is a display of Japanese antiques — a calculator that looks like a miniature cash register.
Time moves slowly. The women sit and speak in Japanese while the husband holds the five week old baby, silently staring at it for over an hour. I imagine a movie where the world is ending, disaster everywhere, and this content Japanese man walks through it all, immune, staring pridefully at his young granddaughter.
I sit quietly in the corner watching the rain. Watching the giant spider in the window. Imagining if this were my life.
Would I be the same man if I lived here? Better? Worse? What would my worries be? Is there such thing as loneliness in a place this quiet and determined to be itself?
This morning my wife and I were in Tokyo. It already feels a continent away. Yesterday we were shopping in Shibuya debating which Comme de Garcon piece my wife should get. Sitting here now, knowing tonight we go back and tomorrow I begin a three day sprint of media and pr, I can only ask why?
That life is so far from this one and I can feel as I sit here that this is actual life. This is the truth of each breath we inhale and exhale. The families that connect us. The natural world of which we are but one small part.
What does it mean to live the life of distraction so far from this? Is it taking advantage of mankind's incredible creativity or is it taking us away from nature's?
It’s time to stop thinking. And so I put down this notepad and sit. Ahhh…