Wednesday, March 22, 2006
A smile from a simple touch
Behind where my old apartment used to be is a special daycare center for ‘mentally handicapped’ adults. (Am I allowed to say that? What is the new politically correct term?)
Usually in Japan families hide these people and you almost never see them out and about. It is sad and I have never understood the fear or un-acceptance.
This daycare is actually only about a block from my work, so even though I live in a new place I still bike near it every day, and every day I see the same two people heading to ‘school’.
One is a lady that I think is about the same age as me. She always has a smile and a nod as I pass her. She definitely has hip problems and I would love to put her on a horse for therapeutic riding.
My cousin does it and she loves it.
The other is a man who looks older than both of us but has a very boyish quality to him.
Well it is obvious that they are a boyfriend-girlfriend couple.
Usually she leaves earlier than him and is walking ahead of him: most of the time I never see them walking together. A few times I have seen him far behind desperately trying to catch up with her, waving his hand in the air to try to get her attention, walking as fast as his little legs can carry them.
Today I happened upon them just as they met up. He came rushing up and grabbed her outstretched hand and she had a huge smile on her face.
They started walking towards school holding hands.
There was something in this smile and the way they gripped their hands so tightly that made me so happy. Not just for them but for Japan in general.
Strange feeling I know, but in Japan touch is not a common thing. You almost NEVER see a married couple touching in public. NO ONE ever kisses good-bye.
It goes so far as to have minimal contact with children in a public setting, as the kids get older.
You wont see a mother hugging her teenage daughter, as she is about to take off on a field trip: common at home, shocking here. In their homes hugging is commonplace for younger kids but still minimal in the teen years and up.
Not ALL Japanese families are like this: some do go against the grain. But this is a country where driving your kids to school so that they are safe, rather than making them walk the streets, is considered coddling and spoiling them.
To see these two people so happily holding hands in public this morning has made me feel really good about Japan today.