[Editor's Note: Today we're taking a different approach to the daily "Besk $2k" post for a worthy cause.] Over the weekend, I, like a lot of people, watched the news from Japan with a heavy sadness. As citizens of the world, we of course feel compassion for anyone dealing with the tragic aftermath of natural disaster. As Southern California residents, the situation is a painful reminder that our uneasy peace with the San Andreas Fault is never a given, and that our preparation for such a disaster is, in all likelihood, woefully inadequate. And for me personally, I thought about the country, easily the craziest, most interesting place I've ever called home, and the people I worked, learned and lived with. So I figured today I'd give you my own little version of why I care about Japan, and why you might too.
Let's be entirely clear. I'm just some dipshit from a stuck-up Northeast liberal arts college who was lucky enough to study abroad in Tokyo. While there, I invested considerable effort into studying the limits of the human liver, and substantially less effort into my actual coursework. I lived in a weird boarding house with several other unsavory foreigners, including this guy from Philly who I think was deported for having too many STDs (no joke). One time I got drunk and slept in the lobby of a Citibank. My friend Eisho slept in the luggage rack on the subway. When the Red Sox won the World Series, I was watching the game in the Keio University student lounge with a backpack full of beer. At 9 am.
And on the 4th of July, we were missing America, so we went to the Outback Steakhouse.
But here's the thing: Tokyo embraced us. Sure, we were super embarrassing drunk Americans (and Canadians) and could have easily deserved the scorn of our contemporaries (and which the Canadians eventually did earn by daring each other to snort Tabasco sauce off of a tabletop at a Denny's). But we were also adventurous, curious, eager to learn, and as respectful as someone getting drunk 6 nights a week can be. And Japan is like no other place in the world, a blend of cutting-edge modernity and thousand-year-old tradition that can always surprise you when you think you have it figured out. Like the super-proper 85-year old Japanese woman who lived next door and one day randomly dyed her hair neon green. Or the cab driver who gave me an expensive bottle of wine that was in his cab because we had been talking about it on the ride and he really wanted me to try it.
I talked to a friend of mine who lives in Tokyo today, and she said that things are slowly getting back to normal there. They're dealing with rolling blackouts, about half the trains are still not running, and there's some damage left to clean up. North of Tokyo, the situation is, of course, far more dire. And there's not exactly a bright light at the end of the tunnel, as of yet. So maybe instead of that beer after work today (or in conjunction with it?), you pick up your fancy cellphone (loaded, no doubt, with technical innovations made possible by Japanese r&d) and text REDCROSS to 90999. It's ten bucks on your phone bill. Consider it an investment in a place you owe it to yourself to see someday- intact.