IT programmer / interpreter
After living in the U.S. and China, she has been living in Stockholm, Sweden since the dawn of the new century.
Main occupation: IT programmer, occasional overseas location assistance, research, interpreter.
Private life: volunteer work related to pandemic.
DAYS/ Maya Column
Stepping forward at Baltic
What are you going to do now?"
I asked my friend who had lost his spouse in an epidemic. His spouse was Japanese.
She replied, "I might go back to Osaka.
She had married a young Japanese sushi chef in Stockholm, and after he passed away, she continued to make sushi on her own.
Since her spouse is Japanese, she has no relatives in Sweden. Her children are all independent.
I don't know how long I'll be able to make sushi," she said.
When I follow news about Japan from abroad, I often wonder if Japan will be all right in the future.
Various things are flying in from neighboring countries. The value of the yen continued to fall.
The Nankai Trough earthquake is a serious concern.
There are countless other things to be concerned about.
However, when I finally arrived in Japan, from the moment I left the airport, I was reminded of how well Japan functions as a country.
Something I had forgotten since I had not been back home for almost four years.
The bus company politely explained to me where to catch the bus.
The airport bus arrived on time where it was supposed to wait for us, and the attendant carefully loaded our luggage.
And then the hustle and bustle of the city.
The city is bustling with activity, with restaurants and eateries crowded around the area where we got off the bus.
This is not the center of a large city such as Tokyo, but the station front of a regional city in Kanagawa.
All of the restaurants presented delicious-looking menus.
It is not that the Swedish diet is particularly shabby.
Some Swedes have even won a sushi nigiri (hand-formed sushi) contest.
However, the number of restaurants and foodstuffs is not comparable to that of Japan.
Japan's food culture is too rich.
And as a Japanese person, I have enjoyed that food culture.
When did I start thinking "I want to go back to Japan someday" after moving here?
When I was raising my children and studying hard, I probably had only one goal in mind.
To become financially independent in this country.
And that goal was realized ten years ago.
If my friend had finally decided to return to Japan, I would have been strongly encouraged to do the same.
However, I cannot go back to Japan now.
There are several reasons.
First of all,
I still have almost 20 years left until retirement.
"Will you still be able to work in Japan?" I am sometimes asked this question.
However, I know a Japanese girl who worked in Japan for several years and then came back from Japan.
I can't work in Japan," she says.
I don't know the details, but I can guess to some extent.
If you are accustomed to the working style of this country, where there are no time cards and self-management is respected, it seems to be extremely difficult to reintegrate into the Japanese working style.
The long commute on crowded trains is also unrealistic nowadays.
Another reason is that,
If my longing for Japan was just an illusion, it would be difficult to go back after moving my life base to Japan.
I am sure that I had my own reasons when I decided to leave Japan despite the sense of loneliness that my parents felt.
I am sure that those reasons have not disappeared.
Did I have a longing for Europe at that time?
As an America fan, Europe was not my first choice of moving to.
However, I had a desire to live abroad.
The concept of "happiness" is often cited in international comparisons.
Sweden, although at the bottom of the Scandinavian countries in terms of above, is still in the top 20.
It is certainly an easy country to live in if one does not compare food culture.
Should I live in Japan or Sweden in the future?
I often ruminate on this question as if I were telling the fortune of a flower.
And I am not satisfied with either result.
I met again with friends from high school in Japan .
They all expressed their satisfaction with Japan, saying, "Japan is a great country with good food and everything is available.
I also agreed with them.
After all, it is food that accounts for most of our physiological needs.
I am sure you can make Japanese food here, right
My colleagues tried to calm him down.
My colleagues from Europe think that Japanese food means sushi.
Whenever I go back to Japan temporarily, I bring more than 50 kilograms of Japanese food with me.
Japanese curry roux, furikake (sprinkles), Japanese soup stock, and so on.
This somehow manages to keep me alive until the next trip back to Japan.
There are sushi restaurants here that serve nigiri-zushi that are sure to please your taste buds.
There is a fry machine, so pork cutlets and tempura are easy to make.
Ingredients for okonomiyaki and other dishes are also readily available.
As for pasta and pizza, there are many good restaurants here.
Thai food, Vietnamese food, tapas, etc., also have good reputations, and many of them are delicious.
While I long for Japan and crave Japanese food, I also welcome the development of food culture in Sweden.
In the meantime, a month has passed since my return here.
In the meantime, my thoughts of Japan have been pushed deep into the recesses of my mind as I have been busy with the daily chores of my life.
This is the "Japan-missing disease" that I suffer from after returning to Japan temporarily, and its recovery process.
It seems that I am not the only Japanese living abroad who suffer from this disease.
DAYS/ Maya Column
Stepping forward at Baltic
I have lived my life by knocking on stone bridges, but....
The other day, I attended a workshop for the first time in a long time.
It was a six-hour course, lunch included. The cost was equivalent to two or three nights in a luxury hotel.
In other words, it was very expensive.
It was a small group of about 15 participants, but when I listened to the self-introductions of the other participants, I noticed that all of them had "Chief/Boss" attached to their names, except for me.
I wondered shortly if there was a "chief" anywhere in my job title.
I can't think of any.
[Developer] sounds a little better, but it doesn't have a "chief" in it.
Come to think of it, I was recently put in charge of an IT system.
I regretted not introducing myself as such, but even if I am in charge of a system, it does not make me the "chief" of the system.
In any case, I would not see the other members again, and there would be no difficulty in meeting them again.
After all, titles do not have much discriminatory meaning, especially in this country.
Among the 14 "chief's" of the group, there was one woman who left a strong impression on me.
She was a young Asian woman who spoke fluent Swedish.
She must have been born here.
She had long jet-black hair and heavy artificial eyelashes that seemed to be about two centimeters long.
Her lips, which were unnaturally full, had probably been treated in some way.
Although artificial, she had created a perfect appearance.
Her presence certainly stood out among the rather formal participants.
Some of the intelligentsia tends to avoid women with such an appearance.
This may not be the case that can be seen only in this country.
But she had no reason to care what others thought of her.
She is probably the most successful businesswoman among the participants.
Her confidence shone through.
She started her business single-handedly.
I guessed that it took a lot of hard work to get her business off the ground.
I asked for her business card.
I usually take a short trip just before the stress of working overtime, overtime, and overtime would take over.
By escaping from such reality, I manage to keep my peace of mind.
I have been living such a routine for more than a decade, before and after the pandemic.
I had one ideal when I was a student: to obtain a full-time technical job and become financially independent.
Today, that ideal has been fulfilled.
However, I wonder if this current situation is the ideal for me, the one that I have long sought.
Once an ideal is fulfilled, we tend to forget how grateful we are for it.
Many folktales and other tales of the past make fun of such a human tendency.
In my case, I have not forgotten my gratitude, but I often feel nostalgic about the process of realizing that ideal.
I wonder where my passion went when I was studying hard with memorandum sheets pasted all over my house morning, noon, and night in order to get a job.
I was always described as serious, prudent, and a person who crosses bridges by knocking on stone bridges, and I, myself also recognized that I was suited for a solid job.
Thanks to this solid and stable job, I was able to survive the pandemic.
I am sure I made the right choice.
The other day, one of my daughters expressed her desire to start a web store.
I immediately tried to argue with her, "Everyone is doing that already, Where do you get the money to start such a business?"
But I swallowed those words, however, because they reminded me of my own childhood.
I had told my parents that I wanted to become a cartoonist because I liked drawing cartoons.
My parents were against it.
They reasoned that only a handful of people could become famous and become self-supporting, and that the hardships would be obvious.
In my late teens, I told my parents that I wanted to become a flight attendant.
They were against it again. They said it would be physically stressful.
So, in the end, I gave up both. But if I was so opposed that I gave up, it probably meant that I was not that serious about it after all.
I understand that the reason for the parents' opposition was that they did not want their daughter to have a hard time.
I sometimes wonder what my life would be like if I had become an independent cartoonist, or if I had flown around the world as a flight attendant.
Now I was about to do the same thing to my own children.
In other words, I was ready to tell her that it was too hard, too impossible, and that she should stop considering it.
Building a webshop by oneself is certainly a difficult task.
However, the hard work is worth the effort.
One may fail and fall behind.
But is there really such a thing as a life without failures and setbacks?
You only live once.
What is the meaning of life if we give up everything without even opening the lid, saying, "It looks too hard?
"I will support you on the technical side"
I responded to my daughter's wish in this way.
DAYS/ Maya Column
Stepping forward at Baltic
Friends obtained in a foreign country
Since I began to feel a sense of urgency to "do what I want to do when circumstances allow," I have been travelling abroad almost every month.
Thanks to this action, the numbers in my bank account are not rising at all.
However, since I have no plans to make any major expenditures at the moment, I think I will be able to make it through this year.
This is much better than regretting it later when my travel abroad is restricted again for some reason.
In June, I made a personal trip to Paris.
When I returned from Paris, I felt as if I had left something undone.
So I booked a ticket to Paris again.
It was the first time for me to visit the same country twice in the same year.
A thought occurred to me.
This time, I decided to travel with a friend.
I have a Japanese female friend with whom I sometimes go for walks.
She is a woman similar to me in that she has almost no emotional ups and downs.
Although she is a little older than me, she is a talented programmer and we understand each other to some extent when we talk about work.
Since this is a trip to get away from work, we do not intend to talk about work, but since we can understand each other, I feel that we can have a relaxed relationship.
I am not sure how she feels about me though.
I asked her if she would like to go to Paris with me.
The next day, I received a pleasant reply from her.
She said, "Sure. I haven't been to Paris for a long time. The last time I visited, it was raining all the time.
Thus, I am now going to go abroad with a female friend of mine.
If nothing goes wrong, we will leave in a few days.
To date, I have traveled with a female friend twice.
Both trips have been both exciting and frustrating, as they are unique to traveling with women.
The first trip was to Hawaii with a high school classmate after graduation.
It was a long time ago, but I don't remember it being that disappointing.
The second trip was from Stockholm to Milan, Italy.
That time, I went with a Japanese friend who had immigrated to Stockholm at the same time as I.
She was a dexterous and lively woman with a face similar to that of the actress Miki Nakatani.
Since neither of us was doing anything special at the time of immigration, we spent nearly an hour on the phone with each other every day.
In addition, we cooked dinner together at least once a week.
Whenever something difficult happened at home, they would run to each other and talked for a long time.
I wonder if there has ever been such a close friend with whom one could have a heart-to-heart relationship like a family.
One winter, an airline company was running a campaign for airline tickets to Milan, Italy.
I invited my best friend to visit Milan with me.
I decided to take my second daughter, who was an infant at the time, with me since there was no one to take care of her.
I suggested to her, "I will buy the airline tickets for both of us, and you can take care of the baby from time to time while I am shopping.
It was probably around this trip that our friendship began to break down.
As for me, I remember that I rarely asked her for favors.
I remember that I rarely asked her to do anything for me, because she was wearing delicate sandals and I found it difficult for her to push the stroller with her sandals.
In the end, I remember asking her to babysit only once, while we were shopping, but I can't tell how she felt about it now.
It was only a four-day, three-night trip, but it was probably enough to cause a rift in our friendship.
By the time she returned to Japan, we had only been seeing each other once every few months by phone to say hello to each other.
I had to pay for the airline tickets for both of us and asked her to babysit in return, which probably resulted in the formation of an invisible master-servant relationship.
Some people are suited to Sweden, some people are not.
She tried for ten years in this country, but eventually returned to Japan and remarried in Kagoshima.
A few summers ago, when the pandemic began to spread, my daughters and I visited Japan temporarily.
My former best friend had to visit Tokyo and asked if she could come up from Kagoshima to Tokyo and meet us.
She said she did not know Yokohama.
We met at Kannai in Yokohama.
It had been many years since we had seen each other.
Although we had never met in Japan before, we hit it off right away.
We had lunch in Chinatown, and then started strolling uptown.
I wanted to show her my side of Yokohama.
It was another hot day.
The heat was even more intense as we climbed the steep hill near Motomachi Park.
She was wearing a pair of slender sandals that day.
As we stood on a hilltop in Harbor View Park and looked out at the ocean together, she quietly murmured,
"If we had known each other in Japan, I am sure we would not have become friends. You are not at all the type of friend I usually have.
Her words, casually muttered, remain coiled somewhere in my mind even now, several years later.
She did not delve further into the statement, so I could only imagine for myself what she intended.
Her statement contained a rather negative nuance.
In other words, she probably developed a friendship with me because she was in a unique environment with few Japanese of her age and had no other choice for friends.
These were the words left to me by a "best friend" with whom I could talk about anything and everything for many years.
The phrase "casual friendship" came to my mind.
I am visiting Paris with a friend this time, and I do not know what kind of trip it will be like when I open the lid.
Going abroad with a friend with whom you want to preserve a friendship is a kind of gamble.
The journey may deepen the friendship, or, as in the case of the previous trip, it may cause a noticeable rift.
We do not know how many more years or decades we will live in this foreign country.
When we grow old in a foreign country, what we will probably crave most will be true friends with whom we can talk frankly in our own language.
If we have any dissatisfaction, we should tell each other immediately without holding it in.
I told my friend who was traveling with me.
Don't worry," she said, smiling.
DAYS/ Maya Column
Stepping forward at Baltic
Terminus of a marrige proposal
There was a movie called "Ah, Marriage," starring Sophia Loren.
I had never seen the movie, as it was made before I was born, but I reviewed the trailer on video.
I had long assumed that it was a comedy about the ups and downs of post-marital life, but the actual story was rather complicated.
In this country, there is a long period of time between a marriage proposal and the actualisation of the marriage.
There are not a few cases in which a couple breaks up before they can get married, and there are also couples who remain engaged and remain together for the rest of their lives without ever getting married.
I am often not good at refusing various solicitations, but I am even worse at refusing marriage proposals.
Most of the men who proposed to me did so in a romantic situation and with a sincere expression on their face.
To reject such a proposal would be a terrible thing to do, so I nodded, lacking the courage to refuse.
And so, I kept postponing the project, diverting my attention from concrete actions.
In other words, I had been playing the role of the kind of person who would be called a "simpering wanderer. And so, the suitors gave up and left.
But this time
I finally decided to take the offer for real.
In other words, I have decided to remarry.
The recent weather in Europe has been characterized by several days of hot, sunny weather followed by heavy rain.
This morning, an overcast sky that was almost unsettling covered Stockholm darkly.
When I think about it, life has its ups and downs, just like this rapidly changing climate.
There are days when things are going smoothly, and then there are days when I feel as anxious and helplessly lonely as the gloomy, dark sky.
At such times, it is better to have someone to cuddle with than to spend time alone.
It would be justified and romantic if they could enter into marriage in a sentimental atmosphere.
However, in my case, I have yet to reach such a state of mind.
The reason for my remarriage is solely to make it possible for me to return to Japan.
I have a lot of aspects that I am not good at, one of the most serious of which is flying.
Although I am sometimes mistaken for being light on my feet, I generally do not fly alone when I travel by air.
When my flight to Japan in 2020 was cancelled due to the pandemic, I had decided to fly with a young man.
He was the young man who proposed to me just before the flight.
I was determined to make my return to Japan in 2022.
However, according to Japanese immigration regulations, I can only bring my officially registered spouse to Japan.
Even my own children are not allowed.
Therefore, I accepted the young man's proposal and decided to accept him as my spouse.
Fortunately, the proposal had not yet expired.
By the way, how does marriage work?
I remember that the first marriage was registered in Japan, and only a simple document was submitted here.
(Or I may have had an interview about how we got married, but it was 20 years ago, so my memory is not so clear).
However, it is now the year 2022, when digitalization has advanced very much.
Therefore, I was under the assumption that it would be sufficient just to submit the documents this time.
However, we were completely naive.
First, we spent more than two weeks getting a certificate that we are not married to somebody else.
After that, we had to present the certificate and make a reservation at a simple wedding hall.
In Stockholm, the City Hall, where the Nobel Prize dinner is held, is a popular place for simple weddings, but there are no vacancies until the end of November, so we could not make it before our day of the departure to Japan.
We also found a drop-in wedding hall, so we called around to every one of them, but there were no vacancies.
In any case, there is no time at this stage to plan a banquet for many people.
Since our return date is imminent, our first priority is to get the registry in place as soon as possible.
There is also the option of talking directly with the marriage executor, but even in that case, we would have to find a place to hold the ceremony by ourselves, and we would have to contact each of the marriage executors by e-mail to inquire about their availability, which would also be time-consuming.
Furthermore, since most marriage officiants are politicians, they will be busy until the fall election, which is not likely to be an easy time for them.
I was going to start looking at a possibility in the churches, but since I am not a Christian, that is becoming a problem.
I started looking for city hall outside of Stockholm, and fortunately, one in a neighboring town had an opening.
We did a quick Internet search for the designated day and found out that he was a politician who had been involved in a scandal earlier.
Everything was going so wrong that both of us were getting grumpy and arguing a lot.
I wonder if people break off engagements because of the hassle of the marriage process. It might be possible.
It's not a Sophia Loren movie, but the phrase "Ah, marriage" keeps ruminating in my mind. In my case, it is
In my case, it is, "Ah, marriage, what a hassle.
This may sound unpleasant to those who are dreamily considering marriage, but what is bothersome is the complicated paperwork and formalities.
Nevertheless, the young man who proposed to me was so pleased that I, a "indecisive person," had finally made up my mind that he contacted his family, and I immediately received a congratulatory message from his family.
The young man is a young man with good discipline, the type of young man who likes to turn his back on the negative aspects of the world.
At the time of the proposal, I wondered to what extent this young man would be able to support me, a man who cannot turn away from the negative aspects of the world and often finds himself in complicated situations.
However, human strength and compassion cannot be understood at first glance, regardless of age.
It must have taken a lot of determination for him to marry and live with me, an older girl who was also sickly and frail.
When I had to go to the hospital for an emergency, he traveled in from the next town over, even though it was the middle of the night and he knew he would miss the train on the way home.
Should I try to trust that the marriage with him works?
At this point, let's change the phrase "Ah, marriage, what a hassle.
"Ah, marriage, what a hassle, but it might not be so bad to get married twice, after all."
DAYS/ Maya Column
Stepping forward at Baltic
Days Beyond Sweden's Borders
Last weekend was Midsummer's Eve.
Last year, I was invited to an acquaintance's villa.
This year, I was invited to an acquaintance's villa again.
On Midsummer's Eve, we usually have a shower.
This year, however, it was a cloudless, sunny summer day, and people in swimsuits or barely-there clothing were lying on the shore of a nearby lake, or enjoying a Midsummer meal.
But until 2018, I had not spent Midsummer in Sweden for quite some time.
I had decided to spend June in Japan.
This May, I left Sweden for the first time in almost two and a half years.
The first border crossing was accomplished by train, the second by crossing a bridge in a rented car, and the third finally by air, crossing several borders.
In each case, I was deeply moved at the moment of crossing the border.
However, the excitement gradually faded with each crossing.
I guess it was the return of the daily routine of crossing borders several times a year.
During the period when it was difficult to cross the border, I walked around the same place every day in Stockholm.
It would be a lie to say that I was not dissatisfied with such a life, but it seems that human beings are animals that get used to things, and if you are told that it is impossible, you give up quickly.
At least, that was the case for me.
I no longer thought I could go abroad as I had done in the past.
Compared to others around me, I was late to realize that the restrictions on entry into foreign countries had been considerably eased.
Perhaps as a reaction to this, I have already left the country three times in two months this year, from May to the end of last week of Midsummer.
Even before the pandemic, I had never traveled abroad with such frequency.
After all, there is no denying that I had the desire to go far away from home.
If someone were to ask me, "Since you have traveled abroad three times in a row, you must have had enough," I would probably be at a loss for an answer.
Considering the current state of the world, we cannot predict when we will be inconvenienced again.
I want to do what I can before then, see what I can see, and be moved by what I can be moved by.
The destination of my third trip was a metropolis that competes for the top two places in Europe in terms of the number of tourists.
As a big city, it is rich in stimulation, the streets are overflowing with tourists, restaurants and cafes are trendy, and department stores are dazzlingly rich in goods.
The Central European sun shone brilliantly, and we walked and walked until our legs became sticks.
The city has a subway system that runs throughout the city, and it too is a complex and intertwined system.
It is a huge town.
Many young people come to live here, even temporarily, in search of stimulation and opportunity.
I wonder, without any sense of reality, what my life would be like if I had moved to this country instead of Sweden.
Stockholm, where I live, is not so large as to be ungraspable despite being the capital of a country.
There are a few cafes and restaurants, but nothing compared to this metropolis, and the subway lines are well organized and there are no stations with ceilings so low that you might hit your head on them.
Sweden is not a small country in terms of area, but it has a small population.
It has the largest majority in Scandinavia, though.
Still, during the pandemic, Sweden made a controversial choice not to lock down during a time when the world tended to be lock-down-only.
This choice sparked intense debate on both sides of the issue, and although the answer has yet to be found, many people would have preferred to visit Sweden with fewer restrictions during the pandemic period.
The hustle and bustle of the big city I recently visited, the energy that many people were burning, and the colorful goods, all of which still haunt my mind from time to time, two weeks after my return.
I am sure there is much more that I have not done as a tourist in that city.
I would like to experience the energy of the big city again soon.
Back in Stockholm, writing quietly in my apartment, the only sounds coming from the open terrace are the occasional cries of babies and the cries of seagulls.
When they disappear, silence envelops the area once again.
I have never heard the sound of sirens that is characteristic of large cities.
On the evening of the day we returned from the big city, when the plane emerged from the clouds, we found ourselves on the ground in a magical land of forests and lakes.
The passengers around me were constantly clicking their shutters.
It was the first time in two and a half years that I had seen Stockholm from the sky.
The sound of shutter clicks echoing around me was a pleasant reminder that this beautiful land is where I live.
It is very enjoyable to travel abroad and be stimulated.
However, even though I lack stimulation, I also appreciate the benefit of being able to live in the clear air with a view of water, no matter which direction I stroll, east, west, north, south, or west.
Last week, summer finally arrived in this town.
It was a short but beautiful Nordic summer.
DAYS/ Maya Column
Stepping forward at Baltic
When we sit back from a thousand and one peaceful days.
There was a time when I preferred to read literature from the war times.
I was not a fan of warfare.
I was interested in the mutual help between human beings in the ravages of war, a renewed awareness of the preciousness of life, the resilience of those who survived against the odds, the joy of soldiers and their families who returned from the battlefield alive, and the desperate efforts of those who lived to the last breath.
I loved the human drama that I could catch a glimpse of in each of these stories.
At that time, I had no idea that I might be involved in a war, so I was only a bystander in the literature of the war times.
As an adult, I moved to Europe.
There are no earthquakes, no civil wars, few natural disasters, and not too many security problems.
The social welfare system is relatively leading.
The country I moved to was such a country.
That was the case, until recently.
There is still no civil war.
However, it is undeniable that the country is currently threatened by external crises, no matter which newspaper I read.
At various points in my long life, I have lived in various countries for several years at a time.
This country was relatively safe among them.
The topics of conversation during coffee breaks were often so monotonous that I could almost call them boring.
But now, looking back on that period, I am reminded that that was what we call a peace.
In that supposedly safe country, the topics of conversation during coffee breaks today are the location, size, and quality of shelters.
What kind of emergency supplies are stored in each household?
However, when the topic of nuclear weapons comes up, everyone shakes their heads because it becomes difficult and depressing to continue this specific topic.
Some people who own vacation homes in the countryside are planning to evacuate to the countryside in case of emergency, but recently the preconception that the countryside is safer is being overturned.
Someone once told me that Japan had been sitting on its laurels of peace for too long.
When I was learning the language of this country, most of my classmates were people who had come to this country to escape the war.
I also met a young woman who had lost her hearing due to the sound of bombing.
They were all fond of Japan and longed for a peaceful Japan.
I myself had been sitting in peace for many years.
I had never thought about the possibility that I might suffer from war.
Now, however, I am beginning to think about how to prepare myself.
According to the World's Safest Cities Index, Tokyo is the safest capital city in the world these days, no matter which data is selected.
Perhaps the best option in the current situation is to return to Japan.
It is possible to work remotely throughout the pandemic era.
This is only if the company one works survives, though.
However, at this time, I am the only one in my family who is permitted to return to Japan.
Due to pandemic entry restrictions, my family members are still not allowed to enter Japan.
Therefore, I cannot return to Japan either, because where my family is is where I belong.
However, when I look out the window at the world outside, the city is functioning as usual.
Men pushing baby carriages, elderly men walking their dogs, people dressed in suits heading to work, people riding bicycles, and people rushing to catch the bus.
When I go shopping at the supermarket, I am not particularly inconvenienced, except for a shortage of preserved foods.
Restaurants are open as usual, and popular restaurants are always full.
The banks of the Baltic Sea, glistening in the sun, are a walking path for walkers.
These are not so different from the scenes of 2019 that remained in the depths of my memory.
The only difference is that people wearing masks can be seen here and there in the streets.
I had planned to visit the Tohoku region of Japan for the first time in 2020. But due to completely unexpected circumstances, I had to change my plans. And now, two years later, I find myself in a strange situation that was completely unimaginable, again.
Last night I was rummaging around for an emergency radio.
I had no plans to buy such a thing in 2020.
When I look at the sunlight in the windows of the high-rise apartment buildings in the distance, I realize that spring has arrived even in this city where winter has been long.
The cherry blossoms are in full bloom.
The sunset time is gradually getting later and later.
Yesterday, the sun set at 20:30.
I hope that peace will come with the long days of sunshine.
I am sure that those who suffered in the war must have longed for peace to come with the long daylight hours.
Their wish regrettably did not come true.
Today, the situation continues to be completely unpredictable.
What we can do now is to live each and every day with great appreciation.
DAYS/ Maya Column
Stepping forward at Baltic
Moving to Sweden started with school.
Sweden is a relatively easy country to live in.
Although I understand this now, I often regretted not moving to an English-speaking country when I first moved here.
I was a language expert in Japan, and I had assumed that I would not have any difficulties with languages if I would move abroad.
If it were a country with a linguistic minority, it would be a different story, but Sweden is a European country with a high level of education.
Therefore, I was optimistic that I would be able to find some kind of office work immediately after moving to Sweden.
However, when that "immediately" came over the course of several months, I began to feel frustrated.
After moving to Sweden, I first put down roots in a certain provincial town.
In that town, I had been teaching at a culture school as a substitute when the full-time English teacher was unavailable.
However, it was only one course per week, and I was the substitute.
It is far from a full-time employment status.
I also registered with the office for the unemployed. Type of jobs they proposed were in the food and beverage industry.
And everywhere I went, I was asked the same question.
Do you speak Swedish?"
I speak a little."
When I responded as above timidly, they pointed me toward the exit, saying that I should study Swedish in order to apply for a job.
In the midst of this repetition, I received a suggestion from an acquaintance.
Why don't you study Swedish properly? There are free Swedish courses being offered here in town, too."
My future prospects, which I had planned to work full time immediately after immigrating, took a drastic turn here.
This was because I had to study for many more years before I could work full time.
I decided to take a "Swedish for Immigrants" course, which was held in a classroom of a local elementary school.
The class consisted of students from southern Europe and the Middle East, except for myself and one English woman.
The days spent with my classmates were congenial and enjoyable in their own way.
Everyone, including myself, was very poor, but young.
After school, we gathered in the club room and were taken on excursions, and sometimes we even made pizza together for dinner.
There were no other Japanese in that town besides me.
I had no way of knowing that there were Japanese people working professionally in Stockholm, Gothenburg, Malmö, and other cities, and my days passed quietly and comfortably in that town and in school life.
After school, I used to borrow my then spouse's car and go out to the lakeside outside of town.
As I stood on a bench by the lake and watched the sun set, I was filled with a strong sense of regret.
There was not even a store in town where you could buy Japanese rice.
I wondered if I would have to live as a foreigner in this town for the rest of my life.
In Japan, I was reasonably well respected as a linguist and had a fixed income. Almost every Friday, I would meet up with friends in Tokyo to explore new restaurants.
I missed the hustle and bustle of the Japanese city.
Recently, I have been reading blogs by Japanese people who write about their daily lives in the Swedish countryside.
They are often very resilient and positive in their outlook on life.
However, I was too young to be able to enjoy the quiet town life.
Although it was too quiet, it did not mean that clubs, discos, etc. did not exist.
However, even when I did go out to clubs and discos, it was extremely difficult to become friends with Swedes.
As is the case in rural and regional areas, it takes time for strangers to be accepted.
Moreover, until I became fluent in Swedish, I had to speak in English, which was a burden for the conservative Swedes in the countryside, who were not so used to speak English.
A few of my classmates had been displaced from their countries because of the civil war.
They behaved cheerfully on the surface, but at a moment's notice, I would catch a glimpse of their hatred for the war enemy.
At such times, their usually jovial and gentle classmates seemed as if they were different people.
Their hatred was very deep-rooted.
It was a year in which I realized that there is nothing but hatred for hatred.
Is this becoming an ongoing process?
As a very average Japanese person working for a company in Japan, I had to go through the school gates again after becoming a working adult.
I studied side by side with war refugees, whom I would have known only from the news if I had been living in Japan.
This was my first experience in this world after moving to Sweden.
My study of Swedish did not end after this one year, and I would continue to go to school and work on my Swedish language skills for several more years.
It seems that a language does not improve unless you are passionate about it.
When we finished the first year of the beginner course, we started a new life in Stockholm.
DAYS/ Maya Column
Stepping forward at Baltic
Employment in Scandinavia Back to Square one
Emigrating abroad, working abroad, international marriage.
What sweet and glorious sounding words, I thought when I was a student.
I had a vague idea that it was the U.S. that I longed for and that I would emigrate to the U.S. when I grew up.
However, life does not always go as one has planned, and I moved to a country where a third language is spoken, although I preferred and was good at English.
The country where many enterprises are contingent on speaking the language of the country.
Some companies used English as the company language, but this was only if one had some special skill, and as a former English-Japanese interpreter like myself, it did not help me in any way.
But if you had to do something for a living, the restaurant industry was the first relatively easy place to find a job.
So, I followed this example and sought a part-time job in a restaurant.
It is often said that the right person is in the right place, and it is said that a restaurant is a place where both the person serving and the person being served have difficulties unless the serving person is quick and smooth.
I am not so sure that "quick and smooth" is in my nature.
I survived a busy week by spilling cold water on a customer's coat on a bitterly cold day and making a mistake in an order.
Although it was only a lunchtime job, I received the equivalent of 3,000 yen for the week, which was my first salary in Scandinavia.
When was the last time I worked part-time in a restaurant?
It was probably when I was 16. It was at a café by the station where I lived.
I was not so pessimistic at the time though, because I had not yet passed the age of 20 for many years.
However, if I were still serving at the restaurant twenty years later, I would have had very complicated feelings.
In Japan, as an interpreter, I could earn that amount of money in an hour.
In the restaurant industry, becoming a manager is a different story.
Whether it is a restaurant or a café, it must be very rewarding to be able to run a business at your own discretion.
If I had wanted to be involved in restaurant management, I would have concentrated on serving as a waiter at first as part of my training.
However, I am not a quick and smooth person, and I am a linguist by profession, so I wanted to continue working using my expertise.
Therefore, working in the restaurant industry was not more than a stopgap for me.
As far as I know, there were two other Japanese who worked as waiters in restaurants when I first moved here.
There are probably many more.
Let me tell you about the paths taken by these two persons.
The first person, she was born to work in the restaurant industry.
When she was working in a restaurant, she always had a big smile on her face as she interacted with customers, and her quick wit made her a valuable asset in any restaurant.
He had begun looking at several restaurants in Stockholm with a view to becoming a co-owner of one of them in the future.
However, after the divorce from her husband, she was forced to change her life plan.
She was very good at baking and returned to Japan with great ambitions to open a Scandinavian café.
However, when she returned to Japan and looked around, she found that the kind of café she had envisioned already existed everywhere.
It was shortly after then that she left the restaurant/cafe industry behind.
The second, who was not married, was invited by her boyfriend to move to this country.
For her, too, the part-time job in the restaurant was temporary, and she actively went to recruiting fairs and sought a full-time office job.
The route she chose after leaving her boyfriend astounded everyone around her.
Looking as slender, fragile, and dainty as a Japanese doll, she connected with an international aid organization and went to Africa.
The country had previously been the scene of a violent civil war.
After staying in that country for a few years, she moved to the UK to pursue her Ph.D.
In my case, I remained here for many years after they left the country and became an employed full-time office worker.
We worked in the same restaurant at the same time, for longer or shorter periods of time, but we all departed on our own separate paths.
I sometimes pass by the restaurant now, and I guess many generations have already passed since then when it comes to the ownership.
However, when I pass by the restaurant, I recall the time when I moved here with a mixture of sweetness and bitterness in my heart.
At the time, I had no idea what the future held for me beyond my part-time job at the restaurant.
I still do not know if being an office worker is the end of the road for me.
However, I was able to achieve a certain degree of economic stability.
Strange as it may seem, I have recently been thinking about getting involved in restaurant management.
I have come to a point in my life where I even long to be involved in the restaurant business, which should have been a stopgap measure.
Ones' values change over time.
If you are one of my colleagues who started your life abroad in a temporary job, and you are still stuck in the middle of the line, I would like to say a word for you.
Please don't lose your ambition until the end.
DAYS/ Maya Column
Stepping forward at Baltic
In the hands of the perfect insurance agent.
In the past ten years, I had never been absent from work due to illness.
I thought that the only health concern was a pandemic.
At the beginning of last year, I was very busy with work.
I sat at my desk until 10 p.m. every night, staring at the code.
My situation was about the same on weekends.
My pride that I was still young and healthy compared to my colleagues made me push myself even harder.
One spring morning in the beautiful sunrise, I finally collapsed.
And efter I collapsed, what happened?
My health insurance company contacted me.
From then on, my calendar was jam-packed with appointments.
And by appointments, I don't mean glamorous ones like dates.
I did meet a man with toned muscles, but it was not a particularly exciting encounter.
In other words, Monday's appointment was with a tightly muscled male physiotherapist.
He was probably about to retire on his pension.
As a man in such a profession, he had a lot to talk about and enjoyed talking to various patients.
The man was able to calm down at one point while I was trying to unwind my aching shoulder blades.
Tuesday's appointment was a video dialogue with another physical therapist.
She opens with this interrogation.
'The breathing exercises we trained together last time, of course you practiced them a lot, didn't you?
I couldn't say, "Of course.
I hadn't practiced it at all, on the contrary, I had completely forgotten about it.
Moreover, I couldn't even remember the name of the physical therapist.
'I'll repeat it then,' she began, 'it's a breathing exercise.
'Yes, then I laid down on the bed and exhaled slowly. The physical therapist kept on talking to me, "You can feel the warm heat coming up from below, can't you?
The sound of her voice instructing me on the other side of the screen slowly faded away.
I fell into a deep sleep.
Wednesday's appointment was a video conversation with a work environment specialist at home.
Since I had to show her my room on the video phone, I had to do a lot of cleaning beforehand.
I cleaned what I could see, and got myself ready for the conversation with the specialist.
She took a quick look at the working environment in my room and made a checklist.
- A desk with adjustable height.
- A 27-inch computer monitor.
- Ergonomic keyboard.
- Ergonomic chair.
'As for the adjustable desk you recommended, I don't have room for an 80cm x 120cm desk in my small room, I stated.
'Then you should look for another type. There are a lot of companies that have gone bankrupt recently, so there is a possibility that you can buy a desk from one of those places.
'How do you find them? Most office desks are even bigger than 80cm x 120cm, aren't they?, I asked.
'Try searching in districts with a lot of offices. Yes, it could be quite large., she answered leaving much space for questions.
Thursday's appointment was a video conversation with a specialist who was going to inspect my posture during work.
"Do you have any cushions or anything in the house?"
She said,'Try putting them under your buttocks, see if that balances the height of your arms and the keyboard, and pull your chair forward more.
I grabbed two cushions from the living room and put them under my buttocks.
'I can't because the legs of the chair hit the desk.
'Then can you get another cushion and put it on your back?, she suggested.
As instructed, I put the cushions under my back and buttocks, worked on the computer for a few hours, and when I stood up, I suffered from extreme back pain for a while.
Thursday's appointment was to visit a physical therapist who specializes in acupuncture.
I met with this person several times, but each time, it ended up in a chat about health aspects, and in the end, not a single acupuncture session was performed.
Friday's appointment was a face-to-face meeting with another physical therapist who specializes in acupuncture.
Since the clinic was quite far away and it took almost half a day to visit, we ended up declining the appointment.
I also wondered why the appointments had been made with two different acupuncture specialists in the first place.
The first thing the woman asked me was this:
'Welcome. By the way, who introduced you to me?
I had no choice but to reply, 'I don't know.
Invitations to doctors or physical therapists are sent through the mailbox at some institutions.
Sometimes it was an email, sometimes a cell phone app, sometimes a cell phone message, and finally I couldn't even tell where the referral came from.
There were several different health insurance companies that had jurisdiction over me, and my home doctor also sent me invitations, so much so that I needed a secretary to keep track of them all.
There were many things the physical therapists had assigned me.
'Do you remember the breathing exercises I taught you last week?
'Didn't I tell you to change the position of the computer screen?
'Didn't you ask the company to buy you an extendable desk yet?
'When you're working on your computer, do you try to look at something 20 meters away for 20 seconds every 20 minutes?
'Do you do this stretching exercise for 20 minutes at a time?
Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
If I were to use all of these instructions, how would we find time to work?
Since I could not find time to work during the day, I naturally had to work at night.
Furthermore, what would be the downside of having such a full schedule every day?
Once, while I was visiting a physical therapist, another physical therapist called me on the video phone and said, "Come on, it's time for your session.
It was first then that I realized that I had been double-booked.
I had to apologize profusely to the person who had made the reservation via video phone.
Also, there were so many reservations that I completely forgot to schedule a visit once.
Here, if you don't show up 24 hours before your appointment time without calling, you will be fined the equivalent of 5,000 yen.
It was an unwanted expense.
After collapsing due to excessive stress, I asked for help from my health insurance, which ended up escalating my stress level even more.
It's the other way around.
Why does one have to be so well-equipped, eat so well, work so well, and train so well in order to live and work normally?
I continued this full-booking lifestyle for a few months, but exercised very little rehabilitative training, and remembered nothing about breathing exercises.
I didn't even buy a new desk, which I had been urged to do many times, and I couldn't find one that would fit in my room.
So, were these months of dialogue really a waste of time?
During a pandemic, there is a large number of people, not only pandemic patients, who fall ill due to unusual lifestyles, which also puts pressure on the medical budget.
In such dire times, nearly a dozen medical professionals had been working diligently for several months to help me alone.
Regardless of the outcome, I can only marvel at the fact that they provided me with such blissful health insurance.
I was not an exemplary patient, but I suppose it was not a waste of time to have so many conversations with so many specialists.
My lifestyle has improved somewhat compared to this time last year.
Most importantly, my eating habits have changed considerably.
I used to look sideways at people who ate grains like bird food as their staple food, but now I find myself eating that bird food.
But most of all, I have stopped being overconfident in my health.
No matter how young you are, no matter how little medical history you have, if you keep pushing yourself too hard for too long, your body will eventually scream.
I would like to remind young people that once you lose your health, it is not always possible to regain it.
Anyway, I am now trying to avoid being taken care of by insurance companies for the time being.
DAYS/ Maya Column
Stepping forward at Baltic
I was supposed to go to bed early that night.
It was such a week that I was not feeling good, and not making much progress at work, so I decided to at least go to bed early on Sunday night.
In the evening, without warning, my phone rang with a message.
"Would you like to go to a concert with me tonight? I have a guest ticket.
The message was sent from a musician friend whom I hadn't seen for a while.
I asked her if I should bring the musician some flowers to thank since the guest ticket was "free".
But she replied, "No need for flowers (laughing emoji).
This shows how little I knew the routines concerning concerts or gigs.
My decision to go to bed early was overturned in an instant.
I jumped out of bed and started to put some color on my pale face.
A friend, whom I had regretted not having the chance to meet, finally contacted me.
If I refused, I wouldn't know when I would see her again.
She looked more glad than I had seen in a long time.
She is a musician herself, but it is not so easy to make a living in a foreign country as a single woman.
When I used to see her frequently, she did not look so happy.
The last time she invited me to a concert, it was a charity concert for her church.
Suddenly I realized that we were sitting surrounded by homeless people who were carrying all their wealth in big IKEA bags.
The concert was a charity concert to help the homeless people.
She was always involving me in extraordinary things without warning.
The concert that night was for a band led by a Canadian, Alex Henry Foster.
She had met him through the internet media among musicians.
I thought it was a concert hall with reserved seats, so I dressed up a bit and went out.
I was surprised when I entered the hall.
It was standing room only.
The last time I visited a concert was for Frank Zappa's son, Dweezil Zappa, and at that time there were reserved seats, although the venue and the audience were large.
I would have liked to go to his father's concert, but I was born in the wrong era.
The concert was in full swing.
I looked around and saw everyone nodding their heads and shaking their heads back and forth along the rhythm.
Men and women of all ages were mingling.
I thought it would be a good way to relieve my stress if I tried to get into a state of euphoria like that, but it was my first time listening to this music, so I couldn't really get into it, and I still had a migraine, so shaking my head wouldn't be good for me.
Our height was that of average Japanese women in the late Showa era, but if we stood behind the tall Swedish men, we would not be able to see anything, so we stood in the front next to the speakers.
Eventually, I began to worry about something.
If I stood here for several hours, would my hearing be affected?
The volume of the sound was unbelievable.
However, I was trying to convince myself that being surrounded by the heart-pounding sound was the best part of the concert, but when I looked around, I saw that more than half of the people were using earplugs.
I wondered what kind of moral it was to come to a concert and use earplugs, but later I learned that it is quite common practice to use earplugs at concerts and gigs.
Since I didn't know that, I had to endure without earplugs for a while, but eventually it became quite difficult.
Then my friend gave me a piece of tissue paper.
She told me to roll it up and stuff it in my ear.
She was the type of person who did not like studying and only cared about music, and I was the type of person who only studied at schools and had no special skills, so we had almost nothing in common. However, we have known each other for a long time.
She is very handy and makes all her own cosmetics and hair dyes.
She eats ecologically friendly food, and has even made me some natural sweets that are not too sweet for my taste.
Her speech has no inflection, and to the casual observer she seems emotionless, but compassion does not always appear on the outside.
What kind of music is this? Death metal?"
"I don't know, I guess not."
When I looked at the flyer later, it said the following.
For Fans of
Post-Rock, Progressive, Nu Gaze, Psych
Nick Cave、 Radiohead、 Sonic Youth、Mogwai、Swans、 Godspeed You! 、Black Emperor、 King Crimson
So, I searched the internet to find out what Post-Rock is.
I found a description like, "A genre of music that is a hassle to explain.
If I listened to it a few times, I might start liking it.
If you are interested, you can find a few videos by searching for Alex Henry Foster.
He was the front man that night, and after the concert, he came up to us with his arms outstretched.
His hair was frizzy like ramen noodles, and sweat was dripping down his face.
Nice to see you!" he gave my friend a hug, and then he gave me a hug as well, which soaked my cheeks.
The next concert was coming to an end and we were thinking of going home to sleep.
Alex came over to us again, and we were taken to a sort of break room where we were introduced to all the members of the band.
The band members asked, "Are you a musician as well?"
I replied, "Well, I write code." Code is code, but it's programming, not a lie.
Some of the band members could speak Japanese fluently, so I asked Alex if he liked Japan.
"Oh, it's a long story," he said.
They are very fond of Japan and even visited the Sanriku coast three weeks after the Tohoku earthquake, to offer comfort.
I heard that they even sent Christmas cards to the people in the disaster area.
My friend was also impressed, "Alex is really a nice boy.
I'm not sure if "boy" is the right word, since his age was quite unknown.
It was a very strange day.
When I woke up that morning, I had not expected such a turn of events.
It was meaningful to see my friend again, whom I hadn't seen in a while, but it was also meaningful to meet musicians who tour the world and treat me like an old friend.
I asked my friend why she had invited me.
She replied, "Because you're often open to invitations.
If I would ask people to go to a concert on a Sunday night without warning, they would usually not say 'yes'.
I do not usually go out without reasons, and I've never been known or told that I'm outgoing, but I try not to turn down an invitation to an event unless I have a prior engagement.
You never know what wonderful people you might meet there, or what unknown world you might encounter, or what destiny-changing experiences you might have.
Life is so unpredictable that you never know what will happen tomorrow or tonight, which makes it worthwhile to continue.
DAYS/ Maya Column
Stepping forward at Baltic
How a friend became a millionaire overnight
One winter afternoon, when Stockholm was covered in a fragile sunshine, the funeral of an acquaintance was held in a small wooden church in the forest on the outskirts of Stockholm.
The deceased had passed away peacefully, loved as a faithful husband, a good father to his children, and a trusted boss.
When the funeral was over and I was walking out of the church from my seat in the front row, I was grabbed by the arm from the back row.
I looked back at the owner of the hand that grabbed my arm, surprised because I had not expected this.
The owner of the hand was my old friend Tom.
His eyes were red from crying and his face was bloodless.
His hair was much thinner than before and his skin was rough.
He looked impatient.
"Will you listen to me sometime?"
Tom was a friend of mine who had founded an IT company about fifteen years ago, which had been acquired by a major IT company and had literally made him a millionaire overnight.
He was much older than I, but I was pleasantly surprised by his attitude of talking to everyone equally.
His wife, Lisa, was not seen there.
Tom shook his head instead of replying.
Instead of asking back, I assumed that she was sick.
I remembered that it was not long after they had become millionaires that she had become "sick".
Soon after they became millionaires, they showed their gratitude by inviting all their relatives and our friends to a hotel in a resort area.
In fact, more than a hundred people were invited.
The second big event was when Tom celebrated Lisa's fortieth birthday, again with more than a hundred guests, a pony, people to pull it, a bartender, and even a large trampoline.
Lisa, a lovely brunette with short hair, seemed like a very happy woman.
"Here comes the star of the day!"
Then Lisa appeared on stage in a dress that looked like a simple casual dress.
On the stage stood a lovely brunette woman with short hair.
"Oh?" I felt something strange.
She was still as lovely as ever.
But her face was showing signs of exhaustion.
And her ribs were embossed on her dress.
Some time later, I ran into Tom again.
He told me that Lisa was rarely home these days, and that the family life of the two children was not running normally.
They are a very wealthy family.
They should be able to afford to hire a domestic helper if needed.
However, I understood that Tom was referring to Lisa's presence and role as a loving mother to her husband and children.
Lisa had gone to a self-improvement seminar held in a local city for two weeks out of the month, where she had spent a camp.
Tom's facial expression was dark.
Both Tom and Lisa had lost their very important person in unforeseen accidents when they were around twenty years old, though in different places and under different circumstances.
I don't know if it's because of this, but they didn't give me the impression that they were genuinely cheerful.
The lives lost cannot be exchanged for money.
However, I honestly hoped that when they became millionaires, their joy would at least alleviate some of their sorrow.
Lisa left her long-time job at a financial firm and instead began taking science programs at the university.
I didn't really pay attention to the reason for this, as it is not that unusual in Sweden to start university after the age of 40.
Once, I happened to run into her near her university.
She told me that she was dropping the tempo of her university program.
"When I asked why, she frowned and nervously replied, "Because my complicated situation makes it difficult for me to complete the program at a normal pace.
My complicated situation?
I couldn't help but find that statement puzzling.
She was, as far as I knew, in good health and under the protection of a kind and sincere husband.
Her two beautiful children, as far as I know, are growing up properly.
If it's too much work to pick up and drop off the kids, they can afford to hire someone to do it. She does not have to work either.
Several years have passed since then without me getting an answer to "my complicated situation".
It would be more awkward to ask any more questions now.
"You have everything, what do you have to complain about?
It would be quite normal to ask such a question, however, what looks happy from the side is often not proportional to what is actually happy.
I remembered Tom and Lisa when they were young and still poor.
They came to Japan to visit me in my apartment in Yokohama, wearing tattered sweaty clothes, dragging worn out sneakers and carrying a big dirty backpack.
They were poor, but the two of them got along well.
Lisa was out on the balcony smoking a cigarette.
I wish Lisa would quit smoking," Tom said softly back then, but this time, there must have been some circumstances that prevented him from asking her to quit the self-help seminar.
Apparently, the self-help seminars were very expensive.
If they had not become wealthy, if she could not afford to attend such seminars, what would have happened?
Instead of attending such seminars, would she have been able to join hands warmly with Tom, or with their families, so that the family would be of comfort for Lisa, instead?
"I hadn't heard from Tom in a while after he grabbed my arm at church and said, "Will you listen to me?
I think what he wanted to talk about was Lisa.
Maybe he thought that I, as a woman, could understand Lisa's feelings better than he could.
I could also understand why it would be easier for her to confide in me if we didn't know each other well.
It's like when you sit next to a stranger on a plane and you tell them something you've never told anyone you know.
In fact, I would like to know more about Lisa's feelings.
The reason why I hadn't heard from Tom after the funeral was probably due to the pandemic prevention regulations that came out right after the funeral.
I thought that during the period when teleworking was encouraged, Tom and Lisa probably had more time to spend with their children and spend time together as a family.
I hoped that the increased family time would help them resolve the issues that Tom had been trying to discuss with her.
"I haven't seen you since the funeral, do you have a minute?
Tom finally contacted me.
After all, the problem was probably still unresolved.
I decided to go and talk to Tom.
All I can do is listen to what he has to say.
There are many things in this world that cannot be solved with money.
DAYS/ Maya Column
Stepping forward at Baltic
As if it were good old days
It was a dazzling day in the morning light.
Because there was a need, I went out into the world outside the mansion before 7:30, which was unusual. When I used the stairs to go downstairs, I almost collided with a young man who had just come out of the elevator. He briefly apologized and ran out of the mansion door and ran to the other side of the road. A red city bus swiftly moved my view from right to left, blocking sight of him.
The young man was running because he was about to miss the bus. I had never seen him before.
I walked down the street, a young woman wearing a trench coat, holding a black attache case, walking dashingly with high heels. This woman may also be on her way to work.
When I entered the side street from the main street on the way and walked for a while, I felt some movement of people in the building near the sidewalk. When I looked inside, the young people in the cook's uniform were divided into groups and cut the vegetables and meat on the cooking table.
In the classroom next to it, many students were listening to the lecture side by side at the long table. It was not a large auditorium, but a seminar room that barely held 20 chairs.
And I continued walking after that, I sometimes passed by men and women in suits.
I had a hard time suppressing the urge to scream because of the discomfort that springs up.
It is a super-daily life that is not worth mentioning at all.
Why does this evoke such a sense of discomfort?
This is because it was not the daily life of 2021 but the daily life of 2019.
In other words, if this was 2019, it would be a scene that passed by without looking into the inside from the window and looking back.
Where did you go in 2020, in the spring of 2021?
The people coming and going are natural and continue their lives as usual, that is, before the outbreak of the pandemic, as if nothing had happened in the last two years.
Last week, I received an in-house email that started with "Welcome back!" In other words, from the beginning of October, it was a recommendation email to return to the office.
Finally a recommendation came out. Is that the long-awaited end of the pandemic? Do colleagues, or employees of other companies, want to return to the office?
Regarding this issue, we took several questionnaires in 2020. At that time, I remember that half of the people wanted to return and half wanted to continue working from home. The main reasons for those who wanted to go back were that they missed them, that it was more efficient to meet and talk to them, and that they had small children at home, which made it difficult for them to concentrate.
In my case, I was working from home in the early summer of 2020, but returned to the office in the fall. And before winter, I returned to work from home again.
The following week, a colleague working in the next seat was caught by a pandemic.
Perhaps because it was a good time for me to return to work from home, I have not been affected by the pandemic at this stage.
As of 2021, if I take a questionnaire,
"Do you want to go back to the office?"
The majority of the answers are "No".
This is because the foundation for working from home has been established. Some colleagues have decided to keep pets. Once they get back to the office, it will be difficult to take care of their pets.
What about me?
After working from home, the habit of going to bed late at night and waking up late in the morning is becoming established. Life is much easier now than when I had a tight office suit and was stressed by the time press.
However, I liked the liveliness of the employees dressed in suits moving around in an intelligence building. That was also the scene of overseas employment that I had dreamed of. I vaguely believed that I would eventually return. Some of the office clothes I bought at the end of 2019 were never worn.
I am part of an evacuation team in my office.
Sweden generally does not have an earthquake, but in the event of a fire, we are expected to quickly evacuate the personnel in the office.
What is the biggest challenge for us evacuation guides?
In the event of an emergency, how to rescue colleagues who are physically handicapped safely. For example, people with disabilities are more likely to be exposed to risk than usual.
For those who have some kind of inconvenience, not only evacuation in an emergency, but also the act of repeatedly going up and down the elevator and commuting by subway from a distance should require considerable labor and mental burden.
If they want it, they should be offered the opportunity to continue working from home as much as possible. We have been working from home for over a year and have proven that it is possible, nevertheless with some inconvenience.
Regarding the choice of the workplace, if one should think about it rationally, it might be an equation like this.
If working in the office achieves a higher work efficiency, higher satisfaction socially, and better health, one can consider returning to the office.
In the opposite case, one might want to continue working from home. I hear that some parts of the United States recommend working from home.
I walked for a while in the dazzling morning sun that morning, and the street scene was still 2019. People walking quickly in suits, blonde students chatting in a group, and children being drawn by a teacher in a large group.
Maybe, really maybe, the days like the good old days may come back as if nothing had happened.
With such expectations, I approached the pedestrian crossing.
I saw one woman approaching a man nearby.
"Excuse me, could you tell me how I get to the ICA supermarket from here?"
I say that the man who was asked for directions seemed to casually step back about a meter and a half, before replying.
That's right. Prompting you to return to the office with the email saying "Welcome back!" does not mean that you can go back to the good old days overnight. In the transitional period, there should be many issues to be solved.
The words of one boss came to my mind.
"It took much time and effort to get used to the transition from office to home in the spring of 2020. I think there will be a lot of difficulties in the transition from home to office. But eventually we should get used to it, because we humans have been acclimatizing to the new environment for hundreds of years. "
DAYS/ Maya Column
Stepping forward at Baltic
The road I walked again and again
With the lake glistening in the evening sunlight on my left, I set off for home.
As I walked more slowly than usual, passersby passed me from both sides. This is a country with many tall people. Their stride is wide.
I'm not eavesdropping, but since it's a narrow corridor, I can't help but hear a sliver of their conversation.
"How was your test?
"It was okay. It would be great to live in an apartment around here.
"Yes, it would. Yes, it would be a luxury to be able to sit on the terrace every night and enjoy the view.
The young men who were having this conversation behind me walked past me.
One of them had his pants down very low, they were probably young students.
Shortly after, a woman walked past me on the phone.
She said, "My presentation has gone on too long and I've been advised to stop again. The time limit is too short for my presentation.
This woman is completely absorbed in the world of herself and her cell phone. The outside world does not exist for her.
All conversations were about trivial topics related to school, housing, work, and life in general.
But I felt strange.
This time last year, the most frequent conversation I heard was, "I can't stand living like this anymore. I wish the pandemic would end soon.
In other words, it was a desperate sentiment. Since the beginning of this year, I haven't heard much about it.
Perhaps it is because human beings are animals that get used to things, perhaps they have given up, perhaps they feel that they will fall further if they speak out their despair, perhaps they believe that the pandemic will end soon, or perhaps they feel that it is futile to talk about it.
the day before yesterday, my friend, who I thought was very strong and stable mentally, finally revealed his weakness.
"I'm tired of walking the same path day after day.
My friend, like me, has not used any public transportation such as subways or buses since last March. Therefore, his range of activities has become quite limited.
Since I live on an island, I can walk from east to west, north to south, and south to north, and I can see the beautiful ocean and lake. For the past year, I have been walking in these directions repeatedly. Whichever path I choose, the colors of spring, summer, autumn, and winter are always on display.
In the spring, summer, and autumn, it is possible to go cycling, which means that you can extend your trip to the neighboring islands. In the spring, summer, and fall, it is possible to cycle to the next island, and when it is not raining or snowing, it is possible to cycle to the next island.
Nonetheless, it is undeniable that I also get tired of it a bit.
Just before the pandemic began to spread, I picked up a new hobby.
It was making videos.
Until then, whenever I encountered a beautiful landscape, I would casually take pictures with my cell phone camera and be satisfied to some extent.
These were not images to be enjoyed, but video recordings to remember where, when, and what I had done.
Winter in Sweden is long.
And the feast of lights decorating the windows of every home is dazzlingly beautiful.
The lights of the apartment buildings reflected in the water on the other side of the lake are very magical.
However, it was impossible for the cell phone camera to reproduce what I saw as it was. The main reason I decided to buy a camera was that I wanted to take pictures of night scenes.
However, I could not have imagined at the time of purchase that this decision would alleviate the agony that would follow the following year.
When you buy a camera, you want a tripod.
When you buy a tripod, you want a bigger tripod.
When you buy a gimbal, you also want a video camera with a built-in gimbal...
You buy editing software, and the number of equipment, photos, and videos grows rapidly.
But my photography skills have not improved at all.
As for the videos, I have been criticized by my acquaintances as "just beautiful and uninteresting.
But it's not a video to make you laugh.
We were making greeting videos of the situation here, or message videos for weddings and funerals that we could not attend, mainly for acquaintances that we could not meet under the current circumstances.
We also made promotional videos for acquaintances whose businesses had slumped due to the pandemic.
One of them was a promotional video for a good friend's sushi restaurant.
I don't know if they managed to obtain more customers, but it was very worthwhile because it involved the musicians and Sakura.
I'm glad you took such beautiful pictures of the sushi," said the owner, my friend's husband, with a smile in his eyes.
The owner of the restaurant was a Japanese man who did not usually show much emotion.
Due to health reasons, he had not been in the restaurant for several months.
He is a man who had an interesting experience as a hippie in the 1970s, running street stalls in various countries before drifting to Sweden and setting up his own sushi restaurant.
After the promotional video, I had asked him if I could interview him about his history.
the video interview never came to fruition because a week later, he was taken to the hospital as an emergency patient and could not return home or to the sushi restaurant.
The promotional video, which was completed in time, took a lot of time and effort, and I was exhausted.
However, it was worthwhile and meaningful if it was able to shed some light on the last week of a Japanese man's life who struggled for 50 years in Europe.
If the completion had been delayed by a week and the promotional video had never been seen by him, I would still have felt regret.
It was this little hobby that added color to the path I walked over and over again, without ever getting bored.
And this little hobby was able to unexpectedly make someone smile, even if it was only for a moment and only for one person.
For various reasons, I will not be able to return to Japan for the time being.
This means that I will have to continue walking the same path I have walked many times before, and many more times to come.
I don't know if it's because of the pandemic or not, but what I find most precious right now is not so much the great successes in life, but the fact that I can make someone else happy through my small actions.
Furthermore, if I may wish, I would like to continue walking in good health tomorrow and the day after.
DAYS/ Maya Column
Stepping forward at Baltic
Midsummer in Scandinavia Where Do the Cicadas Voice Come From?
Even under these circumstances, the Midsummer Solstice comes to Scandinavia.
The Swedes around me are in high spirits.
One of the reasons why I returned to Japan every June was that it gave me a good reason to avoid participating in the Midsummer Festival.
Travel brochures about Scandinavia often include stereotypical images of the Midsummer Festival.
Perhaps because of this, the image that most people have in mind when they hear the word "Midsummer Festival" is as follows.
In the Dalarna region, where the traditional red houses are characteristic of the region, young and old blond men and women, dressed in their local traditional costumes, hold hands and dance happily around the maypole, singing the Midsummer's Day song, around the Sirian Lake.
Two wreaths of flowers in the shape of testicles were hanging at the top of the maypole.
There should not be any problem with that, should it?
After putting the children to bed, the adults drink until late into the night, or until the next day, red-eyed and talking redundantly about bizarre things in a slurred speech.
Here, there is no competition in their careers, no nobility of profession, everyone is equal, half asleep, discussing trivial matters.
People talk about stocks, politics, sports, horse riding, cars, plumbing, and the latest news of mutual acquaintances who are not participating.
In addition, there can be scenes here where a man and a woman, whether they know each other or not, disappear into the depths of the forest or towards a lake.
In fact, I once witnessed such.
The man was an accomplished juristic person, tall and dark-haired, giving off an aura of elite status just by being there.
The woman, blond and blue-eyed, was hailed by many as a beautiful woman.
The Swedes rarely comment on others' appearances, so this assessment of her left a lasting impression on me.
They discreetly disappeared hand in hand into the woods, deep into the Scandinavian forest where the sun did not set until late, and further into the lake.
They were both engaged, and about to get married, each to a different partner.
Apparently in Sweden, almost 30% of all children are born almost nine months after the Midsummer Festival.
It was well past midnight and there was no sign of the festival coming to a close, so I went into the hut I had been assigned to sleep in and laid out my sleeping bag.
The hard wooden floor didn't bother me too much, but it took me a while to get used to the melancholy aroma of the borrowed sleeping bag, as I am overly sensitive to smells.
What bothered me even more was the fact that I had to lie in the shape of a river with two other people in the small hut, and for some reason, I had to sleep in the middle of them.
They had once been lovers.
Even though I couldn't grasp the situation, I tried to get some sleep and waited for morning to come.
When I couldn't speak much Swedish, I wasn't used to talking with Swedes, and I couldn't hold a conversation for long.
How did I pass the time when I couldn't carry on a conversation?
I made up for it by drinking beer and pretending to enjoy the conversation.
There is a small room that I feel compelled to visit when I drink too much beer.
On this occasion, however, I was forced to endure it for the rest of the night.
No matter how bright it was outside, I could not dare to go to a remote cottage in the forest (a toilet that is furnished with a fertilizer refinery) alone in the middle of the night.
I tried to wake up the people who were sleeping next to me and ask them to escort me, but they were snoring and sound deep asleep.
I'm sure their blood alcohol levels were not half bad.
Gazing into the depths of the forest at night, I often have the illusion that a man wearing an ice hockey mask is about to appear.
Recently, I heard that a horror movie set in Sweden's "Midsummer" has come out.
If we don't break the habit of associating similar landscapes with horror movies as soon as they come into view, it will be difficult to live in nature.
The next morning dawned before the darkness of the night had time to completely cover the forest.
I went to breakfast in a daze, hungover and sleep deprived.
'Good morning, how are you? '
The Swedes greeted me with a well-rested face and refreshing greetings.
It is said that northern Europeans and Japanese have different amounts of ALDH2 (aldehyde dehydrogenase), which breaks down alcohol, on average.
The difference in the degree of resurrection is quite remarkable.
'Good morning, I feel great, except for the severe vomiting feeling.'
I barely managed a smile, and responded briskly.
In the daytime, when I open the door of the cottage in the forest (the toilet for the fertilizer refinery as stated above), I am reminded of the long history of this forest.
When I opened the door of the wooden toilet, I found several calendars with almost naked actresses on the back of it.
All the calendars were faded and the studs were missing in some places.
All of the calendars were from the 1960s.
I wondered who had put them up, and what their families had said about them.
The only sound around the cottage was the decadent chirping of cicadas.
Time had stopped there since the 1960s.
In other words, the history of this family had been engraved in this forest for a long time.
Not that they are exclusive, but this history belongs only to them.
Similarly, the Midsummer Festival is a traditional Swedish event, and it is as important to the Swedes as the New Year's Eve event is to the Japanese.
Companies are closed and stores are closed.
Although I was invited to the Midsummer celebration, and danced around the testicle wreath in imitation of others, I don't have the same genuine feelings about Midsummer as the Swedes do.
This makes my participation in the Midsummer Festival seem heavy and hypocritical.
Unfortunately, this year as well as last year, I can't use the excuse "I'm not in Sweden, so I can't participate" as a reason for refusing to participate in the Midsummer Festival.
However, since the Midsummer Festival was cancelled due to the pandemic, there was no need for me to attend anyway.
Now that the Midsummer celebrations have been cancelled, I can't deny that I feel a sense of desolation, even though I had avoided this event for so long.
This is because Midsummer is a uniquely important traditional event for Swedes, and I think that we should respect the traditions of other peoples as much as possible, even if we do not feel the same way about them.
DAYS/ Maya Column
Stepping forward at Baltic
From the Japan sea to the Baltic sea
When I hear seagulls on the balcony, I know that it's time to get up.
There are no seagulls in sight.
Half-asleep, I head for the living/dining room where the coffee dripper is.
The building across from my window is illuminated by the morning sun, and they have changed their outfit since last night.
It's going to be a bright day, I thought, feeling uplifted.
For those of us who live in Scandinavia, the short moments of sunshine are bliss.
I open the window of my living room and lean out a little, and through the buildings I can see a stretch of the coastline bathed in the morning sun.
People walking their dogs or running along the beach appear from the right side, disappear to the left, back and forth.
Three years ago, I moved to my current apartment.
It was to start a second life.
This is a new residential area known as the 'Riviera of Stockholm'.
Stylish restaurants stand in front of the beach which is also famous for its design.
In the summer, it turns into a trendy district where swimmers from all over the city gather to compete for physical beauty.
I hand over the beach to them in the summer, but in the spring, fall, and winter, the beach ought to be returned to us who live in this area.
It would have been possible to buy a condominium overlooking the entire coast instead of just a section of it, if I had increased the amount of my mortgage loan or bought a much smaller condominium, but I decided not to do so this time.
Because buying a condominium that overlooks the entire ocean would be the ultimate ideal in my life.
My life is still in the midst of its aspirations.
I am not aware of what my aspiration really is, but I have my own jinx without any reason that when I find it, I will be qualified to buy a condominium overlooking the whole ocean.
My father was born and raised in a seaside town by the Japan sea, where dusk turns the whole town red.
at the time when neither seaside estate nor mountain estate were so expensive, my father chose to buy a mountain villa estate.
My father, who was an engineer, took a leave of absence from his job and spent a year alone in the mountain to build a log house without using a single nail, which had been his dream for a long time.
After it was completed, we had to frequently drive up to the log house in the middle of the night, via the dense fog of the Usui Bypass with cold sweat running down our spines.In my youth, I may have spent more time wearing mountaineering knickers than swimsuits and dresses.
The more my father nurtured his longing for the mountains, the more I longed for the sea.
A few years after my father's death, my mother called me and said, "I went through his working room. You know what I found? I waited for her next words."I found model ships, many of them. Your father might have longed to go back to the sea. Actually,Born and raised in a seaside town by the Japan sea, my father was never tired of the sea.On the contrary, he must have loved the sea.However, he could not give up his passion for the mountains, so he stayed away from the sea a bit too long.
Twenty years have passed since I put down roots in this seaside town.
This country used to be called a good model of a social welfare state with the symbolic phrase "from cradle to grave".
However, this northern country has not always been warmly welcoming to foreigners who do not understand its language and culture.
I don't have any conflicts with this country, but there have been times when I cried in places where no one could see me.
Some of my friends returned home because they could not get used to this country.
However, every morning when I open the window, feel the warm sun on my cheeks, and look out over the beach with a cup of coffee in my hand, I am reminded of something.
"This is what happiness is all about.
I try to find something that makes me feel lucky, even things that might be trivial to others.
"I didn't get a migraine today.
"My family is healthy today.
"The sunlight from the balcony reminds me of a painting I used to love.
"The orchid that I thought was dead is in full bloom this year.
"Today's rice cooked crystal clear.
"Suddenly I remembered the name of a song I couldn't remember.
"My friend, who I thought disliked me, contacted me.
"I finally finished writing a Christmas card.
"A stranger helped me when I was stranded in the deep snow.
"A randomly chosen restaurant turned out to be more delicious than I expected.
"I found a well-stocked Asian grocery store.
And so on.
Infact, when I made a list like this, I found that I was surrounded by much fortune.
Each of these little boxes of happiness that I have collected and preserved is what I call happiness.
Before my father died, he asked my daughters and me, "I wonder if you are ever going to come back to Japan.
I have always tried to fulfill most of my family's wishes, but this was the one thing I could not do.
In the morning, the color of the sea from the window was greenish for some reason.
Then, from noon to evening, the surface of the water gradually turns to the color of the sky.
The name of this place is 'beach', but the name of the water is Lake Mälaren.
But this water passes through a sluice near the old town and connects to the Baltic Sea.
And all oceans are eventually connected somewhere in the world.
This morning, I went down to the beach before ten o'clock.
In Japan, it would have been just before nineteen o'clock, the time when the sky would have turned red.
I offered cherry blossoms and sake to the shore, and spoke to the sea solemnly,
"I couldn't make it back home this year either for some reason,
but I'm living happily on the other side of the ocean in a nearby town, so don't worry.