A Nebulous Feeling in Japan Culminating with a Japanese Apology

As I have said before, Japanese do things differently than the rest of the world. At times, you really have trouble figuring out what is actually going on. This is a story took place mostly in Japan and is about something that took several months to unfold that kept me baffled for a long time until the very end. Hopefully, it will help you understand Japan a little better. It began in two ways. For me, it began with my next door neighbor in the Japanese boarding house inviting me and our Vietnamese friend to her home. We made a time to meet at the train station, and we were going to see her house in the countryside. It sounded like fun. It also began with my American professor’s mother being on her death bed in America. He was my Cross Cultural Communications professor. He had to get on the next plane out of Japan and rush to his mother’s bedside. The president of the university had to substitute teach in his Cross Cultural Communications class while he was gone.

Our boarding house was very old and very traditional looking.

The Vietnamese girl, my Japanese next door neighbor in the boarding house, and I made our appointed time to meet at the train station to go to the country. I went to my Cross Cultural Communications class where I found the president of the university teaching instead of the American professor. After class, the president called all the American students together and told us he had planned an outing for us. The Japanese students weren’t invited, but the Americans and the Vietnamese girl were. He was going to take us to Mito, another city, in a van to see a Japanese history museum. It sounded like fun to me! I wanted to go. However, as he explained, I realized there was a snag. He had made the plan to go exactly when the Vietnamese girl and I were to go with my Japanese neighbor to her house in the country. We had previous plans. The Vietnamese girl and I told him we had previous plans, but he wouldn’t change the time, so we both told him we couldn’t go. It had nothing to do with the class. It was just an interesting social/cultural outing. I really regretted that I couldn’t go because it sounded like a lot of fun.

The Japanese president was substituting in the American professor’s class.

The day came to go to the Japanese girl’s house. I was supposed to meet the Japanese girl and the Vietnamese girl at the station at a given time after class. On my way there, I ran into my Japanese teacher. She was the wife of the president of the university. She stopped and said, “I thought you were supposed to go to Mito today with the other students and my husband.” I told her that I had already talked to her husband, and regrettably, I had other plans. I went on to the train station.

When I arrived at the train station, the other girls didn’t show up, and I didn’t know why.
We all had tatami rooms and futons in the boarding house. There was no furniture in our rooms. I spent all day alone studying in my room and got lonely on top of being confused and sad because my friend was crying and wouldn’t talk to me.

When I arrived at the train station, neither girl was there. I thought they were late, so I waited and waited and waited. Neither one of them showed up, so I ended up leaving and going back to my boarding house thinking it was too bad I didn’t go to Mito with the group because it would have been fun, and I was sad the other girls didn’t show up because that would have been fun too. On the way back to the boarding house, I ran into my Japanese neighbor. She was crying. I tried to talk to her. She wouldn’t get anywhere near me. She wouldn’t even talk to me. She insisted I stay on the other side of the road. She said she would never talk to me again. I was hurt and baffled! I hadn’t done anything bad to her, and I didn’t even know why she was crying. Something had happened, but I didn’t know what it was. I felt like I was in the twilight zone, like a mafia was working somewhere pulling strings in the background, but I didn’t know who it was or what had happened. I went back to the boarding house and spent the rest of the day alone studying. It was lonely without the other foreign students there and without my Japanese neighbor wanting to talk to me. The Vietnamese girl told me when she got back to the boarding house that she had given in and gone to Mito to the museum with the group.

I always got up early in the morning and ran down to the beach, spent some time on the beach, and then ran back to the boarding house before I left for class.

Not long after, I was doing what I always did. I always got up early in the mornings before class and ran to the beach for my health. The Vietnamese girl had begun running with me. On that particular morning, I had a new pair of flip flops or as some call them thongs. You know what I am taking about because they are very common rubber sandals used in all hot climates around the world. I didn’t normally wear flip flops because they have a piece that goes between the big toe and the second toe, and they bother me, but on that morning, I chose to wear them. I accidentally rubbed a couple of huge blisters between my toes on both feet. It was excruciating to try to walk on my feet with those blisters! I needed to soak my feet and not walk on them to get the blisters to heal. I didn’t want to aggravate them more, and it downright hurt to walk. I had definitely made a mistake. I had a major problem because I went everywhere on foot, but it was too painful to walk at all. I ended up missing a Cross Cultural Communications class because it was just too painful to walk, but the weekend came, and after a few days, I had no more problems and went back to class the next week.

The kind of flip flops that put blisters between my toes

The next week, the American professor had come back from America. He wanted to talk to me after class. He said the Japanese president of the university was demanding an apology from me. I couldn’t imagine what for. He said that I had shunned his class because I was mad at him, but I didn’t know what I had to be mad at him about, and I had actually hurt my feet. The American professor explained that the president of the university had forced the Vietnamese girl to go to Mito with the other students and had screamed at the Japanese girl threatening her to never come near me again. He just knew I was angry, and he thought that was why I hadn’t come to his class. I told the American professor that I didn’t know anything about what the Japanese president of the university had been doing, so how could I be angry with him? The American professor said I should go ahead and apologize to him out of respect, but I hadn’t done anything. It was the Japanese university president who had done something wrong, not me. I told the American professor that the Japanese professor had not acted in a way that called for respect, and I thought people should earn respect. I refused to apologize to him, and I told the American professor that my Japanese friend, my Vietnamese friend, and I were the ones who deserved an apology. I didn’t hear anything else about it for a long time after that.

I went back to America.

After I went back to the states, I was at the university when the Japanese students for the exchange program arrived. As usual, I greeted them. The students all wanted to meet me. They all knew about me. One of them came up and told me that the Japanese president of the university had really praised me and told all the students that I had a sterling character, and he was very impressed by me, and they should all get to know me. She said he also told her that if she wanted a room mate she could trust, she should ask me, so she asked me to be her room mate. I was surprised because I thought he didn’t like me at all, but it was an apology across the ocean from that Japanese university president, Japanese style.

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