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Sunday, June 01, 2003

Skimming the Surface

There's something about Tokyo that lulls you in. And, when you wake up, it's 10 years later. Or seven years in my case. You can live three lifetimes in those 10 years...or seven.

What is it that keeps people there? There is a sense of freedom. You are not Japanese. You live by certain rules, which apply only to foreigners...Gaijin rules. And these rules change. You push the envelope. You see how much you can get away with. Some people crash and burn. I know a guy who took too many drugs and tried to saw off his own foot. But that's an extreme case. You skim along the surface of society moving at a million miles an hour.

Morality gets all messed up. You don't know what's right and what's wrong. It's hedonistic...not for the Japanese...they live by their rules...but that's not right: they are hedonistic as well. I lost my sanity in Tokyo...we all did. You never wanted it to end. I expected it to end when I left. And, when I returned, there it was again...all of the insanity. We had become lost. We were the lost Americans still searching for the American Dream, whatever that is.

Tokyo is like another planet. It's familiar, but not. Strange things, strange people, a Starbucks on every corner.

If reinvention means getting a second chance, then Tokyo is the reinvention capital of the world. One day you're an English teacher, the next year, you're the president of a Bank.

If you can have, do or be anything you choose, you can get bogged down in a quagmire of choices. In a way, unlimited freedom is an impossibility. As soon as you start to make choices, you limit your possibilities. Unlimited freedom is a philosophical abstract. No one is telling you what to do. There is no family, no friends, no God. You make your own choices. You take 100% responsibility for those choices. No one is there to tell you what's right and what's wrong. There is only you. There is only you.