So I noticed today that I've started walking stupider. I thought this as I shuffled my way to my car after work, with my hiking shoes only half on, and yes, Dagmar and Dave I am sad to say, partially pigeon-toed. Suddenly, it occurred to me: I'm walking like a moron! I'd never be caught dead walking to my car like this in Canada! But alas, living in Japan for too long can affect much more than your language (I like dog!) and your gestures (who, outside of Japan points to their nose when saying I, me, or mine??)
There are a few reasons for this, I think... This being walking stupid, I mean.
1. Is It Genetic, Or (No, It Can't Be!) Ridiculous Fashion??
This was the question that consumed us while the three Ds visited us in April. We would walk through malls, staring at all the pencil-thin women shuffling around -pigeon-toed- in their high, pointed heels, and we would stop to ponder... could it possibly be genetic? Dave actually voiced this question one day after countless hours of observation. I think he even had it down to a tendency for one leg to be more pigeon-toed/knock-kneed than the other. I don't know. I just keep waiting for them to trip over themselves while walking. Sometimes I'm transfixed on feet, especially when the feet are running. It's like I'm waiting for something horrible to happen... for that right toe to suddenly get jammed behind the left heel, and then *!?BAM!**! A crumpled mess of anorexic glory. Witness the following photo as proof: not sure which side of the argument this proves, though...
Yes, those are actual mannequins at the mall, slightly knock-kneed!
2. The Japanese Phenomenon of Indoor Shoes vs. Outdoor Shoes
In Japan, you are constantly putting shoes on just to take them off again. When I go to school, I put on my shoes. Then, as soon as I enter the genkan, or entrance, I take my shoes off, step up a little step, place them into my labeled shoe locker, and replace them with my indoor shoes. The funny thing is, indoor doesn't necessarily mean indoor. For example, if there is a school assembly, we all walk outside to the gym wearing our indoor shoes. That's ok. Wearing my indoor shoes out while playing dodgeball would NOT be ok.
In addition, there are many areas where you are to wear NO shoes. For example, some restaurants have raised tatami flooring. Here, once again, you take off your shoes, step up a little step, and place them in lockers. Also, in carpeted rooms in my school, we are required to take off our indoor shoes and leave them in a neat line in the hall. And I won't even get started on the toilet slippers...
Needless to say, all the putting on and taking off of shoes can get tiresome. So sometimes on my way to the car I elect to shuffle. You would too. I know you would.
3. The Fuzzy Slipper Syndrome
OK, this doesn't really relate to my stupid walking, but I just have to put it in. You would think that a person would put much thought into the fashion of their indoor shoes in Japan, seeing as they spend so much time in them at work. On the contrary, in this one lowly case, fashion means absolutely nothing. In this case, comfort wins the day. It is perfectly acceptable for teachers in Japan to wear a short skirt with nylons and... white running shoes. Well, female teachers. This isn't Thailand. Yes, everyday I am surrounded by teachers in skirts, slacks, and white runners. I have not succumbed to this aspect of Japanese culture. I just can't. I've always taken issue with my short, stubby, muscular legs, and the thought of me in a short skirt and runners is, well, HIDEOUS. However, I've gotten used to seeing all my colleagues in their comfortable footwear. But nothing prepared me for what I saw last March at graduation...
Graduation is THE ceremony of the year. Japan is all about tradition and ceremonies, and this is IT. Last year, we spent countless hours (yes, I exaggerate, but you never mention it when Jeff does it) practicing BOWING. Yes, bowing. Ich (go down), ni (hold position), san (come up for air). Ya, that's 1-2-3 in Japanese. So you can imagine the type of dress that went along with the occasion. Black. Lots of black. Very formal wear with a smattering of gorgeous kimonos. We were all dressed in our finest. And the mothers were too. (Graduation is held during the day in the middle of the week, so the working dads don't come). Of course, as the mothers entered the gymnasium, they had to remove their outdoor shoes and replace them with their indoor shoes. I was horrified at what I witnessed next. Out came the fuzzy slippers. Big, cushy, fuzzy slippers. In various shades of pink, purple, orange... any colour was fine, really. And not just that! Character slippers. Winnie the Pooh (referred to affectionately as Pooh-san in Japan), Mickey Mouse, Kitty-chan. I sat there imagining the mothers' inner dialogues of that morning: "Oh, should I wear the fuzzy pink ones or the Miffy ones?"
So there you have it. The shoe situation of Japan. I will try to remain strong. I promise you. I will try to refrain from shuffling and pigeon-toeing, and I do solemnly swear NOT to wear my fuzzy slippers in any area outside of our apartment. We're done in March. I think I can make it.
By the way, if you've wondered why my wit has been so long in coming, it's because I have a Japanese Language Proficiency Test, of a level slightly out of my grasp, on December 4th. It's hard to get witty inspiration when you're spending every waking moment memorizing the following: 動物、旅館、食料品。 I think you understand.