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17
Sep

Out for Battle

It was1:38pm on the Sunday of a holiday weekend and I was writing a paper for a class on modern Japanese politics. The beat of a drum and the sound of voices broke what little concentration I had managed.

It was a cool afternoon, another cloudy day in the late Japanese summer, and beyond a bordering building, the source of the commotion was revealed: a local festival. Like the Kichijoji omatsuri I had seen a week ago or so, there was a crowd, albeit much smaller, encircling a traditional drum and an omikoshi, portable shrine.

It should be noted that near my parents’ home in New Jersey it is odd to see roving festivals. Even my apartment in North Philadelphia has yet to yield a spotting of Americans dressed in Revolutionary War clothing swaggering passed.

I had woken that morning wondering if it would be a mistake to do nothing but schoolwork as I sat on a different continent with a time-sensitive visa. There an experience had walked up to my door and stopped for a water break.

I suppose it invigorated after the group had left. I had heard that the 2006 Nippon Craftbeer Festival was ongoing in Azumi-bashi. It would cost 2,800 yen ($24 U.S.) for an entry that included ten samples of local Japanese microbrewers, which interested me (Buy local, damn it!).

As I started my walk towards the train station it was well passed two pm. An hour worth of travel would put me, assuming I didn’t get lost, through the gates at 3:30pm; the festival concluded at five pm. I thought it would be a waste and decided not to go.

Generally, when I am given any opportunity to do something unique and I back out, I am overcome with a sense of self-revulsion. Overcome. As I took a seat again in my apartment, it began to rain outside and, if only briefly, my decision felt validated.

I tend to think this is the most difficult aspect of travel. Perhaps, it is the most difficult aspect of life. You will do things, we all do. But, it is tougher to choose what not to do. People have said it before; I would rather regret something I did than something I didn’t do.

When you are traveling, timelines are squeezed, itineraries are jam-packed, energy is high. When the travel is extended over months, I am prone to believing you need to find time to look around you. You cannot do it all. Well, let me speak for me, perhaps I am not capable of doing it all. Despite my wishes of the contrary, I cannot maintain maximum experience-pursuing output every waking moment. So, I try to find something worthwhile for my moments of inaction, like this, writing my thoughts and cleaning my mind.

Am I wrong? I am horrified that it is very likely that I am.

I didn’t go to a Japanese beer festival today, which was liable to be a pretty fun event. Instead, I sat here and wrote about it, finished a school paper and planned another trip. Is this picking my battles or taking the easy path? And why am I so terrified that I am being lazy, and weak, and wasteful with this remarkable opportunity, pissing away a few more hours of a particularly thrilling portion of my valuable life?

I did not go out to fight today. I prepared for another day, a day without rain, a day with some planning. I worked towards my goal of getting good grades and having a great trip, and I tried to let someone learn or connect with my thoughts on the matter. Still, I can’t quite read the scorecard to decide who won, who lost and who’s to blame.

Jaa,
Christopher

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