The other day I was at the doctor’s and had to get some medicine from the pharmacy around the corner.
I had filled in the required form in Japanese (what I could) and told the pharmacist that my kanji wasn’t so great, so he’d have to do the rest.
He did and actually read the rest of the form to me asking me whether I was pregnant (no!), was there a chance (no!) and was I allergic to any medicines.
Despite me telling him my Japanese isn’t great, he kept saying it was and struck up a conversation with me about how long I’d been in Japan.
I told him I’d been in Hiroshima for four years and that nearly 13 years ago I’d lived in Tokyo for a year
That’s when he came out and said (and obviously, I’m translating here!), “Wow, you lived in Tokyo and now you’re in Hiroshima?! Hiroshima is countryside! It must be really different from Tokyo and not so exciting!”
Actually, he said boring rather than, “not so exciting,” but I tried to soften his meaning.
Anyway, I agreed that although it’s smaller and yes, it’s different, Hiroshima is nice and if we’re going to talk countryside, than Shimane Prefecture to the north is far, far more rural than Hiroshima!
This was all done in Japanese and when I finished saying that, both he and his assistant burst into laughter. I was chuffed that I’d managed to use Japanese and have people laughing at a joke I’d make, rather than laughing at my actual Japanese.
I said thank you for my medicine and walked out, still chuckling to myself.
Then I started to think.
Yes, Hiroshima is regional. By some standards, I guess it is rural.
I’m from Gladstone, Queensland in Australia, which has a population of about 30,000 people. By Japanese standards, that’s countryside or inaka (田舎). Hiroshima, with it’s approximately 1.1 million people is a good-sized city according to my standards, but for Japan, it’s tiny. To those who live in Tokyo and for those who live in Hiroshima and have never lived in a big city like Tokyo, I guess it is inaka.
I know what he was saying though. I understand. Or should I say, I understand now. I’ve lived in both.
And I guess, in a way, after living in Hiroshima these past three, nearly four years… Hiroshima is kind of like Gladstone:
- everyone knows everyone (and sometimes that’s not a good thing, especially when it comes to your business, hence why I pretty much took myself off the radar)
- not diverse as far as population;
- expensive and far away from the Big Smoke when it comes to wanting to travel to many places;
- in many ways, inconvenient (see above point);
- good for families but not so great for singles or people wanting to meet more actual people and not have to rely on bars of Tinder (yes, that’s a point for a friend of mine);
- and finally, it doesn’t have the culture, art and fashion I so desperately crave.
That last point really hits home. I didn’t realise how much I’ve missed having access to those things. I mean I know in my hometown I was out of there as soon as the holidays came and I detested the place with every fibre of my being. I like Hiroshima, I really do. It’s the one place I’ve lived longer than anywhere else for a very, very, very long time. That says something. But I also know in myself that I’ve been feeling stale and flat for two years.
Visiting Tokyo again has been like a breath of fresh air, but it’s also re-awoken the fire within; and the need and desire to challenge and expand myself and yet at the same time, to lose myself in the anonymity again.
In that way, yes, Hiroshima is the countryside.