Teresa Driving in Japan

I don’t do well with options. Go on a diet? I just can’t. Even if it’s a diet where you’re allowed lots of choices. I can’t. Do the Master Cleanse (the no food for a week or more and drink only maple syrup lemonade/morning salt flush cleanse)? Yes, I can! The choice is, to eat or not eat. Yes, I can do it. I’ve always been an all or nothing type.

I’d have access to a car the first month here in Fujino. So when it came to driving, I knew that like the Japanese language, it would be the opposite of what I’m used to. I could live with that. Little did I know that the cute little blue van is also manual drive. Ok, sit on the right side, drive in the left lane, shift gears with my left hand, turn signals with my right hand. Oh my God, can I? The saving grace, the pedals are the same. Something I know.

All alone the day after my hosts left and I woke up with the birds at 4am, I decided to meet the little blue van. I had my coffee, ate breakfast and went outside before anyone else would be out. Up in the mountains by the farmhouse, the roads are windy and narrow but cars are few. At 7am the choice was do it or not, a more better time than any other. I opened the door, sat down, adjusted the seat/mirrors and then found the seat belt didn’t work. Meh, already here so no excuses. Ignition turned, reversed, clutch, shift to 1, gas, release clutch, gas, clutch, shift to 2, gas, release clutch, gas and go. Everything went just fine. I took my time, although I’d automatically reach with my right hand and hit the door instead. Ouch, you’d think I’d learn faster from discomfort but like they say in dog training, positive reinforcements will work better than negative ones. I’ll work for food and that’s the main purpose for using the van in the first place, going to the market and getting provisions. I kept that thought in the back of my head while trying to remember to breathe.

I drove a little ways and thought about going all the way to the main road but remembered I’d left without my license. No license and no working seat belt, better to go back. I’m sensible.

The next day Bryan was taking the train to the airport. We drove to the station and parked in the lot. I went with him into Tokyo but on the return was given the choice, drive his van back (again manual transmission) or take a taxi. Two options, black or white, now or never. I had practiced already so my answer, yes, I’ll drive the 15+ minutes back. Just do it. Why wait? That day was good day to do that drive or anything else I wanted to do but could put off for whatever reason. Just do it. Only I hold myself back and why would I wanna do that? Do it. Get in gear and go.

first trip/fasten seal belt sign-right seated steering-grip on the wheel and no one on the road
the van I drove back from the station-the steep incline to Bryan’s house

Driving is daunting no more. Well, until I get to a highway and that’ll be another story.