Posted by: mariabro | January 10, 2012

Adversity, Character and the Lost Backpack

For many people living abroad, Christmas is a time for travel, a time to pack up and head back to our home countries, to visit friends and family. We’ve done this annual trek since we moved to Japan six years ago.  We don’t travel lightly as a rule.  Last Christmas we topped out at 3 luggage carts, 3 ski bags, 3 kids, 1 grandmother and 1 walker.

So, this year when we arrived at Canadian customs after a long flight and a very long walk from the plane, I was not fazed when my son realized he had left his backpack on the plane.  No problem, I thought, I’ll just tell the ground agent and we’ll have it back in no time.    I should have realized when the staff at the lost and found office did not offer to rush back to the plane to retrieve it that it would be a longer process than I had hoped.  But in my living-in-Japan-induced, trusting, haze I still held hope that we would get the backpack back.

I filed a report with the airline.  Flight AC2 from Narita, seat 3K. How could they not find it?  I called the next day and was told they hadn’t seen anything and to call back later.  I called back later and left a message.

After two weeks of no news, I began to wonder if I would ever see the backpack again.  My friends grew tired of hearing my “If this had happened in Tokyo…” story.   My Japan-induced trust started to wear off. Perhaps the backpack was not going to be returned?  Perhaps not everyone shares the standards of service that I’ve grown accustomed to living in Japan?

Every year when I return to my home and native land, I appreciate the true north strong and free but there are parts of Japanese culture that are undeniably unique.  I know my son’s backpack would have been in our hands before we left the airport or delivered by Takkyubin to us the next day.  Unfortunately, we never got the backpack back, despite my combing through the lost and found office personally, just before departing for Tokyo.  Perhaps, one of the groomers on the aircraft had found it just before Christmas and was able to give his child a present he could not have otherwise afforded.  That’s what we hope had happened.

Many people asked me this Christmas  what it has been like to live in Japan this past year.  I tell them that I’ve seen the Japanese people at their best.  Adversity tends to bring out the true character of a person or a nation.  The Japanese people have proven their character through their response to the 3/11 disasters.  From the smallest inconvenience, such as a lost backpack, to the unprecedented tragedy of the earthquake and tsunami they handle it all with respect and dignity.

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