You know that feeling when you just need to get out of the city? The cars seem to be driving past your house rumblier each day. Shops feel like they have shrunk, and now four people occupy a space that you’re confident was filled with two people last week. The buildings grow taller, colder, and more bleak. And it all gets into your brain, making you crave an escape. Somewhere in the countryside. Surrounded by rice fields that are still waiting for the resident old folks to spend a day pushing shoots into the mud. A craving for silence spotted with the sounds of honeybees, mockingbirds, and the occasional frog on the banks of a river. Do you know that feeling?

It gets to me sometimes. The city gets to me. I find myself trapped in a maze of buildings and people and sounds. The first time I found myself living in the city, I was in wonder at the convenience of everything. I can walk down the street to the supermarket. Five dental clinics in a 1 kilometre radius. I can smell the curry shop down the road, and I can practically taste the garlic pork my neighbour is cooking for dinner. And the pizza places actually deliver to my apartment?! I’ve found heaven.

The novelty is not lost on me, even now. I appreciate the city, I really do. But there are times when I can’t stand it, and I need to get out. There aren’t enough trees in the city. The few trees that line the streets have often been mutilated so badly. Their branches are short stumpy nubs with wiry sticks poking out. They hardly resemble trees anymore. All to prevent them from tangling in the mess of power lines overhead. Which is more important – trees or electricity? The broken trees make me sad. I wonder if trees feel pain. They must be depressed, too.

Sure there are attempts to bring nature back into the cities. The nubby trees, for one. And the purple and white mystery flowers planted along the street. The Japanese “park” that is the size of a high school classroom. Park is a very generous word. It’s really just a field of dirt with a lonely, rusting jungle gym. I must be the only one who, ironically, plays on the jungle gym. It’s hard to imagine any parents bringing their children to these poor excuses for parks.

The city can be overwhelming. Jumping in and out of packed train cars and sidewalk dancing with people on the street takes its toll. It gets to you mentally, and you find yourself going outside as little as possible to avoid the stress of it all. It gets to you physically, and your heart rate has moments of rapid beating as you avoid interactions. It get’s to you emotionally, and you have more days when you feel sad and can’t explain why. When the city closes in on you and everything seems to grow with intensity, you know it’s time for a break.

When the city gets to be too much for me, I find myself needing to get out. To get back to nature, and breath in air that is not laced with exhaust fumes and mindless chatter. I don’t even need to do anything. I don’t need to hike or bike or do any kind of special activity. I just need to be. Just be present and feel life. The life that has been systematically destroyed to build wider roads and bigger parking lots. There must be something truly healing about nature, and you notice this when you feel your soul being sucked out of you by the city.

There are times when I just need to get out of the city. It’s a terribly complicated relationship. I love the city for what it provides, but I also hate it for what it does to you. It can drive you mad if you let it. With every glorious opportunity the city brings, it brings double the anxiety. There is no real compromise. All we can do is get away periodically. That’s why cities have parks and companies give vacation days. So we can escape the soul-sucking existence to which we bind ourselves.

I’m learning how important it is to take a break from the city and find everything its opposite. There are times when I just need to go into the mountains or sit beside a river or the ocean, and let my my mind relax. Feel the vibrations of the living earth – the dirt and the insects, and everything I don’t think about in my everyday life. I need to not hear the constant screeching of the train rolling down the track or feel the oppression of the lifeless concrete. I find myself needing to get away at times. When the city all becomes too much for my tender little heart. There are times when I need to get out of the city so I can shut off and turn on at the same time.

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This is Japan is a blog series on Stewie Overseas. I might write something about Japanese culture, a story about living in Japan, something random and funny/weird, or something about my blog. Check back on Fridays for a new story.

Author

Jennifer has lived in Japan for a total of seven years. She has travelled, taught English, studied Japanese, completed a Master's Degree, and travelled some more. She currently calls Nagoya her home, where she lives with her Japanese husband.

4 Comments

  1. Even in Amsterdam, which is a very small city, I feel the need to get out. There is nothing like being out amongst trees, seeing sky, and being able to breathe.

  2. We really need to find a better way to live. We need to learn to live in harmony with nature. I hope with time we can spread an understanding of that need, and slowly heal the damage we’ve done to the land, the air, and the water. As a species we are progressing faster then any other. I know we have a tendency to feel stuck in the way things are, but really we are only existing in a moment in time, and the winds of change are continually blowing. I believe we are at a nexus in time, and every choice each one of us makes effects the path we, as a species, will journey down. This was a beautiful and tragic piece, and I share your yearning to escape into nature!

    • I’m glad you understand the feeling. It’s sad the way we destroy the things we need to survive…

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