I live between two cities and among the Japanese elderly. Wherever I look, I see older people taking a walk with their equally-old dogs. The neighborhood is embellished with unconvincing posters that say, “No lonely death in this neighborhood!”
It is one of the typical neighborhoods in Kobe. If you yearn for bustling streets and the sight of the youth, you might find this place incredibly boring. But not me. This is a perfect neighborhood in which I thrive like a succulent.
Life is slow here. I don’t come across busy people like those around downtown. Nobody acts like they are doing super important things. Some might even say we have a silent agreement: “Busyness is strictly prohibited!”
A lovely old lady greets me on the street every morning, “Ohayo gozaimasu!” to which I clumsily reply each time. She doesn’t know who I am, nor do I know who she is. And that doesn’t bother anyone. Remember, we have a silent agreement: “You can be whoever you want here!”
I have two old male neighbors who are polar opposites. The one living next door hates cats. He even stops us from feeding stray cats in our garden. And the other one adores cats. He has a dozen cats that he even walks like a dog! Again, the silent agreement is evident here: “Live and let live!”
Another old lady that lives in front of our house has never talked to me. Because I am shy, it’s hard for me to initiate a conversation with her. She stares at me and sizes me up every time I pass by, but I like her. She’s the epitome of a retired police officer or an army member. Keep in mind, “Planning to stir up trouble? Not on her watch!”
We have the most beautiful cherry blossom trees in Kobe. They bloom and wither earlier than other cherry blossoms, and I enjoy watching them every day to see the process. You still don’t know our agreement? “Good things are short-lived!”
Here’s what our neighborhood cherry blossoms look like this year:
Coexisting with the elderly teaches one invaluable lessons. You learn not to take your health for granted from a young age. I have been into yin yoga and meditation to age as robust as some neighbors here. Looking out the window, I almost hear my neighbor’s chat: “Don’t bank on fleeting things like your youth!”
Walking along the stream that divides our neighborhood, I reach the sea in five minutes: just like in my childhood neighborhood in Turkey. I spend most of my time walking this route next to the sea, only to discover new things every time. And my poetic neighborhood reminds me of a Marcel Proust quote: “The real voyage of discovery consists, not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”
Thanks to this neighborhood, I wake up in the same house every day but not to the same day.
Do you like your neighborhood? How are your neighbors?
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