anxiety & gyoza
February 18, 2024

I have lived most of my life stumbling in the darkness of anxiety. I have been afraid of so many things (so many people). I have not known what I cared about or what I wanted to do with my life. I half-assed my way through everything without any understanding of what was going on.

Today, I know what’s going on. Undoing sixty-plus years of mental training in fear and self-hatred isn’t easy, but that’s my daily project. It’s going pretty well. One important thing I have learned is how to help myself get past what might be self-imposed barriers so that I can do the things I want to do.

This is why I am spending what might seem to be an inordinate amount of time on Google Earth and Maps taking screenshots of things like bus stops and side streets. I’m unlikely to be fluent in Japanese by the time I get to Japan, so I need to make sure I can find my way to the places I want to go. I also know a lot of what I want to do and see – and eat – so I am trying to make sure I can just go there and do, see, eat.

Utsunomiya is known as Gyoza City, and I love gyoza. I also happen to be switching trains, and stations, there. So of course, I am going to eat gyoza. The simplest thing is to find a good spot near where I need to go to switch train stations.

Kouran Gyoza. Check and check.

Leaving Utsunomiya Station is easy, and I hope I can find out what the hell this statue is about. It doesn’t seem to be a gyoza statue.

I could walk to Tobu-Utsunomiya Station, to get my train to Kinugawa-onsen, but that’s a 25-minute walk. So I’ll take the bus and get off here:

And then I’ll double back to the intersection...

and cross the street and go up this street a short distance until I get to here:

Kouran Gyoza. Hopefully it won’t have too long a line. It’ll be Friday, but I have no idea what that means for this shop in terms of lines and waits. I suppose I’ll have a backup or two. There are hundreds of gyoza shops in Utsunomiya, so I shouldn’t have to look too far.

Then it’s a short walk to Tobu-Utsunomiya Station and my train to Kinugawa-onsen. As I’ve mentioned before, trains in Japan are privately owned and there are numerous private lines. Some share stations, as in Tokyo (a necessity) and some are more-or-less at the same terminus. In Utsunomiya, the JR and Tobu stations are a couple of kilometers apart. A nuisance for travelers, but there ya go.

Thankfully, most stations in Japan seem to have a lot of English and other languages. Plus, a little pre-trip prep makes it easier. Things like knowing the layout, having the time of your train, and having a Suica card to pay for the ticket, either the card itself or the app; I’ll be doing that. 

Now, no amount of pre-trip planning and image-searching will allay all anxieties. I’m pretty sure I’ll be nervous using the ticket kiosk, but all I need to do is find “Kinugawa-onsen” and select one adult traveler. Round-trip. Easy-peasy.

One of the “tricks” to improving mental health is to accept the presence of your fears, memories, etc – accept their presence but deny their reality. They are just things your mind constructed; they have no tangible reality. Treat them like clouds in the sky: the winds will blow them away soon enough. My worries about getting the right bus stop or buying the correct ticket are real enough, but they are also transient and contingent. I’ll have done enough to get myself some gyoza and on the right train, so my mental health task will be to let the fears drift away.