It’s Not Really a Small World, but We Can Make It Small

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Here in Japan, it’s often said that spring is the season we meet new friends and say goodbye to old ones, since most of the schools starts a year from April and ends in March, and many people experience changes in spring. However, as we grow up and we gain more controls of our lives and decision makings, moving and saying goodbye can happen whenever throughout a year.

Job, marriage, starting something new, or going away to relax… for many and various kinds of reasons, sometimes we have to leave someone you love and move to somewhere far from them.

Even though we always think it would be nice if we could always stay with someone you care about – family, friends, loved ones – since we all live our own lives after all, you cannot spend all the time together with them, and sometimes, you even have to live away from each other.

We often say “it’s a small world”, and I agree with it. These days, it’s not rare if you meet someone new and that person and you happened to have a lot of mutual friends. It’s not very rare any more even if you have a friend who lives in the opposite side of the planet.

However, when someone you care about moves to somewhere far, far away, where it takes hours, or days to get there from where you are, you can’t help but realize how NOT small the world really is.

Especially if your friend lives in oversea, for many people, just visiting them can be a big challenging project. Plane tickets are always expensive on weekends and holidays. Depending on your destination, just travelling takes one whole day, or even two days, considering the time difference.

Even if you are okay with the cost, it can be really hard to take a long break. Especially if you are working full time for a Japanese company, taking a long holiday feels impossible. Here’s how you can take a “long enough” (I mean, five days or a week including weekends and national holiday sounds like the longest possible holiday here) vacation with Japanese full time job:

  • a) Quit your job.
  • b) Achieve a super incredible goal at work so that everyone in your company thinks you deserve a vacation and that’s not unfair to any other colleagues.
  • c) Get married and  go to honeymoon.
  • d) You get really sick and doctor gives you a certificate says that you need a rest.

That aside, I don’t even remember how many times I said, “When is anyone finally going to invent a Dokodemo-Door*?”

(*For those who don’t know what Dokodemo-Door is, it’s a special tool from Japanese good old anime/manga “Doraemon”. It’s a door which takes you anywhere you want anytime instantly just by opening the door. Will you please, please invent that?)

Thanks to technologies and globalization, the world for sure feels like it’s smaller than before. However, when you wish someone you love was here right now, you can’t ignore the fact that this planet is undoubtedly so big that there is nothing we can do about it. Then you might feel a little sad and say, “The world isn’t small, at all”.

With all that said, saying goodbye is not necessarily a negative thing, so I don’t want to feel sad every time it happens. Then, I thought about how I can change how I see it.

It’s impossible to actually make the earth smaller, and I don’t know if we should even if we could… It will definitely cause chaos and a lot of problems.

In terms of travelling time, thanks to Shinkansens and airplanes, the world became a lot smaller than it used to be long time ago, and I am very grateful about that. Even so, without something like Dokodemo-Door, there still is a limit.

Nevertheless, I feel like we can make the world smaller, inside of our hearts.

For example, even if anyone explains about a place you have never went or even been interested before, stories about what weather, food, culture, and people there are like would not interest you very much. It will still be “somewhere you don’t know”. But what if your best friend moved to that “somewhere you don’t know”?

You will start to imagine what it’s like to live there. How your friend is doing. Who he/she meets. Is the weather nice? What about food? Is the air dry or humid, and what does it smell like? …and then, even though you still have never been there, you somehow start to feel familiar with that place. You might even imagine what it would be like if you could go there, or if you hear someone talking about that place on TV, you will sit down and turn up the volume, and start watching, thinking about your friend.

Here’s another example.

This year, Japan was hit by a lot of serious natural disasters. I live in Kobe (next to Osaka), but even when the earthquake and the typhoon hit Osaka so bad, fortunately, nothing serious happened to me personally. Yet, every single news about disasters this year made me feel sadder and more painful than any other news about disasters did before.

Living in Japan, I often see so many news about earthquakes, typhoons and other unusual weather. When I was little and my whole world was just my family, relatives, friends and teachers at school, and neighbors, even if I see someone is suffering from natural disasters on TV, that always made me sad and worried, but to be honest, some part of me didn’t really understand that that is real, that is actually happening, so cared less than I do now.

The reason why disasters this year felt more painful, could be partially because I grew up and now I can imagine what is going on and what would suffer people, and how they feel, a little better than I did before. But seeing where my friends or their families live being hit by the earthquake, and my hometown Okayama sunk in unbelievably heavy rain, I realized there was a bigger reason:

Even what’s happening at somewhere far away, where you didn’t really care about, if somebody you love is there, can make you feel as if that’s also happening to yourself. You start to care about what people are going through there. At least that would not let you ignore as you might did before.

Just because someone you care about exists there, “somewhere you don’t know” can change into “somewhere you care about”. Even a place which has never crossed your mind,  can start to exist in your mind, simply because you care about one person who lives there.

That’s when – I would like to call – the world becomes smaller inside of your heart.

It must be sad if your favorite people are living separately all around the country, or all over the world. Even if you want to see them right now, it can’t happen. It’s even possible that you don’t see some of them ever again in your entire life. The world is that big, physically.

However, just caring about them brings a new part of the world, which you have never been interested or knew that existed, into your mind. When you did’t even know about it, it was far, far away. But once you start to know and care about it, that’s no longer far away, since it already exists in your mind. The world became a little smaller, in your heart.

Every time you say goodbye to someone important for you, it is sad, but it makes the world smaller within you. Now you know and care a little more about the places you never see, and people who live there. And this doesn’t happen in only one person’s mind, this could happen to everyone. We experience encounters and goodbyes, and after goodbyes, we care about wider area of – or many places in – the world. Then that could eventually cover everyone in this world, I hope, so I would say – I know it may sound cheesy or naive but – goodbyes can spread kindness.

We cannot change the size of this planet, and Dokodemo-Door is not invented yet, but in our minds, we can make the world smaller. And that can spread love and kindness. Then, now I can finally believe, that saying goodbye is not just a sad thing.


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