I arrived in Honolulu a few days ago with one black sandal. Unfortunately, not an uncommon experience. The last three times I have gone out of the country, I have been unable to locate my passport while packing and twice I have had an emergency passport issued at the last minute (embarrassing…). This is all indicative of a lack of what my mother calls ‘yoyu’ time. This is the time ‘in-between’ things, allowing moments to relax, regroup and prepare for next appointment, deadline or arrival. We do not have a word like this in English. It is a very significant cultural difference.
I’m in Hawaii teaching a course in user experience. The students are of all ages and all walks of life. I learned much from them this year. One of my students, Tomo Saito, is at the end of a year long sabbatical, returning to Japan at the end of this week. I asked him what yoyu meant to him. “It is something … inside.” he says while patting his chest. “It gives confidence. If a friend asks you how you are doing you say ‘yoyu, yoyu’ if you are confident. Fine.” To help clarify, he wrote the kanji on a piece of paper and gave us the literal translation. Abundance. Extra. It is the time in between. When you have this time, you arrive early instead of late. You pack in advance and have time to assess the missed or forgotten moments. I am making it a goal to create “yoyu” time in my life. My mother will be proud.