It is so much later now, now that I’m in a place I can share a few of these thoughts. As it stands, however, so many hours before and on a incredibly misty (even mystic) Monday morning, I’m on a bullet train, traveling at approximately 200 miles per hour, on my way towards a train station in Hiroshima. I’ll only look out a window once we get there, as I do so much now, but we’ll only stop for a second and take pause, eventually landing in Kyoto, where there’s a lot of work to do yet. Left to my own devices, I’d wander towards a moss temple I only just learned about and taste some okonomiyaki again, as it is that region’s specialty. Instead, I’ll meet a couple of people for the first time, learn their business stories, help direct some photo shoots and be on my way, on towards another fantastic, new destination. That’s all in the near future; a day already planned and laid out, like some kind of new outfit.
I see postcards to my left, not the kind that would ever be affixed with a stamp and a “Wish you were here!” on their backs, but moments of scenery captured for seconds at a time, like a flipbook faking animation. There is so much rich green and watery rice fields and fog sitting atop mountains of trees just outside, just over there. There are heavily shingled roofs that turn up at their corners, a style I’ve not seen repeated anywhere else in the world. We’re moving too fast for the streets below to reveal even one person walking them, a kind of real life global “Where’s Waldo?” game in the making. Kenji pipes up and says we even went under the ocean at one point and I try to take that in. At about the same time, it occurs to me these seats don’t even come with seatbelts, as if to say, you know, if we did crash, we wouldn’t want to lead you to believe we could prevent what would come next. Such honesty. And yet, I’m uncommonly relaxed. I trust we’ll stay this new course and arrive at our destination, unscathed.
In the days that preceded, I’ve learned restaurants aren’t allowed to serve bad food in Japan, no matter what the meal, and that my stomach celebrates new flavors and discovered levels of freshness with every new restaurant, no matter how small. I sleep for 4 and 5 hours at a time, my body still trying to manage a 12-hour time difference and seem to be okay with the shift. As a whole, this country is so polite, it’s harder to hide a smile than it is to burst out with one when you’re being handed a receipt with both hands. There’s a lot to learn from those manners and mannerisms alone. I’ve learned how to say thank you and silent bows and smiles are as well received as they are easily given. My legs hurt from walking so much, especially my calves and just inside my knees. I feel like I’ve been here a long while, but there’s so much more to see and do and take part in. It’s all some kind of fast dream.
I like reliving the greatest parts. Here’s one, for example:
Yesterday afternoon, I heard a small girl in a hallway, singing words I couldn’t understand but was drawn to. She sang them loudly and eventually locked eyes with me, continuing to sing as she was steered elsewhere by her mother. She was so precious, I suddenly wanted to father a child not unlike her, if only to experience all my waking hours with a rare beauty I could hardly fathom. That doesn’t happen much. It was a surprise.
In my head, I revisit one of those old notions (one that has never entirely gone away, it would seem), the scenario that has me living as some new kind of hermit. In this version, I’m a man nobody knows in a land so far from my own, a face amongst a whole vast sea of others. I look a little different, if not a lot. I’m that square peg. Nobody knows me enough to use my first or last name. I feel like Japan could be the place for all of that to happen, one that, a place that, while overwhelmingly accepting, doesn’t really go out of its way to accept me.
A couple of days ago, Kenji offered, “I could see you living here,” and I believe it in a second. There’s no need to try and convince me. Instead, I give in towards marveling at the possibility.