Today was just a day of chilling out since I have a long flight ahead of me and little money in hand; about 400 yen on my rechargeable train card and a sack full of about 1000 yen in change. I got a response to my email I sent Akemi, the lady I met in the garden who speaks some English; she said I should come over at 1:30.
Her friend also showed up at the garden at 1:30; from there we walked our bikes, following Akemi back a few streets to her house. Akemi gave me a pair of slippers to wear I the house and sat me at the table while they prepared the Coffee Jelly. It was like Jello but coffee flavor topped with a scoop of ice-cream a few Japanese cherries and some fresh mint leaves. They also gave me a Japanese cookie, which was more like a delicious, semi-sweet-bean-paste-and-pancake-sandwich. Then they offered me some of that Japanese green tea made from a powder that I think tastes like a mix between sesame and seaweed. I tried my best to drink the tea but she made it so strong that it was thicker than water; I hope I didn’t offend them.
We traded photos and she showed me in her atlas where she has been and where her family has been; Huston, San Francisco and a few other places. After about an hour or two I decided to leave them so I could go pack my bags and get ready to head out.
I got sidetracked updating the last blog post and sorting pictures and didn’t even start packing until about 7:00. Having counted my money I was sure that I could afford the train ride to the airport but not diner as well. On the train I caved and decided to try the CalorieMate bars that Satoshi’s mom gave me. They tasted like a mix between pulverized graham crackers and cocoa powder compressed into a bar the size of 4 or 5 dice lined up.
I was still hungry so at Tennoji station I decided that after having no chance to hitchhike in Japan I would try a different social experiment. I would accept no more that 50 Yen and I would only ask people about my age and they had to be dressed interestingly or in a way that catches my attention. After Weronika’s videos about how people react to strange characters and how they respond to interactions where little verbal language was possible i thought it could be rewarding.
I made a path weaving through the station, out one door down the street and back giving time for people I had already asked to move along. After the first donation towards my diner I got the idea to photograph the generous people who helped pay for my meal and or who exchanged the experience of being without words.
I wasn’t looking for a fancy diner just 300 yen to buy a rice and meat bowl at Yoshinoya. It only took asking about 10 people, most of whom contributed one silver coin with a hole in the middle worth 50 yen, but two or three people handed me 100 yen but I insisted on handing them back half of the value they gave. 100 yen by the way is equal to about 1 Euro or $1.40.
I approached the people by asking them if they spoke English and then had to use simple English to ask some of them asked me to repeat my question 3 or 4 times, making great effort to listen carefully, so much that I thought I could see sweat forming between their confused brows. Some turned away in nervous laughter and came back with unsuccessful attempts at words. One girl with her boyfriend did speak some English but when I asked he said flat out, no but they still let me take their picture. Some of the people in turn, asked if they could take a picture with me and pulled out their phones. It’s a strange but cool thought, I wonder what they will tell their friends or think when they look at that photo later? And why did they want a picture with me? Maybe all we are all looking for connections even if they can only be brief, nearly unintelligible conversations that provide the chance to help a fellow human in the smallest way.
There is no such thing as a free meal but there are usually a few good people in a crowd of busy robots chasing an unattainable dream. Thank all of you kind souls who listened to me and those who gave me the gift of diner; I will see “beggars” in a new way.
Withe the train system here you can board a train with only a a hundred yen but to leave the station where you arrive you need to have the full fare. I went to the fare adjust machine emptied out my coin sack and fed the every last coin I had. Several were spit back out at me; 4 1 yen coins and a 5 yen coin. I needed about 1200 yen and only had 1190 so I had to go around the station which was totally empty besides one girl talking on the phone; I got the 10 yen coin and exited the station refraining from exclaiming in Japanese fashion, “yoush!”
At the airport I got a Facebook update from Weronika on the prayer sticks that she removed from the temple in Nara. Two of them were prayers for some Japanese kids who really want to pass their high school exams and the third someone praying for improvements in their eyesight which is a funny coincidence when you couple it with Weronika leaving her glasses at Josh’s house in Nara and not having them until I get to Poland in about 2 weeks.
Today has really been a day of coincidence; at the airport I heard two girls speaking English and thought to strike up a conversation since it seemed we would all be spending the night in the airport but I let them pass. A few minutes later one of the girls wandered my way, sweeping the area for the strongest wifi signal she could find. I told her that where I was is strongest but that it keeps cutting in and out. From that I found out she is from Florida, From Oldsmar, basically Tampa. Then her Hispanic friend from Miami came over and we were both struck with that feeling when you know someone’s face but can’t place it. I beat her to it but eventually she recalled when Weronika and I were wandering the streets in Kyoto taking Photos and we bumped into her and a group of her girlfriends talking with a colorful Japanese lady. So, twice in one week, in cities separated by a few hundred kilometers, a million miles from “home”; is it chance or something more?