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Letter from Japan

From Tom Waggener,
JET Programme,Kagoshima

On the trip back to Japan after my last visit home I flew into Tokyo at 2:30 in the afternoon and then the long journey began to the southern tip of the island where I'm stationed. In domestic flights at Narita, you have to take a bus to the plane itself and on the bus there was an empty seat next to mine.

A Japanese woman in her late twenties walked in, looked at the seat, and said to her friends behind me "I dont want to sit next to the foriegner", apparently thinking I would not understand. I laughed a little bitterly at this as she stood blocking the aisle and anyone else from sitting. I said, "dozo", which means "please" or "be my guest". She said thank you, and then turned to her friends laughing and said in Japanese, "he said Dozo," and they laughed. Then she said, "do you speak Japanese?" I said, "yes". She said, "sorry" and that was the end of our conversation.

When I got to Hakata Station at 8:40, I was dismayed to find the next available transport to Kagoshima was not unitl 12:06 so I put my stuff in a locker and roamed around the station and the nearby shops, had some coffee at Starbucks and a salad at a little cafe. I roamed around some more and watched as the japanese homeless came out for the night. A woman in gypsy-style garb walked through the crowds screaming, "why is that?" and homeless men chatted while they set up their bedding. Men find their space against a wall, lay down a bedding of cardboard and then use flattened craboard boxes to create a low barrier around their beds, kind of like forts I made for myself as a child. Its amazing that even among the homeless there is a politeness and a respect for others' belongings and space, no one crowded anybody else.In contrast there was an array of young kids in trendy clothes, platform shoes, feather boas, red leather coats and the like.

About 10:30, I settled back into the little cafe to nurse a beer and read magazines until my train came. Some Japanese businessmen sat down next to me and started a conversation. In my sleep-deprived state I understood less than usual and faked my way through most of the conversation but they were nice enough. It was good to pass the time until the train came. Getting on the heated train car, I kicked off my shoes and sprawled out on the empty seat for a nice five-hour nap. We rolled into Kagoshima around 6 a.m. and I hopped a cab to the ferry, an exceptionally beatiful ride, and it felt good to see my volcano again.

I drove my friend's rickety little K-car up the windy mountain road (she had borrowed my Honda while I was in the US) and got in to Kihoku at 7:30 and finally to work at 8:15.


This story was posted on 2003-07-13 21:40:24
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