Monday, April 23, 2012

Pulled From The Pages: The Art of Getting Lost

One thing Japan had taught me after all these months was that I’d perfected the art of getting lost. Not that the crazy maze of streets of Tokyo made things any easier. Just when I had one section of the city figured out, a friend would invite me to dinner someplace I’d never been.  The biggest test came on spring break when I headed down to Kyushu to see Kumamoto Castle with my best friend Cynthia. She spoke Japanese but had a terrible accent. As for me I had a perfect accent but my vocabulary was pretty limited. Asking for directions would be a challenge.   

We should have known the gods weren’t in our favor. Due to several train delays, we got into Kumamoto at 10:00.  The hostel we booked to stay the night locked their doors at 9:00 on the dot.

I turned to Cynthia, “What the hell are we going to do? Sleep on one of these crappy steel benches all night?”

She dropped her heavy backpack to the ground. “I’m so tired I could crash on the platform.”

Easy for her to say when she slept through a major earthquake. “Look maybe they will bend the rules for us.”

She rolled her eyes. “We’re in Japan remember?”

Okay so she had a point. The Japanese weren’t known for their flexibility. “Please lets just give it a shot. According to the map the place is close by.”

Famous last words. We hiked around a crazy maze of town roads getting more lost by the minute. “What are we going to do? Guess we could just crash in front of this store.”

Cynthia looked horrified. “We can’t do that we might get arrested.”  

“That wouldn’t be so bad. At least we’d have a place to sleep.”

“Are you kidding me?” She looked me straight in the eye. “Wait a second. How do you know they have a place to sleep?”  

I gave her a smile. “Let’s just say this isn’t my first time getting lost in the middle of the night.”  

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Pulled From The Pages: Dating In A Strange Land

April 10

I’d come to Japan to go to school and study, but the longer I’d lived in Tokyo, the more I pushed aside homework for fun.  I loved hanging out with my new friends and exploring every part of Tokyo. I’d even taken up flirting with guys but swore I’d never date. I mean what was the point? I would only be here for a year.

A whole year.

This realization finally sunk in when a particularly cute guy flirted with me.  I was hanging out with my friends at the local coffee shop. I’d seen him once before but was afraid to make eye contact. He looked like a really cute J Pop star I saw almost every night on TV.  My mouth went dry when he came up to talk to me.

 “Hello. I think I have seen you here before.”

Normally I’d think what a line. But I hung out at the shop at least once a week.  “I see you too.”

Oops Sometimes my limited Japanese could get me in trouble.  But he just smiled.

“What are you doing on Saturday night?”

Wow, this guy didn’t mess around. My friends giggled next to us.  “Ah…nothing.”

He gave me a mischievous grin.  “Good. Meet me in Shimokit. I want to take you to my favorite place.”

Two days later, I was holding a map the guy drew for me trying to find my way to his favorite place. Being a rocker type I figured it was a club. Shimokitazawa was a crazy mix of tiny streets that ran diagonally in all directions. I finally found the spot—a restaurant called Tiny Mouth. Just got to love the humor of Janglish. I strode through the door thankful I was the only white girl in sight. It would be easy for him to spot me. I stood by the door looking around when I realized I didn’t even know the guys name.  

A hand sprang up from the table in the corner.  The guy was dressed in black leather from head to toe. “Hi, over here.”

He still had the rocker thing down. I pinched myself. Super hot guys never asked me out.  I sat down across from him. “Good to see you. Sorry, what your name?”

He reached out his hand. “Goro. You look amazing.”

Flattery—always a good start to a date. “Thank you. Is the food good?”

“Oh yes, everything is wonderful. Only the best for my American girl.”

Okay, he might be laying it on a bit think but I wasn’t going to complain.  I picked up the menu that thankfully had English translations. “Everything look good. What you like?”   

“My favorite is the sesame crusted tuna with a side salad of pickled vegetables.”

“Sounds good.”

He waved over the waiter.  “We’ll take two number fives.”

The next few minutes I listened to him talk about his favorite band, and how he goes to school at nearby. How he loves Shimokit because it has so much energy. Then he patiently listened to my mediocre Japanese as I told him the story of how I ended up in Tokyo. Goro was everything a girl could want.

When our food arrived I looked down at my plate. The vegetables and even the fish had been cut up into tiny pieces. How strange.  “I never had food cut small.”

Goro laughed. “I know isn’t it great?”

I guess that explained the name of the restaurant. But I was beginning to wonder if my perfect date had bad teeth or something. “Why is this your favorite place?” 

He gave me a huge smile revealing a perfect set of teeth. “Because I miss my mother.”


“She always cuts up my food for me when I’m back home.”