this must be the place.
i have been in japan for fourteen nights. these are some of the memorable locals i have met in osaka, kyoto, and tokyo. i leave for egypt tomorrow, but something aches to remain.
junko was the first japanese person i had a conversation with. she was 32, had the youthful beauty of a twenty-year old and spoke better than broken english. we shared a beer over television. i told her what animal i thought each person on the screen looked most like. the catfish was probably my worst comparison. her smile was one of the most beautiful i have ever seen.
yoko, age undeclared, lived in london for four years. as time went by her english grew confidence in my presence. a scarf wrapped and draped itself over her shoulders. it worked well with short-cropped hair. i would often catch myself looking longingly at her just before she noticed. she carried herself with an understated elegance.
ryo brought a plate of thick-sliced bread and apricot jam to the breakfast bar. every morning i asked for more yoghurt. she smiled like she knew the meaning of life. she had two crooked teeth. i admired her imperfections the most and felt good when she spoke to me. good like a man who has been made honest by the woman he loves.
mino wore glasses and served two beers. one had too much head and the other was close enough. he told me i would have much luck with the japanese ladies. that was an unfortunate lie. after an hour or two i requested ‘alabama shakes’ to be played over the sound system. he obliged. when he asked his boss if he could join me for a beer, i thought he was a better man than most. i drank myself into disarray and shouted his name like we grew up together. i don’t remember when he left, but i missed him.
kento was on his first day at work when i met him. it was a good test for him. when i saw him for the first time i thought he looked like a manga hero. he had an angular jawline and a sharp chin. his character would have saved some beauty from a ravenous evil. he was the man. when he left he slapped me on the back and said he’d visit me in australia. i don’t like it when people leave me with the faintest hope.
akano had a fringe that framed her full cheeks. she had a warmth in her face that would melt snowflakes on contact. when snowflakes fell on my skin they remained as ice crystals for much longer. that’s how i knew the difference between us. she was either shy or uninterested in talking. she remains a mystery to me, like the smile of mona lisa.
nara wore a horizontally-striped jumper in blue and white. she travelled across japan on the shinkansen before we met. when i made her laugh, two organic patches of pink blossomed on her cheekbones. she raised a full hand over her mouth when she giggled. a stereotype somewhere had been confirmed.
furo had medium-length hair that snuck out from his beanie. he was the bar manager at the hostel. i ordered a neo-kamikaze drink that some guy the night before made me aware of. it was probably a secret thing. he wanted to know how i knew about it. i tapped my nose twice and he laughed. he had the most concentrated laughter in japan. it is probably better if the neo-kamikaze remains a secret. they are deadly.
tatsuki approached me at the bar of a record store. he was a middle-aged man with longish sideways-swept hair. he slid a business card across the bar and told me he was a musician. when he asked for my card i told him that i was a student. for a moment, we were lost in translation. he checked his watch sometime before the frost on my second beer disappeared, and left. i have his youtube link.
kohei ran an american-styled cafe. he dressed like a lumberjack from portland. his moustache was out of place but i didn’t take that away from him. when we shared a conversation over coffee he told me that he had been to australia. he said australians are laid back because the landscape is vast and allows them to have more space in their heart. it was poetic, and i let him know that. after the coffee he wrote a list of places to visit. his knowledge made him a wealthy man.
mr takahashi owns a record store and sits day-long on a small cushioned stool behind a wooden bench. i met him eight months ago, but he did not remember. he does not speak a word of english. in a conversation where neither person can speak the same language, a general tolerance and comfort is found. i sat in silence on a wooden seat and listened to a soul record for an hour or more before nodding and walking out the door. our dialogue had been the music.