I am lucky to be part of a wonderful family that has the habit, once every two years, to travel to a mesmerizing country. We also travel around closer places, in Europe, for one or two weeks. You can imagine my yearly pain. Two years ago we went to South Africa, this year, it was Japan’s turn. We usually try to choose the countries depending on the friends who live out there. On top of catching up with our friends, whom we usually do not see for years, it is always nicer to stay ‘local’ when travelling. Whilst visiting Japan, we stayed in Nara, with Florin’s family. Florin is one of our best friends. He is a musician and during a tour in Japan, some years ago, he met Keiko. Fast-forward and one year after they got married Sami (Samuel) appeared. Recently, Irina brought even more colour and sound to their family. We stayed at their place in Nara and from there we visited Kyoto, Kobe, Himeji and Osaka. We left for Tokyo, where we spent the last three days of our journey. The diary you see here has been written in Japan. This is why verb tenses fluctuate. For example, we visited Kyoto on a Tuesday, but I would only write about it on a Wednesday morning. I will try to keep a consistent tense, but sometimes the tenses do not agree with what I mean. I’m sure you’ll figure it out.
The night (was it even a night?!) was hellish. I didn’t sleep well. Too cold, then too warm only so my foot, hand or neck can go numb. The sky shifted form dark emptiness to an inky blue and finally to bright white. The time here (wherever ‘here’ is, although the map says we are above the Yellow Sea) is definitely an hour of the morning, whilst it’s 11.45 PM in France, 10.45 PM in the UK and 12.45 PM in Romania. I have a feeling this day is not ending. It simply doesn’t feel like a fresh day. It’s more like an extension (a long one) of yesterday.
I’ve just finished eating breakfast and I am, for the thousandth time, astounded by Masumi-san’s attention to detail. After the food ritual (‘ Would you like to have a drink? ‘Can I get you more bread rolls?’), Masumi-san pulled out (where from?!) a small cosmetics bag. In in it, is everything. Brushes, blushes, creams, mascara. Marry Poppins’ bag.
It’s a pleasure to observe Masumi-san, whilst she’s putting on her make up. She accidentally spilled a bit of powder on the sides of her blush box. Immediately, she wiped the powder until the sides gleamed. During one of our chit chats, she tells me every time she travels, foreigners laugh at her. She innocently asks me if there’s something wrong with her.
I suddenly understand why Masumi-san dresses so western-like. She feels the need to be like us, even in the tinniest way possible. Although she is dressed up ‘like us’, I can clearly see Asia gently shining beneath all those layers of make up and clothing. It hurts to know humans do this to other humans. Is there such a difference in skin colour and different shaped eyes? Is this a good reason to make someone feel unwanted?
How can I explain her that some people are mean? That they don’t want to understand anything that does not concern them and have decided every thing they do is right. How do you explain indifference to someone who doesn’t understand you?
I’ve assured her nothing is wrong. She is beautiful. ‘Foreign people sometimes stupid. I foreign and not laugh’. She asks me why I love Japanese people. ‘You managed to keep your world unique’ A large smile brightens up her face.
We are a couple of minutes away from Osaka and Masumi-san started to flatten her travel pillow. Even this, she performs with so much care and gracefulness, you cannot help and wonder if it’s an act. Everything is fitted with precision: corner to corner, side to side. I wouldn’t get sick of watching her. Her elegance comes from another world. Japan is a new world and my respect for it, is growing faster than I had anticipated. ‘Thank you talking to me’. It’s exactly what I wanted to tell her at the end. ‘Me happy, meet you’ I smile. ‘No. Me happy and lucky meet you’. Then we talk about shopping.
We’have landed. Hills covered in trees that look like broccoli, have appeared through the mist. Japan (so far) is like a phantom-like shawl in the wind.You think you can see every detail of it, but you always miss something out. I took photos of Masumi-san, she took photos of me, we chanted our goodbyes and at the end, just before she went through the opened gates, she spun around and with a grand smile, she squeaked: ‘Welcome to Japan!’