Showing posts with label Japan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Japan. Show all posts

Saturday, 19 May 2007


"cool clear water
and fireflies that vanish
that is all there is"
Chiyo - ni

Why Japanese? It all began with computer games and an obsolete games console which the boys all particularly loved. We could only import new games for it from Japan, so we did. Japanese dictionaries were acquired and consulted, games were endlessly pored over, discussed and, finally, played. So I now have a Japanese speaking son. The twists and turns in a life often rest on a sixpence.

He had an interesting and very traumatic time there. He fell in love with a beautiful Japanese girl, broke his wrist in several places and was hospitalised, made some lifelong friends, took up smoking temporarily, saw a man throw himself under a train, and lost two stone. He came back very thin and utterly changed.

Sunday, 13 May 2007


Surprisingly for someone who cannot get to Lille, I did once make it to Japan on my own. Perhaps less surprisingly I arrived at Narita and promptly burst into tears and fled to the Ladies loo to recover my fragile poise. He wasn't there to meet me.

I had come through arrivals with my big, so thrilled to see you again smile spilling over my tired face, quivering with anticipation and nerves after a 12 hour flight and no sleep. We hadn't seen each other for over four months, our longest parting in over 20 years, and he had promised faithfully he would be there to meet me.

My son was studying in Yokohama for a year as part of his university course. Wild horses would not have kept me away and when my ex-husband phoned one cold, dank, wintry evening to say there was a special offer in today's Evening Standard and I had to book a flight by midnight tonight, I just went for it and made it happen.

I composed myself and went back onto the concourse, studying faces, watching the ebb and flow of passengers arriving and dispersing. I had a mobile number for him but as the Japanese have their own system, I couldn't call him from my mobile and the public phones were worse than Latin and Greek, the instructions were all in Japanese characters and impenetrable to me. Two hours and several trips to the Ladies later, I finally composed myself and plucked up the courage to approach the doll-like Japanese ladies sitting at the rather formidable information desk and asked if they could possibly give me some change for the phone. "Ah, change!" they said, and promptly offered me more yen.

After much pantomiming and consultation amongst each other, finally a phone card was produced in exchange for a yen note and I again approached the incomprehensible telephones. As I stood there puzzling, a porter walked past and instantly seeing my problem, he inserted the card for me, I dialled the number and to my unspeakable relief, my son picked up the phone. He was on the wrong train, heading at great speed in quite the wrong direction.

Apologetic, he finally arrived at the airport over three and a half hours late and the relief of seeing him loping across the concourse towards me wiped away all the trauma in an instant as we kissed and hugged and greeted each other.

Travelling on the wrong train became quite a feature of my stay in Japan. I have never been in a country that is so alien and impenetrable, but with my son at my side I could just relax and enjoy the journey wherever it was taking us.