I made it off Shikoku this weekend. For the first time since August when I got on the island after a visit to the States.
I boarded a bus from Ikeda to Osaka on Friday. I was pleased to find that my Ipod laid nicely in the cup holder. The $9.99 I spent on the Itunes edition of my favorite movie has proved to be worth the money spent in my recent travels.
(I would like to express the utmost respect for anyone who can name the above movie based on the provided picture).
Leah and I met at the Tsuruhashi station which was just a few minutes walk from her friend Josh's apartment. He met us wearing some sort of Steelers t-shirt. Yes, another Pittsburgher in Japan. His Alderdice High School energy somehow motivated us to apply eyeshadow and mascara with just enough time to catch the last train into Namba.
Leah and I finally found our place on the dance floor at about 2:30 a.m. At which point she turned to me and said something along the lines of, "you could be in a Britney Spears video dancing like that."
We stood in front of the speakers dancing and drinking for the next couple hours. I paid for that 5 a.m. cab ride, being that it was my doing I was getting us home at the obscene hour.
The following day we lazed around Starbucks because that is something we never get to do in Shikoku. And I have no shame. It was a beautiful way to spend the afternoon. Discussing our favorite books, surrounded by young people, drinking coffee, and splitting a chocolate bar.
That evening we took the train to Kyoto to eat the most delicious brownie I have ever tasted. And back on the last train to Osaka where Leah had to pull me off the dance floor, at 3 a.m. this time.
Somewhere in between the cab and Josh's apartment I dropped my cherished raspberry beret that I bought in Amsterdam this time of year, four autumns ago. But it was lying there waiting for me when I ran around looking for it. I paid one Euro for that hat. It has been just about everywhere I have been. I have almost lost it countless times. When I thought it was gone for good this Saturday night Leah chose the comforting words of "maybe it was time for a new one. That hat has a lot of holes in it," to calm my panic. But it was found.
On Sunday we met Leah's childhood friend, Shuichii who grew up in (yes once again) Pittsburgh and has since moved back to Nara, Japan with his family.
We saw the big Buddha in Nara and petted the deer that roam the city.
Shuichii took us to his friend Jon's temple as the gates closed behind us. Jon is a 23 year old Monk. The sun set and we stood around speaking a funny combination of English and Japanese. Jon introduced us to another one of his Monk friends who graciously let Leah and I take over the role of ringing the 5 p.m. bell that evening.
Before we all got up off the floor of Jon's office to leave the temple he showed us where to place our hands and feet when preforming Buddhist meditation. The four of us sat there for a moment and Jon taught us his mantra. Which can be translated as a pray for good health.
The mantra was chanted, the silence ended. And we collected ourselves to head towards the mall where there was imported beer.
Jon joined us for dinner and drinking at Shuichii's house. Once the imported beers were gone the ten year old Ume-shu came out.
Jon showed me how to write 気 お つ けて (my favorite Japanese word) in Kanji.
When our lips were off the cups of ume-shu, Shuichii served as the translator in regards to the questions of desire and anxiety during this intoxicated monk chat.
And Japan and I had seemed to finally met on common ground. Japan was not uncomfortable with my need to talk bluntly and loud and dress like crazy bag lady. I was not tiptoeing around customs that I am not sure I understand or think are particularly unfair. I was simply existing in this country. This country was existing in front of me. The interest was mutual. And it was simply discussed that all desires are the same, making them all an equal allusion.
The night ended as we all sipped on Japanese beers and 10 Things I Hate about You was on the television. Jon was the first to fall asleep, being that he typically wakes up with the sunrise it only made sense.
The next day, Japan continued to hold my hand during my last hour in the bus station while I stood in the nearby bookstore, reading haiku's that had been translated into English. Then I had to say goodbye to the big city once again.
The sunset early last night and once I got back to Ikeda Brian picked me up so we could drive up into the mountains and drink coffee in the moonlight. On our way back down the mountain top we saw a baby boar run across the road and just a few moments later we both turned to each other to express our love for those mountains.