Sakawa MONOGATARI
 

IX  1982, JAPAN, a kind of dangerous [when did my research actually start?]

 

First week was terrible


I already raised the question, when / where does a storyline] start? In retrospect I even have more than one answer. However, one of the answers is defensible: the moment that I put my feet on Japanese soil, ignorant, open-minded, reckless, strong and confident [or 'stupid' one might say; both words are interchangeable sometimes]. Day one is a hard lesson about assumptions, ignorance, people's ways and in the very end: relieve. In my immigration-year 2005, when I started writing, I made two sketches about my "First day in Japan" -1982, somewhere at the end of June, I suppose, and 3 weeks later. Kind of then the Sakawa-monogatari started, me at that time totally unaware of that.

By Jove what am I doing here?
I still can clearly see it: the Niigata-station at the right side, at my left hand side a viaduct and a teacher English, who used me for some time to practice his English conversation on. He came sitting next to me and legitimized his presence by ascertaining, that talking with me would approve his capability. It was 1982; summer, the end of June probably.

Hours earlier at the airport I assumed without hesitation to be able to buy a map to start my journey on foot through Japan.
My rucksack was heavily loaded, including a meths burner, without methylated spirit and many books. Twenty five kilogram.
No chance to buy a map whatsoever.
The airport proved to be situated rather outside the city.

Lingering outside the airport building, I discovered a bus stop. I could have found out the bus' destination myself, but asked around. Actually, I could have started walking from here, but in what direction?
First things first: try to obtain a map.
The bus arrives. Shortly before a young Japanese female asks me in correct English: "Can I help you?" White, beautiful ironed blouse! I melt.

First step in the bus, take at your left hand-side a small stroke of paper out of a machine; there is a number on it. Sit. No change. No problem: banknote in another machine next to the driver. Coins roll out during driving. An indication with many numbers above the driver's seat shows the price per number.
Center.

The exact sum of money on the conveyor-belt together with the entry-stroke next to the driver, who checks with half an eye. Done! My very first transaction in Japan.
Shopping-streets; left traffic-system. Bookshop. Map of the province^ bingo!
I feel very satisfied with myself.


...Oh...NO... every thing in Japanese...


Well, I now really landed in Japan. Unfasten your seatbelt.

I walked around somewhat, feeling utmost tired after a long year of hard working and a very long flight. It's almost 16.00 hours. Anyhow I want to try to walk out of the city as
soon as possible, before it's getting dark. I take a short rest on a bench....

Where exactly I want to go? Anyhow out of the city. What direction?
I try to distinguish the upper- from the underside of my newly acquired map. What direction? I really don't know. I stare at my alienating map, actually seeing nothing.
How I get out of the city?
'My' English teacher understandably does not understand my question very well.
In an attempt to grant my absurd question some respect, he points at the viaduct: if you pass under, then turn to your right.

I am walking for hours already.
The city is not becoming less city. Daylight lessens. How tired am I.
In the twilight the built up area finally becomes spacier. I walk through more and more rice fields, which are flooded. Millions of tiny frogs jump around, nature unlimited.
Should be careful were I put my feet.
Not one square meter where I can put my tent. Every flat piece of ground is under water.

Oh, my God -why did I start this? What am I doing here?
Probably according to custom, I swore. Even here and now I illustrate, that my tribe original is a Christian one.
No choice but to continue walking. No traffic, no people, small road.

It's really dark, may be 7 or 8 in the evening, may be much later. Feel also hungry, but above all things intense tiredness and getting lost.
At a venture to Japan! at random: Niigata. We'll see were this ends. Well as a matter of fact: here!

How long I walked further I cannot remember anymore. Black dark. A few houses. No people. Feel demoralized. Is that a small shop?

May be yes.
May be no.
Tumble-down sliding door, low, hit my head, mini-shop, nobody present.
First nothing, then clattering after my whispered calling and finally a flabbergasted small old woman. She sees a tall man with an unshaved, tormented face, that forces something which should resemble a smile and a huge rucksack.

English is a world-language: the umpteenth wrong assumption today.
"I am looking for a place to put my tent on."
The utterly surprised expression on the woman's face remains. This situation cannot be grasped. She calls her husband.
More of the same.
Silences.
Repetitions.
Nothing works.

Human encounters are interesting. But not now !!!

I point with an overdoses of mimicry on my packed tent and express what I desire most: SLEEPING. I mime sleeping.
The astonishment just rises.
Lasts an eternity, it feels to me.


One of the two probably went out, or no, more probably made a telephone-call. A third person enters, shy. A number four. And more. I repeat at the utmost of my ability my references to my tent and my ultimate dream to sleep.
I imitate snoring-sounds, I show in the small space how to build up a tent ...
 
Here Providence takes over control and somebody shouts with a gesture like "why did not you tell before....?",
"ah, TENTO !....."
.......................

Silence.

......................

! Exactly: tento!!!!!


Who asserts, that Japanese is a difficult language? Who ?


Quickly people guide me outside and in an intense darkness I am brought somewhere. After one minute I see flat ground, erect my tent in trance and glide in supersonic speed into a dreamless, comatose sleep.



2005.

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