IX 1982, JAPAN, a kind of dangerous [when did my research actually start?]
Three weeks later
What are you standing there, Socrates, my wife teased me.
I slowly come back from my evening-dream.
It's ten o'clock in the evening! I smile back,
Kitakata, that was what I was thinking about. I
eagerly would like to visit Kitakata, meet
the same persons and act in the same movie again. Anyhow, I could sit down
to-morrow and write about that memorable, delightful day.
Where it 3 or 4 weeks? I am not sure anymore.
Felt as four.
Because I could not imagine how else to
travel in an unknown country, I found a river, rising somewhere in the middle
of Honshu on my detailed Japanese map. I was at the mouth, so the river became
The days were physically tough. 25
Kg.-rucksack, immensely hot and intensively
humid: Japanese sauna. Sleeping in a small
tent anywhere. I smelled, all filthy clothes,
though primitively washed, also. The
natural way of traveling might go to blazes after
A town in sight....
Center. A crossing. A hotel. Can I
actually effort this? A room. A shower. Oh, my God,
nothing more divine than getting totally
clean. [At every turn I catch myself, that I am
descended from a Christian tribe and
invoke God's name in season and out of season]
Researching the small town. Shopping
streets. After already having past, I realize: a
bookshop. Walk back. Consternation at the
female's-staff-side: this tall man in short
pants speaks English....help....
Manager is taken out of his small office.
English, no, not that, this is Japan. Quietly I
explain, though in English, that I would
love to have my own -real- Japanese
name-card. It seems so stylish, but I
won't tell him that.
Laughing about the situation, the manager
walks to the backside me following him. It
proves, that he keeps dictionaries at the
back of his shop. Very inventive. Name-card:
mesi. Oh, that....! Relieve.
In Holland I already prepared an example:
name, address, function. Daijjobu, "my
"is a printer! I will call him." Four and a half minutes later
built, gasping man reaches the shop at a
scamper. "My friend". Daijobu again.
ready, the day after tomorrow.
Tomorrow: no way!
Groaning. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.................. Oke~des.
For the second time today I feel deeply
I exhaust myself with expressions of
Re-entering the street I realize myself,
that there exists a chance to resolve another
Pretty shy i enter the shop again. The manager is taken out of his
office. He bursts into
a convulsion of laughter seeing me. I mime in his decent shop, that all
my clothes stink
and are filthy beyond words. Surprisingly
I hear "my friend" saying: daijobu,
problem. Again his text with "my
friend", another one.
Where do you stay? And could I wait a
couple of minutes?
A large luxury car is driven in front of
the entrance. To the hotel. Two huge vinyl bags
with my clothes are loaded in the back.
Towards the second "my friend", who runs a
dry cleaning establishment.
One by one....the owner did not move a
muscle,...my stinking tatters are taken out of a
kept high in the air ]........ [,
inspected carefully and administered on paper. Every
time this happening, I fall through the
floor for shame.
Having lost all sense of shame by this
trial, I was overwhelmed by my good fortune.
Sightseeing by airconditioned car. What I
strongly remember is a wood lacquer-museum with solid wooden entry-tickets. I
still keep them.
We stop in front of a beauty-salon:
"my friend", number three.
Inside some women and their manager. Quickly tea is prepared, cookies and snacks
on the table, frontdoor is locked and the previous is lenghily reported, so
much is clear
enough to me. Grandiose mood. Convivial. A lot
of laughing. Encouraging nods. I tease "my friend" by giving him the
fancy title of 'mayor of Kitakata', because
he prides himself on knowing so many persons, automatically being all his
friends. My joke is welcomed with hilarity.
I don't remember all of the details
anymore, probably I also had to tell something about Holland! I could overcome
that. Furthermore it's getting time, that I repair the balance and take care of
some entertainment. The latter will be developed pretty more during my long
travels as a service in return for so many sweet and practical support from the Japanese side,
...There is another problem...Do you mind?
Please look. I had written the Japanese
word with the help of the travel-agency in
Spiritus [commercial alcohol].
I brought a small cooker, that burns on
spiritus. I visited a lot of Japanese shops, asking
for this fuel. Every time I got a denial.
Could somebody please help me with buying a
bottle of spiritus? In the Netherlands it
is a cheap fuel and easy to find.
In the middle a small platform with a
microphone. People hold short speeches. Musicis played.
The mood is increasing; some beer is served. Warm hospitality.
After half an hour a big guy enters.
"My friend", representative of Caterpillar.
He presents a small parcel to me.
He .... ?
No ... !
is not possible!!!.......
Slowly I realize, that I just got a new
French camping-gas-set. So beautiful I never had one before. My old, rusted
spiritus-cooker is a poignant contrast and out of date compared with this
After some hours our cozy gathering in the
beauty parlor is finished. Shy "my friend" asks me, if I have some
kind of planning this evening. No. No plans. At 5.30 or 6.00 o'clock p.m. there
will be a presentation of some sake companies,
who want to have tasted their newest sake
of this year. Would I mind to come?
Back to the hotel, refresh myself and then
we leave for the presentation.
An oblong room, at one side a truly long
settled table with lots of snacks and drinks.
Cold or warm sake ?
Over here we have sake with lemon.
May be try another taste?
Please take a snack.
Well to do young females in the best of
their dresses, evidently spouses of notabilities,
observe from behind their glasses,
outwardly untouched. They don't miss
anything, being overconscious sure of
one's ground as mounting flowers of local society.
Glass, snack; snack glass.
Which number of happy moments is this
Am I willing
to speechify? Sure! I want, feeling over-responsible and proud, acquit
myself of my new task, step on the platform, prepared to produce a
unforgettable, beautiful monologue. After thirty seconds: charming,
kind, but decisive: it's
I continued my journey with a full
rucksack, which seemed lighter. Kitakata.
That year I didn't think to keep a diary
and ask "my friend'"s name and address: the lightness of existence.
My happiness continues.
A journalist requests in a clumsy way for
an interview. We leave and sit down in a room
next door. He starts writing but his pen
does not obey his fingers, or is it the other way
around. I hear some introvert muttering,
presumably being questions, but I don't
understand what he is talking about, so I
start to explain to whole bag of tricks.
Completely superfluous, because this
gentleman proves to be drunk like a monkey.
Photo's are made.
I get a T-shirt with an image of the four
safe-makers, calling themselves 'the Tigers'. In
the mean time the evening lengthens, the
euphoria gets bemused and "my friend"
brings me to the hotel.
room I find a fresh ironed kimono- the
first in my reckless life. I try it on, test my appearance in front of the mirror, test my bed..........
Wake-up call through the telephone. I scarcely
realize where I am. A visitor is waiting
for you, sir. It could have been nine o'clock. "My friend" waits for
me seated between two packets of gorgeous smelling and ironed textiles, my
belongings. He also hands me over a paper-box with my Japanese name-cards. We
have a chat. He is shy. He leaves.
time I got mail, being back in Amsterdam, with a mini-English sentence, through
which he expressed wanting to see me again. I could not read his name, nor
there was an address.
My T-shirt is worn thin by now, very thin and still my dearest treasure.