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, clumsily.
No answer.

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 my guideline.

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 weeks.
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
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 friend"    -smile-    "is a printer! I will call him." Four and a half minutes later a slightly built, gasping man reaches the shop at a scamper. "My friend". Daijobu again. Can be ready, the day after tomorrow.
Tomorrow: no way!
Groaning. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm..................                       Oke~des.
For the second time today I feel deeply happy.

I exhaust myself with expressions of thankfulness.
Re-entering the street I realize myself, that there exists a chance to resolve another urgent problem.
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, no 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, stinking tatters are taken out of a bag, kept high in the air ]........ [, inspected carefully and administered on paper. Every time this happening, I fall through the floor for shame.
Ready... .tomorrow.
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 Amsterdam.
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.
Telephone call.
It's settled..."my friend"........

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 ... !
This 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 jewel. Overwhelming.

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.
In the middle a small platform with a microphone. People hold short speeches. Musicis played.
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 today?

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 long, unforgettable, beautiful monologue. After thirty seconds: charming, kind, but decisive: it's enough.

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.
All right.
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.
Until tomorrow.
Until tomorrow.

In my 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.

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.

One 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.


Previous page 

Next page