Through the window of the lounge I can see the enormous jet that will take us back. Soon we will be miles up in the air, looking down on Alaska, riding reclining chairs at hundreds of miles an hour, rushing back home.
Soon after that we will be answering the question "What was Japan like? Did you have a good time?" Anyone who has read this blog will have some insights on that already. But how can we answer this question? What can we possibly say to describe the events covering so much time, in a place that started out as foreign to us, but over time became "our" neighborhood?
There's nothing I can write that will suffice. Japan and the States are very different places, and this blog has featured many of those differences. But perhaps more memorable to me are the instances of unexpected commonality. Culture shock and language barriers notwithstanding, we are more alike than we usually recognize. I offer the following anecdote as a farewell tribute.
Cindy and I were in a cab one evening, returning from La Jolla Mexican restaurant in Hiroo. As we headed up the hill past a darkened Arisugawa Park, we left the traffic noise behind, and I began to hear music. The driver, an elderly Japanese man, had a CD in his player. The tune was faint, so as not to disturb his passengers, but soon we were sure of what we were hearing. We smiled at the recognition.
I couldn't resist asking the cabbie about it, in my heavily accented Japanese--"Kore wa Benny Goodman desu ka?" ("Is that Benny Goodman?")
"Hai!" came the reply, and then, in heavily accented English, "Moon-right Selenei-do."
It was a charmed moment, as we realized we had something in common. "Ah, so desu. Ii desu ne" I told him (That's right...it's great, isn't it?)."
"So desu ne" he agreed with a smile, and reached forward to turn up the volume.