Traveling brings with it an accumulation of momentary conversations and connections. Relationships that are never developed, and highly unlikely to be rekindled. Like a variant on Kazuo Ishiguro’s fantastic book The Remains of the Day.
I smile to myself at times, reflecting fondly on those moments. I think I am a better person for having met otherwise random folk. On the other side of the world, maybe someone is mirroring those memories. I hope so.
There are too many of these instances to document. Making writing interesting about seemingly insignificant travel events relies on the context of being there at the time. A few though stand out for me, shaping an overwhelmingly positive set of experiences in half a dozen short trips to Japan.
So to Yau, Yoshiko and Yuri – I have not forgotten and here is a short version of your story that makes travel both a privilege and joy.
An unusual mid March blizzard and both of us are staring out from the warm hotel foyer. Both of us with town maps in hand, rugged up to the hilt, hesitating to venture out alone. Here’s an idea, lets do it together! Hunched over against the biting wind and driving snow. The white streetscape. No-one else silly enough to be out in it. Samurai houses. A path hidden under the knee deep snow that was maybe a bit too close to the river’s edge. The snappy walk back to JR Kakunodate to go separate ways.
Many thousands of local and foreign visitors wander in awe around the magnificent and extensive precincts of the Nikko World Heritage area. For visitors like me with no historical or cultural background to Japan, the Systemised Goodwill Guides is an excellent resource. And so this was your first assignment as a solo SGG, with a group of one to guide! A little bit unsure to start with. Some of my questions were oddly framed in my absolute ignorance of what Nikko was really about. Ultimately I think we were both richer for the experience. And who can beat a Coke at a sunny picnic bench to end the tour.
I am only a traveler, enjoying hospitality deserving of an official visitor with an entourage. Meet ups arranged with emergency services staff, and site visits too. A detour to your home between my arranged meetups, taking in a fantastic local children’s festival that you helped organise. And then hanging around late, acting as my translator and chauffeur at Matsumoto Fire Station 21 while I enjoyed the sharing of knowledge and understanding with our local fire department hosts. And finally, days later, taking me to the Police Station to retrieve my intact wallet lost and subsequently handed in.