“Will I ever see you again?”
“I hope so. I will be back to visit you someday.”
Hope and sadness resurface to my jet-lagged brain as we head back towards the installation – past the local yakitori stores, past the famous “Suicide Lane”, a nickname given to one of the countless nameless streets where locals forget the danger of standing on a narrow two-lane highway, all for the sake of catching a glimpse of the latest delectable fruits. I turn around and spread my arms out towards nine-year old Ophelia to bid her farewell, as her bright blue eyes reflect the last few bright neon signs blazing from “Las Vegas” , one of the largest pachinko parlors in town . Two hours of delectable culinary sampling from one of the countless local sushi conveyor belts with Anthony and Paula, two Americans on duty at Camp Zama, a few more words added to my limited knowledge of Japanese by shining Ophelia, and another world opening before my eyes.
A catholic Nigerian, a Jewish Mexican, and two American soldiers transitioning to Japan for the first time- sitting there, discussing wasabi, tea and eel on a Monday night. And of course, beautiful 9-year old Ophelia, with eyes that rival Botticelli’s Venus, and with a knowledge that surpasses Mt. Fuji itself. Another journey, another time, another frozen drop of life.
It is just another day in the land of the rising sun. It is just another day for everyone, except for me. A few days ago, I had just crossed the international date line during a fourteen hour flight while sipping cold coffee and eating bad airline food. Ever since arrival, my mind has been in constant work, trying to somehow ingest the unrecognizable patterns that delineate everyday life here, from the way the driving is handled to the unrecognizable phonetic sounds of tollbooth employees covered behind white surgical masks. It is the land of samurais, of pachinko parlors, of love hotels, of imperial palaces, incense and shinto prayers. Japan is very much like her highways, flanked by overpowering skyscrapers on either side. A land framed in between her present and her future.