Things really seem to be coming back to normal around here. I went off to Otakanomori, via a small, free bus service and the whole mall was open. Hearing the music, seeing people looking around the shops and stopping off for a coffee at ‘Zoka’ made me feel that the strange period we had may well be over. It was nice to relax with a cappuchino, have all the friendly staff be pleased to see me and get some ‘omiyage’ for my family, as I’d do for any other Spring trip home. Walking through Toyoshiki, that too seemed like it had sprung back to life. People were riding around on bicycles, stopping to chat to one another, mothers were pushing their babies, all the restaurants were open and wselcoming.
On the walk back from Otakanomori, I noticed a big, beautiful house, with a large painting of ume in the window, the walls lined with traditional screen doors. Thinking it might be a temple or something, I walked into the gate and admired the Japanese garden, with a small stream, fragrant flowers and traditional style. Someone came out and said ‘hello’ and I found out it was actually his house. He was very friendly and we talked about the shock of the earthquake and I found out his house had been there for 100 years or so. His English was very good, as when he was younger he’d done a home-stay in Canterbury.He showed me around inside, where he had a small shrine for his ancestors. There were pictures of his mother and father, who are still living and his grandfather, who died on the day of the Tsunami. Apparently, he was 95 and it was old age, in the early morning. He’d driven down to see him for the last time, when on the way back, the ground started shaking so much he had to stop. From a bridge in Chochi, he suddenly saw the refinery catch fire, burning fiercely, something like he’d never seen before. Even so, he was calm and good humoured about the whole thing, giving me a lucky ornament from Sensoji Temple’s (in Asakusa) main festival. representing the seven gods of happiness. His oldest daughter, in her 20’s runs a small monja shop there, in the backstreets, so he goes a lot.
He then invited me next door, to meet his family in his main house (that one being a kind of historical-styled one that his father had made). I met his lovely daughters, wife and dogs and I sat down with them for a nice cup of tea. They were all so warm and welcoming, I felt like this was just what I had originally come to Japan for, but had to an extent forgot along the way, being caught up in business and missing the human element. They were so happy to hear I was doing well and was about to visit my family, and was able to get them some gifts before I went.
There was possibly going to be a rolling power cut, so I thought I’d better get going home, also to prepare for tomorrow. Probably they would have invited me for dinner, but I already have some food to finish, so I got up to go. Everyone got up together to wish me a good trip and hope I’d come around again when I got back. They got the little miniature dachshund to say ‘bye-bye’ by waving his paw, saying ‘tanoshi, ne!’, as he had enjoyed sitting on my lap, licking my nose and being petted. It was nice to meet such wonderful neighbours and to know I would have more local people to see again when I got back. Bidding farewell, I made my way home, discovering that the power cut had never materialised after all.