46 – The Land of the Rising Sun

Golden Pavilian, Kyoto

Below: Shibuya Intersection Light — a quiet day. (As many as 2,500 at other times) 

The setting was Denver, a Tech Center Starbucks

“Would you be interested in touring Japan together?” The question formed and launched itself, and as always the words refused my summons to return. Instead they lurked between us, a heavy fog.

My friend, Yo (short for Ryohei) kept his eyes trained on mine without expression, a beat too long. Oh what have I done?

Shinto priest

Below: the moat around the Imperial Palace in Tokyo

Yo did at last say “Yes” on that already-too-hot August morning last year, and by the time I left for Poland (see blog 42) three weeks later, we had AirBNB and hotel reservations in places of which I’d never heard, as well as flights to Tokyo (his from Denver, mine from Tel Aviv) arriving within 12 hours of each other. We’d see Japan’s famous cherry blossoms in full bloom! Or so we thought…

And throughout the months of planning, the trip’s risks made me itchy with uncertainty.

Sidewalk instructions in Kyoto
Disney Store in Tokyo. Did you know Disney Tokyo Resort opened 35 years ago and is 3rd most visited?
Miyagima Island. Close enough to touch.

Yo came to Colorado to ski sometime in his twenties, and made it his home. We met ballroom dancing in Denver six years ago, and while I’ll never be the dancer he is, there was a magic moment when my skill was tolerable and he began asking me for an occasional dance. I did everything in my power to work a night of dancing in Japan into the itinerary, but it wasn’t meant to be and it was with great disappointment that I didn’t pack my dancing shoes.

Traveling together was a risk, since a major or minor incident could cost the friendship. Yo could have laughed at the very idea of wasting a moment of his precious, infrequent visit to far-away family and friends just to tour with me. We might have conflict with planning particulars or during the trip. What if he misinterpreted my interest as romantic? The potential interpersonal risks were real to me, and yes, I know he probably never gave it a thought.


Chancing the risk to ask, and surviving rejection or disappointment is a symptom of living life with which I’m at last reconciled.


It was a trip of history, beauty and culture… 

This family, dressed as Geisha mother and daughter with father dressed as the men who “employed” them. The book to read is “Memoirs of a Geisha” by Arthur Golden
Spending the day costumed as history in Gion, the neighborhood of the Geisha, is popular recreation, and I heard more of these Geisha wanna-be’s speak Japanese than English
Torin Gate (to Shinto Shrine) at Miyagimo Island
Hiroshima Dome

Tokyo held another sort of history that was uniquely precious to me, when… 

Yo and his five forever-friends dating back to elementary and middle school invited me to join them one evening, and after the restaurant we migrated to the  Ryoichi’s apartment. As we filed in behind him, he shouted, “Alexa, play —“ (Why can’t I recall the song he commanded? It was Boomer rock, and caught me by surprise, but then, why not?) While the modern apartment and decor typified upper-middle class apartments/condominiums in the U.S., the Japanese words and melodies filled the air with “Exotic.”

Surrounded by conversations and laughter in a language I cannot understand has become the norm since immigrating to Israel in November 2014, so I played the game of imagining the lives, guessing at their temperaments. There was a story teller who put grins on their faces, another whose laughter could surely be heard next door, and the tall quiet one, fully engaged but ne’er a word. The one sitting beside Yo reached for the bottle to refill his shot glass more than the others, and towards the end of the evening retrieved a guitar from another room and…  I didn’t see it coming: the voice of  Kris Kristofferson!

I’d been invited into the sanctum of Boys’ Night Out — terrain forbidden to wives and girlfriends, but my USA passport set me in a different category: “Special”

It was not lost on me it was Yo who was special to them. Their precious male-friendship history warmed my heart more than an entire evening of ballroom dancing.

On a flat screen TV larger than the bathtub in my AirBNB unit, we watched scratchy films (converted to DVD from original home-movies) dating back to 1960’s high school camping trips. I studied the faces and forms of today compared with their shirtless selves’, teen-lean bodies, and smile as I write about their laughter and play, past and present.

Where no woman has gone before! The inner sanctum …

Pay attention! Don’t miss the moment.

The subject of how we met came up, so I whispered to Yo, “Let’s show them how well you dance.” In minutes, furniture was moved, Alexa was playing “Lady in Red,” and I savored the perfect, precious dance in Tokyo, a dream come true.

Gardens at Imperial Palace Kyoto

P.S. Yo and I are still friends after a great trip.

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