Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Japan Diary

I thought I'd balance out yesterday's rather functional reminiscence of my time in Japan with just one more personal jotting I found from that same period...


A Bad Day - January 99

I never enjoy Tuesday visits to my most distant mountain school of Hiruzen, but yesterday promised to be better than usual. There was a light snowfall in Kuse, and Mr. Ikemoto, the scary man who pestered me at the bus stop, was not there. No-one would be grilling me about my sex life that morning.

A bus pulled up and I made out the kanji for “Okayama city”. Wrongly assuming it was a city bus I ignored it. Ten minutes later it dawned on me that I must have missed the Hiruzen bus. Reluctantly I called the school on the payphone. Gritting my teeth I tried to impart to the disapproving Hiruzen headmaster that I had… what’s missed the bus in Japanese?

“The bus came” I stumbled, “but I did not get on it.” I noticed that the tiny bus shelter had gone silent, and that all the old women were listening to me, snorting with laughter. The head advised me to sit tight and get the next bus.

After an hour the next one came. Cold and annoyed, I scrambled onto the bus and sat there with my book. Forty five minutes later I stopped reading, and began to admire the mountain scenery. The landscape was unrecognizable under a blanket of snow –strange how different it looked… Or was that because it was totally different? I began to feel sick.

The tannoy announced the next and final stop, as the bus began a steep ascent up a mountain road. This was not a village bus but an express bus going to the foot of Hiruzen mountain. Hiruzen Heights, the ski resort – miles from the village. The driver eyed me with a certain suspicion, as I stepped out into blizzard conditions, up to my knees in snow, with no-one or nothing to be seen in any direction.

Making down the path I saw a building with a phone box. The headmaster was worried. Mrs. Fukuoka had been out looking for me in vain, and they’d noted my disappearance. He told me to wait there, so I stood shivering in the snow a further thirty minutes. Mrs. Fukuoka finally arrived and threw the car door open with a joky smile to find me drenched and frozen. I made it into the school by lunchtime. As I walked into the teachers’ room the headmaster led the others in a hearty round of applause.

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