A loud rumble in my stomach snapped me out of my self pitying reverie. A lack of proper vegan nutrition on the way to Japan left me hungry. The drop in the elevator down from the 46th floor didn’t help either.
The hotel staff at reception were very helpful. There was a Family Mart just opposite the hotel where I could find food. I gave them a piece of paper and asked them to write down “FOOD PLEASE. NO EGG. NO DAIRY. NO FISH. NO MEAT.” Armed with this paper I made my way to the shop.
It was dark outside and pretty deserted. I glanced around quickly before making a mad dash to the safety of the shop.
Every item was in Japanese. There was no way to know what was safe to eat and what wasn’t. I grabbed the only thing I could recognise: popcorn. A large bag of it. But although I am totally addicted to popcorn, it hardly constituted something solid to eat. I needed more.
I approached a young employee who was busy packing shelves and wordlessly shoved the piece of paper containing my requirements in Japanese, in to his hands. He gave me a packet of dried plums. Politely and as not to offend him, I took it. It was still not going to be enough. I needed food, not a snack.
Bingo. He took me to the refrigerator with prepackaged meals and showed me a container with eight big cubes of what looked like deep fried tofu.
I paid and made another mad dash back to the hotel and the safety of my room.
Rosie told me Japan has amazing tofu and she wasn’t lying! It was the best damn tofu I have ever eaten and I couldn’t get enough of it.
When my alarm went off on the morning of 4 December, I couldn’t contain myself. I jumped out of bed and danced around the room chanting “Taiji! Taiji! Taiji! Today is the daaaayyyyy!”. I couldn’t wait to get there and to see Rosie again and to meet the other Cove Guardians. I got ready and checked out quickly. I had no idea how I was going to get through the long train journey when I was that impatient. I wished I could just close my eyes and just *be* there.
Despite the complex rail system, getting on the right train wasn’t that much of a problem. I faced a bigger problem. It is very difficult for me to function properly without coffee in the morning.
Typically, I was very early for my train and had time to kill. This afforded me the time to go caffeine hunting. I still had popcorn from the previous night (the plums were awful – marinated in salt or something!) so I had breakfast sorted.
There was a little convenience store on the station called Lawsons. Surely they sold coffee? I looked and looked but saw nothing. I went to the cashier and asked.
She looked at me blankly.
Her finger pointed towards the fridge.
Her finger didn’t budge.
“Hot. Hot. Shoo-shoo. Co-ffee.” I didn’t know how else to explain.
She came around the counter and walked to the fridge, still pointing. I followed.
“Nooooooo. HOT coffee. Hot. HOT,” mimicking burning my tongue.
She nodded, pointedly pointing to the drinks.
“No bbbrrrrrr coffee. No brrrrrr,” holding my arms and pretending to freeze.
Exasperated she showed me to touch the canned drinks. The can burnt my fingers.
“Hehehehehehe oooohhhhhhh!” I laughed, “hot coffee, HAI!!!”.
Hot canned coffee in a fridge. How very novel.
Needless to say I paid very quickly and departed Lawson as fast as my two legs could carry me.
Despite it being a Sunday, there were a few people on the platform dressed in suits with briefcases in hand. It was quiet and the chirping of birds filled the air. There were no birds in sight though and I realised the sounds were transmitted via loudspeakers.
I sat down on a bench next to an old man. He was eating a packet of boiled candy. He offered me one. My mother always told me never to accept candy from strangers. When I was five, I took this to heart. While my mother was distracted by a window display during a shopping trip, I kicked a stranger as hard as I could, repeatedly. My mother was shocked by my sudden burst of uncontrollable violence and no amount of screaming from her could stop me. When I told her breathlessly, between all the kicking, that he offered me candy when she wasn’t looking, she yanked me aside with all her might and gave the man her ten cents worth.
I looked at the sweets and I looked at the old man. He was an Asian version of my beloved grandfather. Furthermore, he looked blissfully unaware of my indoctrinated paranoia which I have protectively owned since I was a child.
Graciously, with a smile and a bow, I accepted the sweet. There really *IS* something to be said about the kindness of strangers.
And so the two of us, two complete opposite strangers, sat peacefully next to each other sucking our sweets. All the Japanese people I have encountered so far were annoyingly nice. It made me feel guilty for being in Japan to oppose something some of them deemed as culture.