Tokyo Love Story

Moving to Tokyo was a surprise.  I worked in Komaki previously, but my boss was crazy, and began breaking into my apartment, so off I went to Tokyo carrying my two suitcases and a laptop bag, off to a brand new teaching job and new apartment. 

Tokyo is sensory overload.  It spans beyond the horizon in all directions, a sprawling mass of skyscrapers, train lines and narrow, winding streets.  I had a few friends there, but I was constantly lost, so I put up an ad on the internet: I’d swap English lessons for someone to show me around.  The response was overwhelming.  One of the people I met was a handsome young computer programmer who I began seeing casually, though not exclusively.  He had other ideas, though, and started suggesting we move to Europe, which I thought was a bit much for two months of dating. 

I spent every weekend at Asakusa temple, and every time I would get my fortune told.  It always said, Your job is great, money is great, family is great, you will travel, you are happy.  Your love life is terrible, and the one you wait for is late.

Anyway, around that time, I got another answer to my ad.  This man said he liked surfing and cooking, and had just moved back from Australia and needed to practice his English.  We decided to meet for drinks in Shinjuku.  Since everyone in Japan invariably responds, “I look Japanese” when asked what they look like, I told him to come find me, the American girl with the pink umbrella. 

That evening, I stood in the rain with my pink umbrella, watching hoards of people scurrying around the station, when I heard someone say, “Are you Kat?”

He was tall for a Japanese guy, with a deep tan, bleached, spiky hair, and a gorgeous smile.  He was beautiful, and I can’t remember what I said, but I know it wasn’t coherent.  We set off through the rainy streets to a cozy izakaya nearby, tucked away in a small bamboo room overlooking downtown Tokyo. 

He wasn’t my type, really–he smoked, he drank, he waited tables and didn’t seem to have much else planned.  But talking to him was so easy, although I’m sure all of the cocktails helped a bit.  Eventually, we left and went to a tiny underground bar, done entirely in black with sparkly walls and floor, which only sat about ten people.  We sat at the bar and they served us monstrous sea scallops.  By then, I was so drunk I couldn’t remember how to hold my chopsticks, and the slippery sea scallop proved too much for me.  Eventually, I stabbed it with my chopstick and lofted it triumphantly into the air; it flew behind me and landed in the middle of the floor.  He laughed so hard he fell off his chair, while everyone else stared at me in silence.  Well, that’s it…he’s never calling meagain, I thought miserably.   

The ride home was interesting; I sat on the train, thinking it was moving as it sat at the station, calling out to the conductor to stop the train before all the people fell out.  Eventually the train’s doors closed and I was greatly relieved as it began to truly move, and by then all the other people had determined I was a lunatic and moved to another car.  The walk to my apartment, which usually took ten minutes, took almost an hour, because I was so determined to walk in a straight line.  When i got home at last, I saw a text: “Tell me you got home okay.”

I went to the temple the next day.  When I shook my fortune from the can, it said, Your job is great, money is great, family is great, you will travel, you are happy.  You have love.  The one you wait for has arrived.

I don’t usually believe in these things, but I tucked it in my pocket all the same.

About two days later, he called and we went to karaoke.  About three weeks later, we were at our third round of karaoke and he said, “I know I’m drunk, a little, but I can be serious.  Can I be your boyfriend?”

He was so pretty.  “Yeah, why not?” I replied.  I don’t know.  Sometimes you just have to roll with it.

A few weeks after that, he called me.  I heard his friends in the background laughing.  “I’m out with friends, drinking, but…I was just thinking about how much I’d rather be with you, because I love you.” 

I never in my life let anything move so fast.  I was such a planner, so careful, so controlled, but this was something beyond me; I knew I had to go with my gut.  I loved him too. 

My mother, when I called her about it later, said incredulously, “Wait…you dumped the rich computer programmer for the smoking, surfing waiter?”

“I did.  I can’t explain it, it’s just…”

My mom cut in, “I trust your judgement.  Your dad was a mess when I brought him home, and look how well that turned out.  Do what you think is right.”

Well, I was right.  A got a second job and saved up enough money to go to college in the US.  We traveled the islands of Japan together.  We wandered around on the beach.  He took care of me when I was sick, and took a week off from work after the train accident to sit on the beach with me, just to be sure I was okay. 

We went to visit his grandmothers in Kobe.  Both had suffered greatly in World War Two, and I wondered if they’d accept me.  One of them was bedridden, but still held that old Imperial strength.  She beckoned me over to her bed, patted my cheek and said, “You’re pretty.  I was pretty once, when I was a dancer in China.  Bring me my photos.”  She educated me on the family history, talked to me about the war, talked to me about A.  “He’s very special to me,” she said.  “I expect you’ll take care of him.”

At the end of the visit, she handed us a wedding envelope stuffed with money.  “Take this,” she said.  “I won’t live to see your wedding, but I know you’ll be fine.”

“Grandma,” A said, “That’s a bit early, after all we’ve only been together a year–“

“Don’t argue with an old Japanese woman,” she replied sharply.  “I know things.  Shut up and take the money, and go be happy.”

His other grandmother served me tea in ancient cups, showed me where an unexploded American shell fell in her garden, and said, “You look like a foreigner, but your heart is Japanese.  Take good care of him in America.  We’re counting on you.”

We did go to America, where he excelled at school and got a great job. 

One day, I asked A what made him call me a second time.

“That scallop,” he said.  “When you flipped that scallop across the bar, you started blushing, and you were so cute and so funny.  I just had to see you again.”

Tomorrow, we celebrate eight years of marriage.  We have a house, two beautiful daughters, and a life that’s just as happy as that night in the bar.


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