In 2011, what feels like a century ago now, I spent two weeks in Japan. The first week was dedicated to taking in Tokyo while the last seven days were split between Kyoto, Hiroshima and Osaka.
Along the way, I befriended two American boys, Tyler and Ryan, who were fresh out of Caltech. I met up with a Japanese chef I’d initially come across online by the name of David. I also talked haiku with one of the directors of the Haiku International Association, Professor Toru Kiuchi, and sat down with the manager of the lovely guest house I stayed at in Kyoto, IchiEnSou.
For the first of this four-part series, I present a friendship that was forged in a series of coincidences so uncanny they could make a believer out of just about anyone. Even me.
We met over breakfast at the guest house where we were all staying in Tokyo. They were checking out while I had a few more days ahead of me there. We hung out a little that day, then made plans to meet up again that night in Shibuya outside the Starbucks at the famous intersection that’s criss-crossed with white bands of pedestrian crossing. I arrived late, per usual, and fretted that I’d missed them and had no way of contacting them to tell them I was there. I stubbornly continued to wait, and was so glad I did when half an hour later the both of them showed up, having gone for a walk when they didn’t find me where I was meant to be at the appointed hour.
After a dinner of sushi, we went to a bar for a sake bomb each before spending the next couple of hours doing what one simply must do when they’re in Tokyo: sang karaoke. (‘Sang’ is a subjective term). Then, because the trains had stopped running (they cease operation at something like 1am??), I took the long walk back with T&R to the new place where they were staying.
I remember having a late-night cup of Japanese tea with them in the homey kitchen of their guest house, before we all retired to bed. And one of them, I can’t remember who it was now, kindly gave up their bed for me.
When we parted the next morning, I thought that was the last I’d see of them. Imagine my surprise when, at the next place where I stayed – a capsule hostel in Shinjuku – we crossed paths again. I had checked out and was whiling away some hours before I was to take my overnight bus to Kyoto. They were just checking in.
Of course, we had to have lunch. And when it was revealed that T&R’s next destination was Kyoto as well, we had to compare itineraries. And wouldn’t you know it – they were booked into the same, 11 bed, guest house (IchiEnSou – my interview with the manager to come) as me, and our accommodation periods overlapped.
My interview below with Tyler and Ryan was done at IchiEnSou in Kyoto. We talked about what brought them to Japan, how they’d been getting on travelling together, and about their experience of a great American pastime in Japan.
Avatar picture credit.