The cherry blossoms are just coming out and everywhere I turn I start thinking about Tokyo.
The first time Zilla took me to Sri Lanka, which was-wow- already seven years ago, our flight connected through Narita, which is to Tokyo what Seatac is to Seattle. We were in Sri Lanka almost three weeks and in Tokyo for only three days, but it is Japan that I really remember.
Part of it, I’m sure, was the unexpected good luck of it all. Sri Lanka, in those days, was still at war and while we were there the airport was bombed. Zilla and I were newly together, and being home with him, meeting his parents, being white, wondering if what we had would work and if we were even physically safe was, well, a lot. But when we landed in Japan all of that was over. We were just two people again, with two days together.
We took the train in to Tokyo and walked up the stairs to Ueno Park. Petals blew in the wind and fell on my face. Without even realizing it, without even considering it might happen, even thinking it was remotely possible, we’d come to Tokyo —and had two whole days—right in the middle of the Cherry Blossom Festival.
The park was pink, petals lined the paths. People were out of their offices, celebrating. Men in suits and women in skirts–knees neatly folded—sat on blue tarps and drank sake. Their shoes lined the blue plastic. Petals fell in their black hair. Petals fell on their umbrellas. The air smelled like fresh linen. Everyone was talking and taking photos. Food carts were parked everywhere.
Zilla spent the first grade in Kyoto—because his parents were on sabbatical there— and he still remembers how to pronounce some Japanese. Please and thank you, bathrooms, money, takoyaki, which the food carts sold, but mostly just the basics now, since it has been thirty years. But his pronunciation is perfect and he has the right body language, a sense of when to nod and bow. So I followed his lead, and we just carried on with a few words and lots of sake, covered in petals and eating fresh tofu soup, making new friends, as it grew dark.
That night we stayed in a traditional Japanese ryokan—or guest house–on folded mats. I bathed nude in the traditional baths with three old ladies—more on that, I promise—and we had a thirty course meal, one of which was a single perfect strawberry, that reminds me that perfect falls short as a word. A geisha—or at least that is what she looked like to me– in full kimono brought each dish, kneeled at our low table, backed away as if I were a queen, and then bowed. I hadn’t seen anything like it, except on Reading Rainbow! We still have the menu framed on our wall.
I think about that trip sometimes, when life gets busy and time seems to stop. Graham Greene says in Travels with my Aunt that travel makes stretches time, makes it longer. Two days, and they held enough wonder for years. Just two days.
Where would you go?
Update 1: I finished my first Computer Science problem set. BAAM! As Emeril would say. The second one was harder: baam? (not a roar, but a meow)
Update 2: Several says ago I woke up to this email: “Your friend has send you an article from WebMD.” I opened it. “How to Get Pregnant Quick: Fertility, Ovulation and Conception.” The friend who sent it? Zilla’s mom! AHHHHHHH! At least I know she’s reading my blog.