We came to his house within 20 minutes. I walked into his fancy house and met his lovely wife and 3 beautiful children. They packed their bags, got in the van and said they would all drive me to Sakata! I was really touched. They were excited to meet a foreigner and wanted to spend time getting to know me. The wife spoke a little more English and the next hour and a half we talked non-stop. The eldest son, a 10 year old stud with sparking eyes, kept asking me questions about U.S. and my travels. He even asked if I had a boyfriend and was very happy to hear a negative response. The youngest daughter, a 4 year old beauty with a heartbreaking smile, couldn’t take her eyes off me. I was different to her; new and exciting. She was daddy’s little girl and sat in the passenger seat next to her father while the rest of the family sat behind. But she kept looking back and studying me; every time giving me the gift of her breathtaking smile adorned with two tiny dimples. The middle girl, a 6 year old curious child, felt the lack of attention towards herself and continuously gave me dirty looks and interrupted the conversation. I was lucky enough to have a few persimmons in my bag and as soon as I offered, was redeemed.
I was happy to meet Nabuhiro-san’s family. They gave me a burst of energy and I was glad to share my stories with them.
The next day, while my host was at work, I decided to explore Sakata. Having a bike in my possession, I toured the small city and got to know its many splendid treasurers. When the sky turned gray and it started raining, I found refugee in a hair salon and finally got a long-needed haircut. It took long enough for the sky to clear and I was back on the road. Soon I reached a particular shrine I was looking for. I was parking my bike when I heard a car pull over behind me. I looked over to make sure there was clearance for it to pass by and then noticed the driver.
It was Nabuhiro-san. “Wow, what a small world! What are you doing here!?!?” He was psyched to see me and asked what I was doing. When I told him I was riding around checking out the touristy spots of the town, he asked if he could join me. “Huh? Don’t you have to work today?” No, he answered, it was his vacation day. Weird, I thought but agreed. When we settled that it’d be best if we traveled in his car, in case it rains again, I got in and we took off to the next attraction. Suddenly, he told me he’s been in the city for 4 hours and has been looking for me everywhere. Now, I was confused. Trying to figure out exactly what that means, I found out the following.
A few months ago he caught his wife cheating. He felt miserable and insignificant. His heart was broken but he accepted his wife back for the sake of children. He’s been very sad ever since but when he met me yesterday I somehow lifted his spirits. And he desperately wanted that feeling back. He wanted to smile, feel alive and be happy so he sought me out. I was very confused. I had no idea what he expected of me. How was I supposed to make him feel better? Was there more to the story? I tried to explain my confusion but found it very difficult to hold such conversation in Japanese. We settled that we’ll spend a few hours together, sightseeing and talking. That seemed to be enough for him. Of course I wondered his true motives, since it seemed unrealistic that all he wanted was to talk to me. But I listened to the voice inside and decided to pursue this foolish quest.
We drove around the city a bit, went out for lunch and ended up strolling through a beautiful park. The leaves were turning colors and it was a sight to see. All the while we held a light conversation. Eventually, I thought it was time to bring up the conversation about his wife. He didn’t trust her anymore although she said she finished it off with the other man. I urged him to follow his heart and try to believe her. Give the marriage another chance. He said he never talked to his wife the way he talked to me. So open and free. Of course I knew the reason he was opening up to me because I was a complete stranger. I’m just passing through. It’s so much easier to pour our hearts out to people we don’t know.
Our last stop was the shrine where he picked me up. Since I didn’t get to see it when we met, we decided to look around. He was thrilled to see such a beautiful shrine. He is an architecture by day and was able to appreciate the beauty of the old magnificent structure. I noticed his stroll changed. He was walking with a spring in his step. He was smiling every time I looked at him. He swung his hands back and forth as if he was a school boy who just confessed his love to a girl of his dreams. As we walked through a beautiful valley, bejeweled in red colors of autumn breath, he stopped, looked over at me, bowed very deeply and said, “Kyō wa..........arigatou gozaimashita” (“For today..........I gratefully thank you”).
I do not know what I did. But whatever it was, it worked. He looked very happy. He couldn’t stop smiling.