“Sadie thinks you’re some kind of samurai?” Robyn asked.
“She just thinks some of the new guys aren’t.” I said. Take a look at the men today. It seems that most of them have a woman’s heart. There are very few true men anymore. It is easy for a strong warrior to gain the advantage these days because so few have any courage at all. This loss of the warrior spirit is easily shown by the fact that men today cannot even behead a convicted criminal with his hands tied behind his back.
The ANA counter at the Vancouver airport opened at the stroke of the second hand on the twelve.
“Nothing to check in?” She asked.
“Nothing.” I said. There is really nothing you must be and there is nothing you must do. There is really nothing you must have and there is nothing you must know. There is really nothing you must become. However, it helps to understand that fire burns, and when it rains, the earth gets wet. Robyn and I ate in the food court.
“I never really thought of poutine as an upgrade.” She said. We moved through Security and Duty Free and Space and Time, and emerged into the limbo of our departure lounge. It slowly began to fill with kawaii cuteness, to a level of farcical absurdity. Giggling Japanese girls dressed like Annes of Green Gables with floppy hats, or Lolitas without them, clutched plush toys and cell phones and KitKats. The boys shared iPod shuffles through manifold trees of earbud branches, and selfies, wearing T-shirts with messages that must have been cool somewhere. People who love surfers and worship the ocean are our friends- Beach sound. Older passengers wore surgical masks.
“Is that so they don’t catch our germs?” Asked Robyn.
“So we don’t catch theirs.” I said. “On-gimu-giri.” We were supposed to board by seat number, but there was a different calculus at work, and Robyn and I drifted into hierarchical position in the queue. We stowed our Ospreys. The flight left the ground at the precise time, at the precise angle of attack.
But wait. My entertainment module didn’t work. I pressed the stewardess call bell. A geisha answered it. We spoke in French. She fixed it in seconds, in Japanese. Robyn slept. I watched a movie. To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, draw closer, to find each other, and to feel. That is the purpose of life. She awoke for the flatulogenic Hungarian goulash of turnips and beans and cabbage, and found me, on returning from the washroom, because my head was the only one above the seats.
Many hours later and earlier, I lost count, the camera from the undercarriage of the airliner came alive on our cabin screen. We descended into a red sky over Tokyo Bay, where Matthew Perry and Douglas MacArthur had extracted their surrenders and, beyond which, we would tender our own.
Ours was one of the first international flights into Haneda, most of which landed at Narita, sixty kilometres from Tokyo. We touched down downtown, but we weren’t staying. I had planned a surgical egress from the capital, the same evening we arrived. Only three kinds of ATMs will give gaijin cash in Japan- the post offices, 7-11, and Citibank. Origami Bank had folded, it was today learned that Sumo Bank has gone belly up. Bonsai Bank plans to cut back some of its branches. Karaoke Bank is up for sale and is going for a song. Meanwhile, shares in Kamikaze Bank have nose-dived and 500 jobs at Karate Bank will be chopped. Analysts report that there is something fishy going on at Sushi Bank and staff there fear they may get a raw deal. Through Immigration and Customs, Robyn and I hit the Citibank machine, twice. A Japanese man walked into the currency exchange in New York City with 2000 yen and walked out with $72. The following week, he walked in with another 2000 yen, and was handed $66. He asked the teller why he got less money that week than the previous week. The teller said, ‘Fluctuations.’ The Japanese man stormed out, and just before slamming the door, turned around and shouted, ‘Fluc you Amelicans, too.’
Further into our arrival hall, we picked up two times two days worth of properly dated Tokyo subway passes at discount, for our last four days in the country. We already had both kinds of Japanese maps, the small and schematic and bewildering, and the large and fantastically detailed and bewildering. At 20:14, we boarded the first of several trains that would take us south to Shichirigahama, standing room only, Ospreys on our backs, hanging from to the ceiling straps that would take us down the Samurai Road.
‘Stop shoving,’ they shout,