There’s nothing like the sharp tang of loneliness on the first morning in a Japanese city. With jet lag, I’m up at 12:45 a.m., then 3 a.m., then finally get up and have some coffee at 3:30. I look out from a high hotel window over a sea of concrete. A cherry tree in full bloom snows white-pink petals over a sidewalk. Later, I stand in a silent crowd in the train station, where no one smiles or even looks at anyone else.
Here in Osaka, people can hardly believe the triple disaster really happened. The dollar is slightly stronger, and the currency exchange vendor sucks air in between his teeth sadly, shakes his head over the rate, and says, “Nihon ga erai koto ni natte iru.” (“Japan is going through an awful thing.”) At work, they say, “Well, we in Osaka are unaffected, so we’ll fight. We’ll bring back the economy.”
Bad news from Tohoku keeps rolling in.
Soon, I’ll lose this feeling of disconnection. Everyone will know me, know my height and weight and salary, comment on what I do, say they saw me walking down the street, tell me to wear something warmer or I’ll catch a cold, unobtrusively hand me an umbrella cover if I’m dripping rudely. I’ll be caught in the cocooning safety net of society here. For one day, sometimes, two, I can feel like a lonely, anonymous adventurer. Maybe that’s all I need.