Sunday, August 18, 2019

Kindness Can Change Everything

A Travel Vignette... I sit at a Vie de France in the Akihabara district of Tokyo and contemplate eating a turtle-shaped melon bun, and smiled as a tiny little girl adorably did a funky dance in front of me.

First of all, it's a small world. Anyone in the USA who is xenophobic about the rest of the world clearly hasn't explored it.

But anyway. I'm comfortable (enough) in my own shoes and clearly don't mind traveling the world alone. This is probably less preference than happenstance but so be it. And in the most densely populated city in the world, there is something oddly liberating about the sense of intrepid isolation.

But on my fifth waking day in Tokyo, I was feeling a bit leg weary and a tad over touristed. You may have sensed this from my post earlier today.

So after getting to Shibuya Crossing to start my day, supposedly the busiest pedestrian intersection in the world, I got a random subway line without any intended destination.

I opted to get off at Jimbocho, and noted several used book stores (there seems to be a college in the area), and saw a unique looking building across the street that appreared to have a restaurant drawing my interest.

But when I got there, I wasn't that intrigued by the lunch pictogram. Around the corner was a place far more non-descript but somehow more appealing.

It was down a set of stairs in a basement space, and was empty when I arrived (eventually it would fill, seemingly with local business people).

The lunch specials menu was entirely in Japanese, but the waitress--a pretty young Japanese woman who spoke better English than anyone I've yet encountered on the trip--helped me as I fumbled through the regular menu that had translations on it.

And together we got things wrong, as one of the two things I ordered wasn't available then. But I did get some shrimp tempura.

I don't want to overtell or oversell this. It's not a Lost in Translation or Before Sunrise story. The waitress, easily young enough to be my daughter, didn't need an old American schlub hitting on her.

She was just nice.

Asking me where I was from and why I was visiting Japan, she told me she'd lived in Vancouver for awhile and had been to Seattle. 

And when I asked if she had suggestions for less-touristy places I might want to venture, she brought over her laptop computer and showed me a PowerPoint of Tokyo attractions she'd made for a friend.

Most of her selections matched the guide book choices, and I've already been to most (and not much interested in shopping hotspots, though I've also been to some of those too).

So there's no tangible outcome from my interaction with--as I learned by asking her--Liza. It was just a pleasant chat at the place where I had lunch.

And a long way from home, that goes a long way.

I did give her my Facebook link and this blog address and invited her to connect.

Who knows if she will, and it's virtually certain I will never see her again.

Still, Liza, if you see this--or even if you don't--I just want to say...


You brightened my day just by being nice. And prompted me to write this from a Vie de France.

Random kindness from a stranger. 

It really can change the tenor of a trip, whether across the street or around the world.

Heck, it might even change the world.

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