Saturday, November 13, 2010

No Title - just about a dear, beautiful memory and friendship.

A good friend of mine lives in Fukuoka city, now with her husband and two daughters.
I haven’t seen her since 1999 but I miss her and think about her a lot.

That summer in 1999 I took Blue Train Asakaze that used to operate between Tokyo and Hakata. I left Tokyo at night to arrive in Hakata by the next morning.
The body of the train was of course painted blue. You know - it’s a ‘blue train’.

The Japanese definition for this type of train is
寝台客車 - which translates to ‘passenger trains with beds’ (which is exactly right) – but for some reason, the tone of the word always made me imagine something more flashy and ritzy, like the one appeared in an early 007 movie.

However, it was nothing like what I was expecting.
That “Blue Train”, from how I remember, was mounted with bunk beds that came with a blanket and an uncomfortable pillow all had the distinctive musty, moldy smell (it might have been just because I bought the cheapest ticket).

That being said, I still liked the train in a funny kind of way.

It was summer but the night air was chilly enough to make me shiver.
There were not many passengers on the train, which was good.
That sort of peaceful silence was welcome.

I was drifting in and out of my sleep all that night.
Every now and then, I heard the distant sound of the doors opening and closing in my half-sleep status, and felt the cool breeze entering the carriage, which became even cooler as the night grew deeper.

Dawn came, and I saw the most beautiful sunrise while the train was crossing over the Kanmonkyo Bridge. As it got closer to Hakata, more passengers came in and the atmosphere became increasingly vibrant.

I was excited.
It was the first time that I was in Kyushu Island.

Fukuoka was (is) a big city and, while the energy was as strong as that of Tokyo, it was of even more cheerful and open kind.

I was there for only 2-3 days so there aren’t many things I can recall, but just like beautiful scenes in a film, every page in the slideshow of memories is incredibly vivid and memorable.

I remember hopping on and off the train randomly - which means I can’t recollect the name of the station.
But I do remember the harsh sun that burned my skin within just one minute of being outside.
It was scorching hot that day.

In the next scene, I see myself meandering somewhere near the station, enjoying the sight of rice crops swaying in the mid-summer wind (or heat wave, rather).

Scene 3 – I see in amazement local kids swimming and playing in the river stream.
The water is as clear as crystal, reflecting the sun,
the light shimmering on the surface.

All those memories are very, very fragmented yet full of colors.

- Funny, it is.

Later I had a long stroll at Oohori Park till dusk and then dropped by one of many ramen stalls in Tenjin area to eat Tonkotsu ramen
that use the soup made from pig bones.

In the evening the next day, I met the friend of mine at Hakata Station, and had something to eat at some Italian restaurant nearby.
The view from the window was stunning.

It was just a year before coming to Melbourne – oh, I was young back then.
10 years passed by and I still remember that night we had such an intimate talk about ourselves and family and something more private for the first time in our friendship.

It was like a miracle since we met in Tokyo while both of us were taking up the correspondence course at the same university (from which I didn’t graduate), and spent only a few weeks together before seeing each other again after 9 years’ apart.

We continued to write each other letters for all those years – even though we lived so far away from each other. Now we have even larger distance between us.

But that particular night in Hakata for me was one of those precious moments that I would never forget.

 It’s the kind of memory that never fails to bring a smile on my face.

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