Friday, October 27, 2006

The Candy Lady

It constanty surprises us the warmth of the Japanese people around us. Even though we are "gaijin" they often make us feel welcome and take us into their homes and their hearts. This is a story of one of those brief, yet memorable moments that happened to me a few years ago.......

The early hours of a fresh winter morning found me trudging from home on my way to the train to Osaka. I was laden with a large camera bag and a heavy backpack swearing that I really should learn that I can live for three days with less than five pairs of shoes and half my wardrobe. My coat, scarf, woollen hat and gloves were doing little to keep away the biting cold. I tramped through the narrow track patched with snow between the vegetable gardens on the way to the station. It was early, even for the Japanese, except for maybe one that day. Tending to the leeks in a garden, the folds of the earth resembling the creases in her face, was a stooped-over little nonagenarian Japanese woman. She looked up at me in surprise.

In cute old style Japanese she asked me, "Now where are you off to today dear?"

"I'm going to Osaka" I replied. She looked surprised. I don't think she fully expected me to understand.

"Why are you going there?" she asked.

"Oh, I'm just going on a trip. I've never been there" I replied, glad that I could now speak enough Japanese to easily hold an exchange like this.

She looked in the direction I'd come from a little puzzled and queried, "Well, where do you live?"

"I live in Akane-cho", to which she looked surprised as the suburb only consisted of a few streets.

"So do I," she replied, her eyes first betrayed a little surprise and then softened as if looking at a loved one. Her wrinkled bony, yet strong hands reached into her apron and pulled out a handful of candy. "Now you look after yourself for me won't you dear," I was instructed as I had the sweets thrust upon me. I suddenly felt like I was ten again and this was my grandmother dishing out sweets as I was on my way out the door to play with my friends. Although my family were so far away, I felt welcomed, as I had so many times in Japan, into the bosom of another family.
I bid her farewell and then hurried onto the train station. The tears in my eyes were partly from the biting cold and partly from the happiness created by a sudden, unexpected warming in my heart.

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