After an early morning bike ride along the dyke that separates Kawamoto from the Gonogawa River, I decided to be brave and stop into a small café in town. I had seen their appetizing pastries and thought that my little bit of Japanese might allow me to purchase something…whether or not I could actually decipher what it actually was!
I parked my bike (the lovely maroon town cruiser) outside, and went inside. The owner immediately greeted me with an optimistic: “Ohaiyou Gozaimasu!” I pointed to a giant green biscuit and inquired: “Kore wa nan desuka?” Without hesitation, he responded: “Green Tea Roll.”
Aha! An English speaker. I could ask some more questions…
I bought a cup of coffee and the green tea roll and sat down. The owner immediately introduced himself and asked if I was interested in Taiko (Japanese ensemble drumming). I responded enthusiastically and told him I had seen the recent Taiko performance at Kawamoto’s matsuri. He became very genki (energetic) and told me he was the star performer at that show! I then recognized him – although he looked much different in the intensity of playing the drums during the Taiko performance last weekend.
He then asked if I’d like to join his Taiko group! Of course I would! So we arranged for me to go to practice for the first time on Thursday from 8:00pm – 10:00pm to see how I do.
He proceeded to show me around the café and tell me of his travels to Denmark and Germany. He had enjoyed the pastries and bread there, and missed them very much. He even wrote a book about his time abroad – and gifted me a copy! It will be a long time before I can read a book in Japanese though…I told him I’d have to read it slowly.
Another customer came in at that point and inquired as to my whereabouts in Kawamoto. I spoke as much Japanese as I could: “Watashi wa Jenna desu. Eigo o oshiemasu…Shimane Chuo Koko. Ni-ju-shichi shichi-gatsu kimashita…Amerika wa kara kimashita. South Dakota…you know?” He attempted to respond in English, but knew about as much English as I knew Japanese. We decided (through the help of the café owner as translator) to meet at the Café twice a week for English / Japanese lessons. An exchange! And he offered to buy my coffee too! How could I say no to that?
Things are looking up: the more I interact with my coworkers, neighbors, and other Kawamoto residents, the less lonely and homesick I feel, and the more Japanese I learn! It just takes persistence…ganbarimasu!