When I visited Japan in 2005 I was struck by the beauty of the land with its mountains and valleys, towns nestled in between as though they had grown up from the ground and the way the Japanese make their culture known, from the most magnificent temples to the tiniest of window boxes.
But what most deeply affected me was the people themselves. Their capacity to give of themselves to a complete stranger without asking anything in return was astounding. I found that all I had to do was stop on a sidewalk and look at a map and someone would invariably come up to me and ask me if I needed help to find where I was going. I had people walk far out of their way to escort me to places I wanted to go. In fact, in Kyoto I did my best to get lost, just in order to have a reason to talk to people. But it wasn’t just the fact that they were helpful, it was the eagerness and the grace with which they offered.
I promised myself when I got on the plane to come back to Canada that if ever I had the opportunity to help a Japanese person I would go as far out of my way as so many of them did for me. Unfortunately that opportunity came in the form of disaster. Two years ago today I grieved when I learned so many of these wonderful, generous people were lost, and all I could do at the time was send money. I hope that I will be able to go back, next time to help with the restoration of a beautiful land laid to waste.
It’s odd, I suppose, that a born and bred Canadian should think of a country almost half way around the world as home. But that, I do. I love Japan and its people.
Itsuka Nihon ni kaerimasu.