By Kazuya Muto
One day, I was sitting in a crowded cafe, reading a book over lunch, when suddenly someone said to me, "Excuse me. Do you mind if I share your table?" I was taken aback. In Japan people seldom ask if they can share a table with others, but I said, "No, not at all. Go ahead." In any case, I was bored with my book, and I thought it would be a good chance to chat with someone new.
He introduced himself as Robert.
"So where are you from?" I asked.
"I'm from Germany," he said. "I came to Australia two months ago. How about you?"
"I'm from Japan and ..."
"Japan!? Wow! I'm really interested in Japan!" he said, and he started reeling off reasons why he was interested in Japan: "You know, Japan and Germany had a close relationship during World War II."
"And I'm also very interested in Japanese culture because one of my friends got married to a Japanese woman and he lives in Japan."
"Have you been to Japan?"
"No, I've never been. By the way, where in Japan do you come from?"
"Gunma, but when I say Gunma, no one knows where that is so I always say 'near Tokyo, about one and a half hours away.' "
"Tokyo?!?! Wow! Tokyo is one of the largest cities in the world. I envy you because I was born in the German countryside. Did you know Germany is now the third most-developed country in the world after the U.S. and Japan?"
Robert was very talkative, but I liked him and his way of speaking English. He always tried to talk clearly and always spoke with feeling. So I could tell his interest in Japan and Japanese culture was genuine. I wanted to keep talking but I had to go to class.
A few days later, I ran into Robert in front of the university cafe and we chatted over coffee. He asked me, "Are you interested in classical music? If you are, I have tickets to a concert at the Opera House. Why don't we go? It's Vivaldi's 'Four Seasons.' To be perfectly honest, I prefer pop music to classical music. But I thought listening to classical music in the Opera House would be a great experience, so I said I'd go.
This was my first time to go to such a big classical-music concert. I didn't know what to wear. This turned out to be a huge problem for me. I thought I should probably avoid going in jeans, but if not jeans, what should I wear? So I asked my friends about what was appropriate for a concert at the Opera House. Most of them said smart-casual, perhaps a suit without tie. So I went for the suit idea, and decided to wear the suit that I'd worn only once before, at the matriculation ceremony for Gunma University. I looked at myself in the mirror and laughed. I looked funny in a suit.
Then the day came for me to go to the Opera House! I was very excited. The concert was to start at 8 p.m. so we had arranged to meet in front of the station at 6 p.m. I was impatient for 6 p.m. to come. At 5:30 I was already in front of the station, and then ...
(To be continued)
Shukan ST: June 16, 2006
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