I was miserable, and I was laughing. We were suddenly sprinting through warm soupy air, struggling to support umbrellas against the heavy howling wind, failing to avoid puddles rippling beneath the falling torrents. We were surprisingly spry given the weight of our nearly distended stomachs, having just consumed a $7 feast of local Okinawan ramen and fried chicken—approximately $1 per pound of food, it seemed. After our mad dash delivered us to our hotel and heavy tropical winds delivered our umbrellas to the junk heap, our feet squished softly in to the beige hotel lobby as we sat down in a soaked stupor to catch our breath. The typhoon had arrived.
It was the end of break, the night Andrew, Ethan, and I were supposed to fly from Okinawa to Osaka—but instead we found ourselves air-drying in the Beachfront Hotel (actually separated from the water by a highway), near the temporarily paused Naha airport. This night served as quite representative of my entire tour experience; it was a strange coordination of leisurely exploration, momentary discomfort and physical adversity, surrounded by good friends and fueled by pounds of delicious local cuisine—in which I have found myself having some of the most fun of my life.
Two days and one typhoon later, Ethan, Andrew, and I finally made it to Osaka on separate flights (I was required to travel solo to Seoul for a night before flying back eastward to Osaka). I got to spend a day in Osaka, joining the Dins for the rest of Japan, with two days in Tokyo and three days in Choshi.
Japan was particularly fun for me. All school year I had been eager to return to Japan because I had spent four weeks the previous summer in Japan teaching English. And getting back, I practiced Japanese with taxi drivers and at our performance in Hyogo, in Osaka, I saw two of my host families, and at our performance in Saitama, Tokyo, I saw my other two host families. It was so special to share the Dins, an essential part of the last two years, with them.
One of my favorite nights of tour was in Tokyo when Lee took us to a conveyor belt sushi restaurant, a place where food is delivered exclusively by conveyor belts; the huge belt slithers out from a back preparation-kitchen on one side, snakes between the tables, and recedes into its culinary cavern on the other side. The rules were simple; either grab a plate as it plods by the table on the belt or use the virtual tablet-menu to have plates whiz by and stop obediently next to your table. Once you finish, slide the empty plate into a slot beside the table. At 100 Yen per plate, approximately $1, returning empty plates soon became a game of one-sided air hockey, and the “returned plate” count on the tablet-menu skyrocketed into the 40’s as if the defense had quit. After this highly automated feeding frenzy, we managed to convey ourselves to a nearby Onsen (Japanese bath house), and enjoyed a relaxing evening of steamy baths, nude camaraderie, and mild dehydration. It was truly a memorable evening.
Choshi was a particularly wonderful part of tour, as well, as our hosts and the town went out of their way to make us feel welcome and comfortable. We stayed in a beautiful hotel, with phenomenal food, we visited one of the oldest lighthouses in Japan, and we even got to spend another evening at an Onsen (yes, that nude camaraderie is something special). The Dins have been going to Choshi for a while, and the response that we got after performing there was so gratifying and so wonderful. It was a great way to cap off our experience in Japan.
With Japan as no exception, tour has been beautiful and uncomfortable, like a sunny day that brings oppressive heat and humidity. With enough good food, friends, family and meaningful engagement with art, even a thunderously stressful or uncomfortable experience can precipitate memories of lasting joy and personal significance. Though I might have missed out on a few experiences, I know that the weather is never going to be perfect, so I’ve just got to let storm keeping rolling by…sort of like a plate of sushi ;)
Brian Rolincik #240