Journey To Japan


0600 JST.

I was wrested from my sleep by a sharp, piercing cry. Years of “hood trauma” and the resulting PTSD had made me into a light sleeper. Hearing the noise reverberate throughout the room, I sprang from the bed in full on disoriented “fight or flight” mode. In an irrational, brief moment of panic, I thought Grandma Setsu, who was an early riser according to the family, had somehow injured herself and was in writhing in pain in the room over. My body told me to “save Setsu!” but my mind urged a moment’s patience for there are no heroes in Japan—except maybe Ultraman and I’m no Ultraman. Listening to the cadence of the noise more closely, I concluded it was a crow, albeit an obnoxious one with its deep, resonant caw. Bewildered and annoyed, I cursed the crow under my breath and returned to sleep.

The next time I woke up, the crow had left but the house was no longer quiet. Slightly before my alarm, I heard the familiar muffled clank of pots and pans being moved, running water, and the gentle commotion of a family preparing to go about their day.  I got prepared briskly, knowing my day would be busy too. I grabbed my belongings and made my way downstairs to the kitchen where I found Natsuko preparing breakfast: miso soup, daikon salad, softly scrambled eggs, sliced ham, steamed rice, sencha tea, and the incomparable Okayama grapes. We greeted each other and Natsuko beckoned me to the table, where she made a plate for me. The amount of preparation had taken me by surprise because I hadn’t considered how I was going to eat in the morning. Typical me. The food was delicious and obviously made with a mother’s touch and care (all of which Natsuko denied and deflected when I complimented it, exercising her excellent Japanese etiquette). Before long we were off and I could get my first true look at Matsue.