It had been an exhausting week. Jet lag, the heat and humidity of June in Japan, three frenetic days in Tokyo and four in Kyoto had begun to take their toll. Nara was a smaller, quieter town, once the capital, and we were looking forward to slowing down and getting some rest.
We had made reservations by telephone while still in Kyoto. Not an easy task when you speak no Japanese and the proprietor speaks almost no English. We finally sorted it all out or thought we had.
The next day, after lunch, we said goodbye to our new friends at the Otsu Hostel and took the train the short distance to Nara. Tired and sweaty, we dragged ourselves into the lobby of a privately owned hostel near the Deer Park. The proprietors were a couple in their seventies. He, completely bald, was dressed in khaki pants and white shirt and wearing a serious expression. She, a pleasant looking woman and dressed in a traditional kimono.
Larry, our de facto leader stepped up to the counter to check in. The man opened a gigantic ledger. After a minute he looked up and shook his head. "No reservation" he said in heavily accented English. "But we called yesterday and made a reservation" Larry protested. The man continued to insist that we could not stay without a reservation. The place looked empty. Alan was the next one to try without success. The man's wife stood behind him silently looking on. Finally we released our secret weapon. Amy had been generously gifted by nature and never failed to catch the attention of Japanese males. While Amy pled our case the man began looking in a book that turned out to be a Japanese-English dictionary. I believe he was trying to tell us that our arguments were in vain but it came out as "She is useless". Alan angrily shot back "What do you mean she's useless? She's my wife!"
I had had enough and walked down a corridor to the first room I could find and dropped my backpack on the bed. Seconds later I heard a loud, angry, guttural voice. I looked out of the room and there was the man standing in the corridor. Bald head glistening, legs apart, he looked for all the world like a Japanese drill sergeant. I could not understand his Japanese but his meaning was clear. He wanted me out!
Back in the lobby the bickering continued. Just as emotions reached a fever pitch the woman reached around the man and, without a word, turned a page in the ledger.
And there we were.
The man's face turned beet red and he silently turned and walked out of the room. His wife checked us in.
After he had recovered from his embarrassment, the man could not have been nicer or more helpful. When he was made to understand that Alan and Amy were married and had been sleeping apart for a week he insisted they take his best room because a man and wife should be together. For the rest of the day, whenever he saw Alan or Amy he would leer, rub his belly and say, "Tonight, heh, heh, heh!"
Next morning while I was putting on my shoes near the entrance before going out I heard a voice behind me. "Harro, harro." It was the old man. Patting his head and pointing to mine he smiled and said, "Same, same." Yes Papa-san I'm bald at twenty-eight. Thanks for pointing that out. We four spent a relaxing few days with this delightful couple.
Sep 3, 2010 7:34:04 pmby Chipka Homepage »
I love hostels, and I have a strong desire to visit Japan; I studied Japanese for two years in College and remember only enough to order sushi, count (a far more complicated matter than it seems) and occasionally compliment someone's grandmother. I love this story and the warmth it exudes, especially in terms of the silent Japanese woman who simply points to a name in a book. How funny! After working in a hostel in the Czech Republic, I can tell you that this particular hostel owner has a not-so-bald counterpart who tends to get his staff drunk on holidays. THIS brings back THOSE memories and I'm immensely glad of that and glad--as well--of the glimpse travels I'd love to take myself. Great work!
Oct 6, 2010 12:12:54 amby Tea_Rex Homepage »
Your writing syle is very enjoyable to read, Mark. Your attention to the details of life and your memory for those details serves as finely distilled spirit when you weave them within your micro tales.
I have come to expect the uplifting payoff at the close of your prose. A smile forms on my face even as I near the base of your text. :-)
Hey Brother .. Congratulations on being selected within the Gallery of the Week!
It is recognition well due.
With warmest regard,