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Day 20: Farewell

For my last day in Japan I wanted to go down to the beach and watch the sunrise over the pacific for the last time. But at some time in the night, I awoke and heard rain. The storm system that had been coming may have been pushing in earlier than I expected. I opted to stay in and watch the sunrise from the window in my room under the warmth of my covers. Through the flat clouds on the horizon and the plump rainclouds drifting in the wind; there was enough room to see the sun break through. As it rose, it sent an explosion of sunlight streaming across the countryside temporarily, before being covered by the next layer of clouds.

I spent the morning packing my things, writing (trying to catch up on the blog), and looking at photos while I sipped my coffee. On my trip I had met so many new friends. So many random people that were able to provide me help if I was lost, or trying to get to the next station. Friends of friends giving me rides and showing me places to go. I can only be thankful to my Japanese teachers back in high school that gave me the foundation for learning this language; and the 3 months of studying countless hours preparing for this trip. I came here on a mission to use this language and engage with the people around me. Because of my ability to speak a little of the language, the people I met were more willing to continue to have dialogue with me; whether it be in Japanese or English. I know my experience in Japan would have been totally different if I didn’t speak or use the language.

Here is the part where I have to thank as many people as I can remember meeting for helping me make my trip so fun and awesome. Jan and her family for showing me Nagasaki and much of its history. The people in the restaurant in Fukuoka for trying their best to make something vegetarian for me to eat. All of the train conductors and engineers that helped me get to the places I needed to go. Masa San and his family at Pumping Surf for such great accommodations, hospitality and sharing local surf knowledge. My new Friend Karibu fo such great times hanging out, surfing together, doing language exchange, and the many rides around Miyazaki. I would not have had such a fun trip without meeting you, I hope we stay in contact and you can come to California. Tatsu San at beach Backpackers on Amami for being such a great host and providing local knowledge, inviting me to hang out in Naze, surfing together, and having a cool space for travelers all over the world to experience Amami. All the people I met at Beach Backpackers for good times hanging out and good conversations (Tatsu, Shinpei, Mami, Kenji, and the others who I forgot the names of). The owners of 5 Seeds and all the people I met there, for such great fun at their grand opening and for finally opening up a place in Japan with vegan options (Oishi)! Konosuke and his family for their warm hospitality, letting me borrow a board, inviting me to dinner, giving me an island tour, providing other rides for me around the island and introducing me to the locals (you are awesome Ko)! All the guys out in the water on Amami for sharing waves. All of the SGI members I met at the Great Hall for Kosen-rufu for working hard to create a more peaceful society. Yoko from SGI London for a great conversation and practicing my Japanese at the orientation. Mike from SGI Los Angeles for a great time hanging out all day sharing stories and strengthening our determination. Takeo San for his hospitality, many rides and hilarious charisma in my last accommodations in Chiba. My new friend Osamu, Victor and their family for all the rides saving me from the cold after surfing together, adventures climbing Nokogiriyama, showing me Shida Point, and onsens (you rock)! Thank you to all the other people that I rented rooms from and all the people that I may have forgotten. I hope I can meet you if you come to California someday, or the next time I’m in Japan.

Takeo San told me that there is a local bus that goes all the way to Narita Airport for only 300yen. He said that he would give me a ride to the bus stop around 11:00am. In the meantime, I finished packing then enjoyed my last Japanese pastry and onigiri from the konbini (convenient store) with my coffee. When the time came, Takeo took me to the bus stop and I said goodbye.

Takeo San dropped me at the bus stop. It was a good time hanging out with him; he’s funny. The last thing he said to me before I left was, ” Next time you come back and I see you, you have Japanese girlfriend, Ok!” LOL 😂

Airports in Japan are the best; everyting is easy. checking in, going through security, getting food shoping. I wish that we could learn a few things from them and bring it back to the states. If only we looked to other countries to see how to run a system instead of trying to reinvent the wheel. Part of the reason I come to japan is to look for inspiration. Look at how the people act, think, and function in socety; and take it back home to work on being better all around. I am bring as much back with me as possible and already planning my next trip back.

On the plane, I slept a little bit and mainly read and listened to music. When the morning light finally made its appearance over the Pacific. I glanced out the window every once and a while to try and see the water between the clouds. I knew that there was swell headed for California and wanted a glimpse of what was on tap. above the clouds I could only see some sparse whitecaps, but I knew there was something there.

When I landed, I made it through the hellscape known as LAX. I was picked up by my mom and Phil. Because LAX is located right next to El Segundo, we drove by the beach on the way home to see how the swell was materializing.

One thing is for sure; whether it Japan or California, I’ll still be always looking for waves.


Day 19: The Perfect Combination

I made plans with Osamu today to surf Shida-Shida: the venue for the 2020 Surfing Olympics, and afterwards go to an onsen that he recommended. He picked me up around 8:30 and we headed to the point in south Chiba. It looked fun and the wind was good so we paddled out.

Shida Point

I got a few good waves at the beginning of the session and then it got a little more crowded and started closing out. Osamu said that the level of the surfers in Chiba and especially at Shida Point was probably the highest in Japan. There was a lot of young kids out, and they were ripping for sure. When it started to close out, I just kind of sat on the outside and waited for bigger sets to come and just gave a lot of waves away. It was also starting to get cold, so we called it for the day and I got my last wave in Japan. Afterwards, we went to a chain cafe called Cafe Gusto. It’s kind of like Denny’s But with Japanese food. Oishi!

As we were finishing our coffee, we chatted about the differences in education system in Japan and the US. I mentioned that I heard that many parents put a lot of stress on high school kids to pass entrance exams to get into university. He agreed and expressed that he wanted his kids to do something that they enjoyed and hoped that they would not stress too much over exams if they wanted to go to university later in life.

Next, Osamu and I made our way to the onsen. This place had at 9 different mineral baths, both inside and outside. This place was awesome and did not disappoint! After relaxing in the baths, we went upstairs and got vending machine ice cream. The perfect combination to spend my last full day in Japan: surfing, onsen, ice cream.

On the way back to Kujukuri, Osamu picked up his son who was at a soccer tournament that day. When I was dropped off, I urged Osamu and his family to come to California and we would host them and show him all the local surf spots. Kareforunia, ikute kudasai (please come to California).

Later that Evening, my host Takeo said that he would prepare dinner for the both of us. It was Sanma fish, (a fall specialty in Japan), rice with natto, and salad. I wouldn’t turndown my hosts meal tonight. The rest of the evening, we just enjoyed the space heater and some Japanese TV.

Day 18: Nokogiriyama and Onsen

The previous night was cold. The coldest I’d experienced in Japan. Before bed I, just sat in front of my space heater before bundling up in bed. The next morning, I ate my konbini breakfast (breakfast bought at the convenience store) and got to the a spot just north of Kujukuri Beach on the bike by 9:00. There was a cold north wind, and I hesitantly put on my soggy wetsuit, and only managed about an hour in the water. It was small and kind of closing out so I called it. I got the few waves I wanted for the day and came back in to warm up.

As I was packing up on the beach, I got a message from Osamu invinting me to go with his son to climb Nokogiriyama and see Fujiyama from accross the Tokyo Bay. I grabbed some onigiri from FamilyMart on my way back to the house and got ready.

It was about an hour and a half drive from where we were in Chiba to Mt. Nokogiri. On the drive I was able to get to know Osamu and his son a little better. We practice speaking in both Japanese and English. His English was quite good because he has spent 2 years in Australia for College. One thing that many Japanese do nowadays is travel or study abroad for extended periods of time. I think that time away from our home country allows us to get a new perspective on the world and the people around us. It lets us form bonds across culture which roots peace across society. I recommend traveling outside the country to everyone; especially to a place where they do not use your primary language.

When we made it to the base of the mountain, the trail started with 400 consecutive steps.

Victor and Osamu start the trail

As we ascended, we were only able to see a faint outline of the top of Fujisan above some clouds.

There are trails running allover the mountain and a temple at the top with a big stone Daibutsu (Buddha). Most of the other trails were closed though, due to the recent typhoon. But at the very peak of the mountain though there is a lookout point called Jigoku Nozoki meaning a “peek into hell.” It is a lookout point that you can climb down and look over the edge and look across Tokyo Bay.

On the rock at Jigoku Nozoki

When we came down the mountain, we were able to see a few monkeys crossing the trail.

When we got to the bottom, we enjoyed a traditional snack of a croquette from a local street stand. Then we were able to catch the sunset at the park by the harbor by where we parked the car.

While we were up at the top, I mentioned onsen to Osamu and how they did not really exist in the US and that I wanted to go to more while I was in Japan. He said that there was a bunch all over Chiba. So on the way back to Kujukuri Beach we stopped and relaxed in one of the many onsen. A perfect way to end the day.

I was able to get a photo of the outline of Fujisan as we were leaving the coast, driving to the onsen.

Day 17: Bike ride to a new surfing buddy

I took my time getting up and had my pan and coffee. Takeo San and I went to the store the next morning to get some provisions and invited me to have dinner with him and his friend Kagami. On the way, we passed by his friends surf caffe and recommended that I go there later when it opened. He was an Australian that had been living here since 1988. the locals in the countryside were unhappy to have a non Japanese open a surf shop in the countryside nearby so he made it a caffe with surf-ware instead.

Sunrise view form my window

When I got back to the house, I had a snack and jumped on the bike to head to the surf shop. When I got there, it was closed. It was blowing offshore and I knew there was swell, so I assumed that he was surfing. So I headed back to the house to get a board and find a place to surf.

On the way to the caffe
loading up the bike

When I got to the coast the wind was a little north and looked better up the coast as the cove began to wrap around, so I biked along this dirt path that was being fixed from the damage done by the last typhoon.

Typhoon struck road

After about an hour and a half of riding and walking through a swampy wet fox trail and up the sand dunes, I found a place that looked pretty good. Then I took a break for a snack then walked up and around some sand dune peaks and saw that it was better on the other side of the harbor. So I got back on the bike and went around, back over the bridge and up the other end of the harbor and found this little pier.

On the other side of the harbor the waves were firing. I parked the bike and jumped off the pier and caught a long left and joined the crowd of people in the distance. I caught a few of the rights and managed the crowd ok before I gave up after so many people were taking off in front of me.

On the left

I decided to come back and surf the left because there was only on other guy over there. I ended up chatting with him sharing waves back and forth. His name was Osamu and he had taken the day off work to surf. He was surprised at my Japanese and was like, “whats up with the bike?” I told him that I had biked from Kujukuri Beach. He offered to give me a ride back home on the condition that I stay and surf 15 more minutes. It was super cold, and I was honestly about to get out before he offered to take me home. I caught one more wave and took him up on his offer.

Wet socks drying, surfing with Osamu San.

When We got back to the house Takeo invited Osamu in for some coffee. We chatted, joked around and had a good time together. I got his contact and he said that he would take me to surf Shida Point: where the surf contest for the 2020 Olympics would take place.

Osamu went on his way and Takeo’s friend Kagami came and we had nabe and some sushi for dinner. There was no way that I would turn down this meal from my host. After all It was still thanksgiving at the time in the states, and there was much to be thankful for. So I enjoyed my thanksgiving meal of nabe with my new friends.

Day 16: The Hall of the Great Vow for Kosen-rufu

Another main reason I came to Japan was not just to surf and meet new people, but to visit the land where Nichiren Buddhism began and visit the Hall of the Great Vow for Kosen-rufu (world peace). The building itself is a symbol for actualizing worldwide peace in the world though each person individually striving for, and achieving happiness in their life. People come here from all over the world to share this determination. Only members of the Soka Gakkai International are allowed access to this particular building, but guest are welcomed in all other centers. Before the Hall, I needed to attend an orientation in the morning before the Gongyo session. Gongyo is the recitation of excerpts of the Lotus Sutra to the Gohnzon (a scroll) that serves as a spiritual mirror.

The Soka Gakkai is a lay buddhist organization that practices the buddhism taught by the 13th century Japanese monk Nichiren Daishonin. In his studies of all of the sutras, he found that the Lotus Sutra (the original buddha; Shakyamuni Buddha’s final teachings) was the king of the sutras and that these teachings would lead people to enlightenment and happiness. The basis of this practice is chanting Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo to the Gohonzon. The translation of this is: Nam-(Dedicate yourself) Myoho- (Mystic Law/ Universe) Renge- (Cause and effect) Kyo (Teaching/Sound). So it would be to dedicate oneself the the universe of cause and effect though sound or interaction. Now speaking personally, this practice of chanting Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo opens your eyes to the fact that every thing is this world is based on cause and effect. All it takes to see why the circumstances that one may be living through are an accumulation of actions in the past that create the present moment. And that every minute action in this present moment creates the outcome for the future. Which is why in this practice I do my best to take care of every moment in the present to create a good future for me and the people around me. When I change, the universe around me changes too. The exterior of my life is just a reflection of my interior life. I’ve only been in the practice for about a year and a half, and through this new perspective, I can help bus seeing things in a better light and being truly happy for each moment. Because the happy moments now bring a happy future.

In front of the Hall of the Great Vow for Kosen-rufu.

In the orientation, I met the only other American that came to visit that day. And he was also from Los Angeles (Michael). He had just come from a trip though Europe before getting to Japan for the first time. Being able to speak some Japanese, I helped him around the city a little and we found a good curry place to eat before Gongyo. After Gongyo, we went to a bar and had a drink and shared some of our stories and talked buddhist philosophy. I had planned to meet with Karibu while I was in Tokyo, but it started to get late. And I had to start to make my way to Chiba before it got to late so I could check into my accommodations near Kujukuri Beach.

Outside the HGV

Only 3 trains till I made it to Togane station in Chiba where my host Takeo was able to pick me up. We stoped by a convenient store on the way to the house and I was able to pick up something to eat for the evening. I ate and was able to take a bath and a shower then head to bed and rest so I could look for surf the next day.

Day 15: A quick surf and then back to the mainland.

I had made plans not to surf today because the forecast said that there would be no waves and the next swell was arriving the day after I left. But I got up in the morning to see what it looked like anyways. After watching for about 20 min, I decided to go back to Bira. I had returned the board I borrowed from Ko, so I rented one from the guest house today. I’m glad I decided to surf because it was probably the best day that I had on Amami. I saw Tatsu out there again, and we surfed together for awhile before he went in and I stayed. I had gotten to know the reef better and was knowing where to sit as the tide dropped. I was able to grab a hand full of waves.

Getting the vision, but not making it.

After my session I had to quickly go back to my guest house and pack before checkout time. I said goodby to Tatsu and encouraged him to come to California so we could surf together again.

I walked to the bus stop and had a few minutes to spare so I went into the local market nearby and got a quick bite to eat. This shop mainly had vegetables and some bread as well as some other basic food items and snacks. But there was also a table full of bento boxes and prepared meals. I was able to find some vegetables and noodles cooked up on a plate. All over Japan, there is no shortage of good affordable food to eat. Whether it be at a fancy restaurant, convenient store, rode side stands, privately owned coffee shops, or vegetable markets; you can always find something to much on along your way for cheap. And its quality never disappoints.

When I got to the airport, I just hung out for a bit and bought some things to take home, like some Amami sea salt and another onigiri to much on before I got on the plane. While I was waiting, I ran into Kenji from the guest house. It turns out that he was on my same flight back to Haneda. We chatted a bit and shared other travel experiences before we got aboard. I knew that there would be some rough wind and weather going back to the mainland, but this flight had more bump than I expected. I just kept my eyes in my book till we finally came though the clouds and I could see the lights of Tokyo.

It took only 2 trains to get to the Shinjuku area where I was staying that night. But I hadn’t got my Airbnb booked in time. So by the time I arrived in Shinjuku, the place I hoped to get was booked. However, I was able to book another hostel up the road from where I was. So I just walked a little farther through the drizzle with my bags. When I finally got close, I was unable to find the building for about 15 minutes before I asked someone on the street to help me. Anyways, a weird secret entrance and two flight of stairs later, I was able to check in and drop my bags.

When I was settled, I looked on maps for a place to eat and set out for what I thought was a ramen place that looked like it had soba style ramen and vegetables. When I got there, I found nothing on the menu that looked vegetarian friendly, plus it was a little expensive; thats how I knew I was in Tokyo. Again I found myself wandering around the city in search of something a vegetarian could eat. I could just give in at any point and eat anything. There was so much good food around me from shabu-shabu, yakitori, ramen, sushi…, everything. But it was my mission to seek out and explore vegetarian options while I was in Japan. Many blocks passing dark cemeteries between the skyscrapers and many restaurant windows later, I found a soba place with a vending machine menu outside. I found something that looked like just plain soba and vegetables on top for only 500yen (about $5). Being able to only read half the menu, I went for it. Delicious; vegetables on top and all. But what I thought was vegetables on top was flaked dashi. I had made it in just as they were closing, so I ate quick and left. Still a little hungry, I stopped into a convenient store on my way back for an onigiri and some provisions for the next morning.

Day 14: An Island tour

I woke up early to watch the sunrise from the beach with my coffee in hand. It was high tide and the swell had dropped a bit.

I soon headed back around the cove to Bira Reef to see what it looked like. It was small and the swell was a little too north for the spot. I found my host Tatsu out in the water though. We caught some waves and he went in; I followed shortly after. As the tide was dropping as I walked back, I just gazed; amazed at the exposed reef. The sharp points and holes from bubbling lava pools long ago. I could only imagine what it looked like at the time the island was forming. It looked like a foreign planet in some places.

I got back to the guest house and made lunch. Later that day Ko picked me up and we went looking for a place to surf. He ended up taking me all around the island showing me the different spots. Sadly there was not a lot of swell anywhere today. So many point breaks and reefs that I knew that would go off during a good swell, I just wasn’t there at the right time.

After a trip around the northern part of the island, we finally paddled out at a place I think was called Tsuno. It was Ko’s local break. We had to jump off of this pier and paddle almost 10 min to the reef.

The water was incredibly clear and the reef was just beneath my feet as I sat on my board. It was windy and small but I could tell that on a good day this place was amazing; and dangerous as hell. How close the reef was on even a day like this made me a little nervous. Trying to dig my tail before I paddled for a wave was impossible because it would scrape on the bottom if I did. We were still able to get a few waves. and I was just glad to surf a new spot and see the potential for this wave when I would come back. Afterwards, he took me back to my guest house and I said goodby for the last time until I would come back because I was leaving the island the next day. I was just so grateful to meet such great new friends.

When I got back to the guest house, there were some new guys staying for the night. I chatted with one of them, Kenji, for a while. He came to the island on business doing IT for his company. I mentioned that I was from Long Beach, and he told me that he often goes to LA for business. Then asked if I had been to Torrance. I told him that I often go to Torrance because there is good Japanese there food like Shin-Sen-Gumi. He was surprised that I knew of the place and said that his good friend is the owner. It’s a small world when you start talking to people.

Day 13: What more could I ask for?

I turned off my alarms around 6:00 because I thought the announcements over the loud speaker would wake me up, but I slept through them till about 8:00. That was fine because it was coming off of the high tide from the early morning. I walked down the beach to Bira Reef because the wind looked better and there was no one out there. The tide was draining and the reef was showing its teeth. To be honest I was a little nervous surfing the reef as the tide was dropping because reefs are still new to me. I mean, I’ve surfed at Strands and Salt Creek before but this reef is different.

NO falling allowed!

I surfed all by myself for about 30 min before the crowd showed up. I got a hand full of good waves in the morning. However, if you make a bad wave selection, the ocean will always rub it in your face and show you what you missed behind it.

I got out and walked back o the beach house and ate some food. Konosuke’s friend was going to take me to a different place to surf in the afternoon. so I waited to hear from him. It turns out that he took me back to Bira Reef thinking that I was just surfing Tebiro in the morning. But the tide was coming back up and it was turning on.

Bira Reef

I went out without the camera first just to see how it would be and that was a mistake because I caught some of the best waves of the day at that time. Oh well. That is just for me and my memory. While I was out there, I talked to some of the locals from the island and another guy from Chiba (my next destination). When I came in to get the camera, another local asked where I was from and I said near Huntington Beach in California. We chatted and he said he was going to surf Tebiro next and I said I’d meet min down there in about an hour. I went back out at Bira for a wile before going to Tebiro.

The lip smacking me in the face.

After I surfed Tebiro for a bit, I went in to get a snack and later saw a message from Konosuke inviting me to dinner at his house. I had just enough time to surf Tebiro before the sun ran out. I got some ok waves during last light but there was a lot of people out, and the tide was building: shutting it down.

Konoseke’s friend Ren picked me up to take him to Ko’s house, and we also picked up one of the guys I was surfing with at Bira (Katsu). When I arrived, I was greeted by Konosuke and a bunch of his other friends. It was island style and and there was a hand full of kids there. Dinner was a traditional Amamian chicken soup with vegetables over rice and some local wild boar, so I could not say no to that. It was great getting to know Konosuke’s family and friends, most of who were native to the island. The others escaped the mainland in order to pursue a happier more relaxed life style. I always told Ko and his friends to come to California and visit. It is always the sharing of culture and dialogue that is the key to peace across nations. A great day in all. 3 surf sessions, dinner with good friends. What more could I ask for?

Day 11: 5 Seeds

I woke up late again because there was still no waves. The weather had improved so took a walk down to Tebiro Beach to see how it looked and collect a few shells. I spent the rest of the morning at the guest house on the computer, editing some video and writing, as well as having a fun conversation with Mami about life, society, and aliens before she checked out. She had spent some time in the states studying, and her English was quite good. So It was a little easier communicating with her.

The manager Tatsu invited me to the grand opening of his friends caffe in Naze in the afternoon, so I tagged along with him and his family. The Caffe’s name is 5 Seeds and it is in this small covered shopping street in Naze, the big city on the Island. The shop itself was small. It only had 3 seats inside and behind the seats was a window that led out into the center with a bench out front where people could still gather and eat or drink. 5 Seeds was the first place in Japan that I saw that actually advertised vegan and vegetarian food. AMAZING! I was able to get a sandwich with lettuce, tomato, and vegan cheese.

The owner had lived in New York for 5 years during school and later when she was back in Japan, she just wanted to open a cafe that would make sure that everyone would be able to get something to eat. I thanked her graciously, saying that it has been so difficult to get vegetarian food in Japan. And that I would make sure to come back next time I am in Amami.

When I came back to the guest house, It was just me there for the next two days. So I just made some food, tried to catch up on some sumo, and went to bed because I new there would be waves the next two days.

Day 10: A long Ride

I slept in for the first day in a while; after first being woken up around 6:30 by the Amami tsunami warning system. Testing the speakers that play music and gives a short announcement in the morning, as well as the afternoon and evening. I quickly went back to bed till around 8:30. There was rain and on-shores for the day so, I took a walk on the beach to see the reef at low tide and collect some shells. When I returned, I hung and had my pastry and coffee while I got caught up on some computer work. It grew later into the day and I was getting hungry. Tatsu, the manager of the guest house recommended an okonomiyaki place that had veggie only okonomiyaki that was a little ways up the road and I could take the bike to it.

I found it on a map and set out for it. It turned out that it wasn’t so close… and also not there anymore. As I got to the spot on the map, I passed the location a few times and didn’t see anything. Then I just asked Obasan waking by about it. She wasn’t sure of it, so she flagged down the next car and I asked about the okonomiyaki restaurant. He said that it was no longer there. So I asked for a recommendation for an okonomiyaki restaurant nearby and they said that there was not one nearby but in Naze, the biggest city on the island. I’d come this far, so I was determined to get some okonomiyaki. I set off for Okonomiyaki Mangetsu in Naze and by this time it started to rain a little more.

There was a big uphill section ahead of me, but luckily, there was a tunnel and some downhill after that.

I got to Mangetsu and it turned out that there was nothing vegetarian on the menu. However, I was able to get them to make me some yakisoba without any meet in it though. I knew that that wouldn’t be enough sustenance to get me home so I stoped by a market to get a some onigiri and some other groceries for the meals I make at the guest house.

I found vegan curry in a bag.

By the time I left Naze to go bak to Tebiro Beach, it was really starting to rain, and there was probably only 30 min of daylight left. And I was soaked by the time I got to the tunnel just outside the city. As I passed the next little town before the hilly country road back to Tebiro, the only thing that kept me on the 2ft wide path was the light of the cars passing. Then when no cars would come, I’d be blinded momentarily in the dark before my eyes would have just enough time to adjust before another car would come by and blind me with the light.

Regardless of the fact I didn’t get my Okonomiyaki, I was soaking wet, exhausted, and temporarily blind; I was still having the time of my life navigating the roads in Japan on a rusty old cruiser bike that was not meant for hills.

The Way back to Tebiro

When I got back to the guest house, I was able to just make dinner and hang out with the rest of the guests ( Shinpei and another fellow that I forgot the name of) in the kitchen. Eventually, Another guest arrived (Mami) and had come from India on her way back to Japan and she had brought a Djembe back back with her.

I mentioned that I played drums and taught music and she brought it out into the kitchen and I played it a little. At one point a little later, she said, “sensei, oshiete” (teacher, show me). And I showed her some djembe technique, and eventually I got everyone playing something from the kitchen and we had a short jam session. A good time just hanging out with new friends; sharing language, sharing culture. Exactly what I came here to do.