Since he was a child, my son has been aspiring to go to Japan. When he was in junior high school, he convinced me to buy him a CD-Rom at Books-A-Million so he could learn Japanese. I played along with his dream, assuming it, like my junior high dream of becoming a surfer girl like Gidget, would change as he grew older. It did not.
I have no idea where my son’s fascination with Japan came from unless it was the old photo albums, the kind with black pages and triangular corner stickers that held the black-and-white photos to the page, pictures Daddy took with a Kodak during the Korean War when he was stationed in Japan. Or maybe from the anime and manga my son’s age group was enthralled with. After all, I do still have the surfer’s cross I wore when I was thirteen.
This spring break, John David finally made his trip to Japan. He didn’t go with a tour or even a travel buddy. He took off on his own, hoping his self-taught Japanese would help him survive. As I write this column, he is on his way back to Auburn from the Atlanta airport, and I am breathing a sigh of relief, but am also thrilled that he got to fulfill his dream.
He has sent photos along the way: sleeping in a pod during a long layover in the Beijing airport, packed in therapeutic black sand on a beach in Beppu, having shōchūwith smiling new Japanese friends, and gazing out over the beautiful rice fields in Uchinari. I can hardly wait to hear the stories behind the pictures.
As I was lying awake one night while he was gone, hoping the 14-hour flight he was on would land safely, some early memories popped into my restless mind. One was a photo I recently came across of me, at about five-years-old, pushing a red tricycle around Jernigan while wearing a conical rice hat. Another was of an elementary school play in which I dressed as a “geisha” in one of the kimonos that Daddy had brought home to Mama. It had to be taken up with safety pins to fit me, as I stepped to the front of the stage, wobbling on geta, raised wooden sandals, and repeated the following poem:
I come from Old Japan/A very lovely land
With cherry blossoms fair/And charming manners rare.
I guess DNA runs deep. Now if I could just explain why I still have that 50-year-old surfer’s cross tucked safely away in my jewelry box.
Marian Carcache welcomes comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.