For a month before I left to take on a small chunk of the Tokai Nature Trail, the 1700km collection of trail systems ranging from Tokyo’s Mt.Takao to Osaka, I couldn’t stop thinking of how badly I wanted to be out of this city. I was tired of the way I had to stop and wait for the train to pass before I could go home after work; I hated that everybody seemed to know who I was and where I worked; I couldn’t stand another trip to my local supermarket to stock up on a week’s worth of vittles. Nothing against Sabae, Japan’s eyeglass capital and my current home; I just needed to get away.
When my hiking partner, Travis, and I made it to Shizuoka City and had our tickets to return to our regularly scheduled programming in hand, I felt no real excitement. I wouldn’t have to pay 6,000 yen to sleep on an actual bed for a night, and not walking 25 kilometers a day also had its appeal, but excitement?
The night I got home I was sure I’d flip to where I’d left off in my most recent read-through of Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods and let the darkness take me at its leisure. Dropping my pack in my apartment with a loud thunk, I realized that I needed to be moving, needed to be out doing something.
And so I found myself sitting in my favorite izakaya. Mametei — the Bean Place — is cursed with my poor Japanese around once a week. My order is always the same: seafood tempura, French-style potato salad, and an Asahi. I wasn’t sure anyone ever really noticed me, aside from when I was stumbling over my nerve-fattened tongue to get an order out.
I was elated when I walked into my little den of insobriety to a staff that not only remembered me, but had actually noticed my absence of a few weeks. A complimentary whiskey — Suntory, of course — slid across the burnt umber of the waxed hinoki counter in front of me. Patron curiosity started to wiggle stories from the trail out into the world. I was home.
This post is part of a weekly series. Each entry focuses on a single photograph to tell a story. If you liked this week’s version, take a second to check out the rest of Through the Lens Thursday.