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Japanese Birthday Party – Part 1

Soon after returning from our last trip to Japan, in April of 2007, I was at a party with the owner of Travel Essentials. At that party I related the story of how a family of complete strangers befriended us at a Japanese baseball game. The Travel Essentials’ owner asked that I write it up for publication in their newsletter. I did, and a version of it appears here. That was probably the first thing I wrote about Japan on the internet, more than a year before this blog began.

My daughter wrote a bit more about the experience on her blog here. During the 2+ year period since then they’ve exchanged a dozen or so emails. A few days after arriving in Japan this time we got a call from Maya, inviting my daughter to her 11th birthday party the following Sunday.

My daughter and I rode the train west for about 25 minutes to a town, still technically in Tokyo, but feeling very different than the central Tokyo we had become used to, called Kodaira (小平 or こだいら).

drainspotting kodaira japan sewer cover man hole

Like many places in Japan they have their own, custom manhole covers (pictured above). I called Maya from the train station and she road her bike to meet us between the train station and her home. Kodaira was really a change of pace after our first week of crowded streets. Few people were out walking or riding bikes, the sidewalks seemed wider, there were little farms and vineyards–even close to the train station, and cars weren’t constantly roaring past us.

When we got to her house we knew we weren’t in Kansas anymore. The place was huge. Or at least it seemed large compared to every living space we had previously seen inside the confines of central Tokyo. I suppose it was actually quite a bit smaller than our home in Oregon, but after just 10 days in Japan our mental images of living spaces has been drastically altered.

tag at a japanese birthday party

My daughter was clinging to me initially (as I was the translator and possibly the only one there–Japanese or American–who wasn’t nervous), but after introductions we headed to an adjacent park and the kids played ball, tag, and other games. The walls quickly came down, and the kids bonded rapidly even with the language barrier.

japanese birthday party

The BBQ/party took place in Maya’s driveway. The kids were laughing, eating, and having a great time until Maya asked me to take a picture of them with her camera. I also took the one above with mine. For some reason the two kids closest to me had their laughing, happy faces completely altered the second the camera pointed at them. There was nothing I could do or say to get them to smile with a camera in my hands. The moment I put it down the smiles came back though.

One Response to “Japanese Birthday Party – Part 1”

  1. 1
    hostelgirdwood:

    The manhole cover quite colorful. I would like to see this sort of thing take off in Alaska.

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