Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Missing friends in Japan
I'm worried sick.
My 12-year career as a professional snowboarder took me to Japan four, or was it five, times. It's a mystical, frantic place, overwhelming in its embrace of modern technology, and beautiful in its ability to maintain ancient culture, tradition and rituals.
I regret that I was often a typical American when I was there, complaining about the omnipresence of fish, even for breakfast, and the inability to even read road signs. I spent a lot of time in hotel rooms, feeling alien and displaced, much like Bill Murray in Lost in Translation.
But I won't forget sitting in an outdoor onsen, a Japanese bath, the lone white woman in a sea of beautifully exotic, to me, Asian women, as steam rose off the pleasantly hot water and up into the freezing mountain air.
I will also never forget my friend and teammate, Masami. A sweet girl/woman I trained with, and competed with, on and off throughout my career. Her name, Masami, means beautiful river. At least that is what I remember she told me.
And I hope she has forgiven me, and some other teammates, for teaching her some less-than-ladylike ways to describe the weather in English, as we stood on the top of Breckenridge in 30-mile-an-hour winds, waiting our turn to go down the giant slalom course our coach had set for us.
Masami became so fond of one particular expression, after we had assured her it was "perfectly appropriate," she used it when my mother came to see us in our hotel room. When my mom attempted to make small talk with her about the weather, Masami sweetly responded to my mother's observation that it was cold, with a jaunty "Yes. Fahcking cold!"
Where is Masami now? I don't know, but I remember her telling me she lived near the coast somewhere.
And then there is Motoki, the other Japanese rider on our team. Motoki is a man who cannot hide he has been drinking because he turns red as a beet with the slightest sip of alcohol. His favorite thing to say in English was, "People are kindly."
Do they have children? I'm guessing yes.
Are they safe? Are their friends and family safe? I do not know. And it is difficult to find out. But I'm working on it.
As far as I know, neither Masami or Motoki has a Facebook page. And whenever I type their names into Google, I get a bunch of pages, unreadable to me, in Japanese.
And I hate wondering about them. I hate all of this. The world, sometimes, is not kindly. Not kindly at all.