I studied abroad in Japan from 2001-02, and I had the good fortune of becoming friends with several college-age natives of Kyoto. It wasn’t uncommon for me to get a text from them that said nothing more than, “We’re picking you up in 10 minutes,” and we’d zip off to some adventure that I only half understood.
Those were good times.
Facebook wasn’t around back then, so it was hard to stay in touch with my Japanese friends after I moved back to the US. Due to the language barrier (I was conversational in Japanese, and they all rarely spoke English even though they had a sizable vocabulary), a lot of what we shared was in the moment, not through conversation. E-mail wasn’t a good format for keeping those friendships alive.
Flash forward to a few weeks ago when one of the guys from that group, Akira, contacted me to say that he would be in St. Louis for a conference this week. We arranged for a time to meet up for dinner, and a friend of mine joined us at the Broadway Oyster Bar (I thought a meal of alligator, crayfish, and oysters would be an interesting conversation piece. Also, the waitress commended us for putting aside our manliness and ordering the delicious drinks you see in the photo).
Akira has been living in the US for a few years now, so his English is now far better than my extremely rusty Japanese. We solely communicated in Japanese when I was in Japan, so it was very interesting to continue that conversation years later in English.
The dinner was a reminder of how special that year in Japan was to me. Other than the language barrier, it didn’t feel like any time had passed at all. That was almost a little weird, because both Akira and I have grown up a lot since then. He’s worked for a big corporation for years, and he’s now engaged to be married; I own a multi-million dollar business and have two cats. But a part of us will always be in Kyoto.
You know what it reminded me a little bit of? That scene in Interstellar when a few of the characters go down to a planet for a few minutes, and when they get back to the space ship, years have passed. It felt a lot like that.
Have you ever had that experience with an old friend?