There is little else better in life than to tell a true story whilst being idle on a stormy day.
Yesterday, Tottori Bokujou was the picture of spring. The gnarled roots of cherry trees gave way to twisting branches which reached across from either side of a small road and created the most brilliant mixture of soft pink and white flowers, gently bobbing in the all too pleasant breeze that followed us. I had stopped in the shadow of one such tree; blossoms within reach dangled over the car. A few other patrons were parked along this strip, blankets out, food at the ready, perhaps already a few drinks in, enjoying the company of friends in mirth.
After exiting, I threw on my gear (for there would be pictures) and as I walked away to commence my Hanami, a man came from the next picnic spot over and struck up a conversation with me. He first noted that he had a similar camera, and we talked about that for a minute. Then we went into a few minutes of small talk about various things from the weather to the flowers. He paused abruptly through one thought and asked, "Haven't I seen you on TV?"
I thought for a second, "Maybe, I'm the ALT at the junior high school. Sometimes I'm on TV, I think." His eyes widened, but I could see that my answer only sparked more curiosity. I followed up, "I teach English." That did the trick.
"You're not Japanese!?" He took a step back in surprise. "This whole time I thought you were Japanese!" He stepped back further then examined me in full. My mere presence was blowing his mind. I informed him that my grandma is Japanese so that probably helped a bit. He made a pinching gesture and brought that to his eyes before explaining that mine fit his template. I laughed a bit.
"I'm from California." I explained. I'm not entirely sure he heard me amidst his bewilderment as he asked about my origins immediately after that.
"Where are you from?"* He inquired. I explained again.
"America," which I followed up by returning to Japanese, "アメリカのカリフォルニア出身です."He was awash in excitement telling me how much I looked and sounded Japanese. Around that time, Mitsuko walked from the other side of the car - having been busy organizing Koebi and her own camera. I could nearly hear the man's heart palpitations at the sight of someone else, possibly Japanese, literally turning the corner on him. He asked about her and we explained Mitsuko's case as well. He looked at her a bit too long before saying she was cute (thank you, I know, less creepy next time though!) but ultimately redeemed himself at the end when asking me to speak a little of English. It seemed to make him happy, which was a bit endearing to be honest. Eventually he shook my hand and said his goodbye.
And we still had Hanami to do.
* Asking where a person is from comes in various flavors. Sometimes it might be more like, "どこから来ましたか？" (Doko kara kimashita ka? lit. From where do you come?). Other times it's quite direct in their assumption that you are not from Japan, which leads to being directly asked, "What country are you from?" though I'm not sure how common or polite that is. Yet another way though (and the way this man asked me) goes like, "どこの出身ですか？" (Doko no shusshin desu ka? lit. Where is your origin?). It really only translates as "Where are you from?" but there's something far less presumptuous and poetic about it. It's a common phrase, but it feels more like the way we (in English, that is) might ask where one hails from.