Tsugi no eki de gozaimasu. Matsuyama eki desu. Arigatou gozaimashita. Shitsureishimasu, ki wo tsukete kudasai.
An ocean away from home, Shikoku is my island now. Culture shock comes in waves. Things seem upside-down here. Maybe American is upside-down. My perspective is dribbling away.
Dogo town's hot springs attract me, and 3,000 years have aged them. The streetcar to Dogo squeals under rainfall. At the final station, I follow the crowd to the hot springs.
People gush out fresh, clean. I slip off my shoes. Attendants give me a robe, and light streams through milky windows.
Upstairs, I disrobe to bathe. Wooden stools line marble walls. I sit on one and scrub myself before entering the hot spring. Fountains pout ancient water. Understand that water is silent.
Fellow bathers edge away, slightly nervous. I am a guest and often an outsider. Maybe I should say hello? Maybe it's me, not them. I sink in more deeply, saying nothing. I think we're all curious to talk with each other, but none of us has the nerve.
The bath refreshes me, and I dry myself, feeling better. Attendants bring tea. I sit crosslegged and sip, tasting its subtle leaves.
While walking the grounds, I meet a couple. She has lived in Boston, as have I. He speaks Japanese, and she translates. We have coffee, and I'm relieved by their kindness. Why am I in Japan, they wonder.
We chat for an hour but I can't fully explain it. I'm just searching for something pure, like water.
March 2008. Dogo, Japan.