By Dan Waterman
It was surprising to me how language, culture and taste can be so different, but despite the differences, this place is actually very familiar. A regular pharmacy like any other back home, with shelves lined with little cardboard boxes of pills.
I look around as my mum tries to communicate what she needs to the pharmacist, my sister coughing next to her. All the signs are covered in unfamiliar characters, I try to discern what they might be selling, with no luck. Mum continues to mime exaggerated coughing actions to the man as he furrowed his brow in confusion. Eventually, he points us out a box of tablets which we purchase hoping it’ll at least help with my sister’s cold.
As we leave the familiar layout of a shop, we once again see the unfamiliar sights of the streets. Thin roads and even thinner footpaths. Small houses build next to each other with almost no backyard. Everything I see can only be described as foreign. There wasn’t much western influence back in Tokyo, but even less out here.
We walk further down the street, with Mt. Fuji looming in the background, to a local supermarket looking for lunch. Unlike the pharmacy we can tell what most products are. The bakery has little rolls with various fillings, I choose one that looks like pulled beef.
As we continue to walk, I take a bite out of the roll. The bread is sweet, much sweeter than I imagined, I’m taken aback by this initially but keep eating. I was confident that this was beef, but now I’m not sure, maybe lamb or pork, it’s hard to say. The gravy is also surprisingly sweeter than expected, and the caramelised onions only add to the sweetness. The shock of sweet when savoury was expected is not a pleasant one, but once I am over this, I begin to enjoy the roll.
We reach our destination, a local park. Cherry Blossoms only bloom one week a year, and we were lucky it was this week. The ground is covered in a thin layer of pink, while the air is filled with falling petals like snow. The trees themselves are covered in the pink and white as their flowers bloom. A crowed has already formed in the park as people observe the beautiful sight
Language, culture and tastes can differ in a new country, but beauty and wonder are universal.