“Japan is a land that preeminently knows how to make one feel alone,” wrote writer and long-term Tokyo resident Donald Richie. If this is true, Japan is also a master at making you feel wanted and welcome.
When rejection comes, it hurts because you know what you are mssing out on. The welcome can be so warm. You feel you are standing hungry in the cold outside when you should be sitting on a warm sofa being treated like a lord.
After the ryokan rejection, my pride wounded, I desperately wanted to feel welcome – however briefly. I had no choice but to return to the friendly beef stew restaurant where I had lunch.
Sitting at the counter, I ordered a coffee. Within minutes the two ladies working there came to my side and we chatted freely, like old friends.
One of them had planned to go to the London Olympics. The cost put her off. A 3 night trip seeing Paul McCartney and some judo would cost 600,000 yen. An all-inclusive two-week tour of Turkey would cost a quarter of that, she told me.
I nearly screamed: “Go to Turkey. Go to Turkey four times even. Just whatever you do don`t go to the Olympics.” Suddenly fired-up by visions of spectators filling their five rings of fat with coca-cola, my rejection by the ryokan was long forgotten. My pride was restored.
“Next time you come, you can stay here,” one of them said. So the ryokan won`t let me stay the night, but the beef stew restaurant will. Japan is a land that preeminently knows how to confuse.