The pavements are damp as I walk towards the bay, it’s warm and I probably didn’t need this coat. As I approach ‘our spot’ I notice the band leader has brought his own cleaning cloths and is wiping down the banister.
My fellow Sun worshippers greet me with “sashibulli des” (long time no see) to which I respond with a 45 degree bow. They’re right, it’s been a few days. Since my late night out to the Izakaya I haven’t quite managed the 5am wake up required to engage with the rising sun. But i’m happy to be back today and ready to soak it all in.
A grey mist hangs in the air, she’s a little reserved today and we respect that, singing two repetitions of the insen with gusto.
As I wait for my coffee order, I notice the cafe has hand washing facilities. In Camden, London early this year I visited a restaurant that didn’t even have a toilet. A fast food noodle joint called ‘ Itsu’ – I didn’t realise their lack of a facilities until I’d already placed my order. This was back in April, i’d only just landed back from another long stint in Japan and at the time I was so accustomed to washing my hands before eating that I had to leave. I left the steaming hot bowl of noodles there on the table. I’ve never done that before or since, and yes it felt wasteful – but no toilet, no where to wash your hands? Is this a social status thing? Is cleanliness a luxury now?
Almost as soon as I take my seat yet another toddler falls face first onto the pavement outside. The glass is too thick for me to hear her cries, but they are loud and clear within the pained expression of the young tot’s mother, who swiftly scoops her up in her arms.
Moments later, she’s back on her feet, undeterred and bouncing merrily on her way.
A couple and a single person congregate for a dog chat, it occurs to me that socialising must be one of the best things about being dog owners. She is wearing one of those padded inner Barbour coat things that seem to be fashionable this winter, her husband is wearing wrap around ‘sporty’ shades and has shorts on – cargo pants with large pockets. He’s Gaijin (foreigner) and clearly keen to take advantage of the warmish weather today.
He has his Terrier on a lead, complete with ‘dog bag’ (leather satchel which typically contains poo bags, water bottle for urine and treats) over this shoulder – he’s ready and prepared for this dog walk.
An elderly man with a white face mask sits on a bench for a breather stretching his hamstring – one leg bent at 90 degress, the other outstretched fully. He appears to be in some discomfort, but is able to self soothe sufficiently, stands and gets on with his day.
Back at the counter, the barista remembers my order from yesterday and smiles in a way that lights a tiny red glow inside my heart. I immediately feel a sense of shame and question my interpretation of her gesture. Does she really like me, or is she just pleased with her razor sharp memory? Perhaps she finds my attempt at speaking Japanese so funny and pitiful she can’t hold back her smile.