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Monday, February 20, 2006

Mr Kawaguchi


As I was coming down the slope from Nakano-sakaue station to where I live. It was almost 7pm, the sky was gray, and there was still a bit of damp in the air from today's steady rain. I was greeted by a dishevelled but merry-looking old guy - in English. 'Good evening!' with a smile and a real spark in his eye. I stopped and chatted for a bit. He was old, a little stooped, knit cap, a full gray beard (with a few old bits of food in it!), really dirty old clothes, and a bag full of junk.

He knew more than just the greetings in English. He was a more than tolerable English-speaker and once he found out that I came from New Zealand he said he'd had a few connections with New Zealand in his old career as a librarian at the Japan Foundation. He had retired ten years ago at age sixty, he said. I was surprised when he said that because I can only hope I am as spry as he is at 70 (if I even make it that far). Other than that there was nothing particularly enviable about his situation. He had retired at 60, but last year - for reasons he didn't disclose - he had been made homeless and now wanders the streets of Tokyo looking for whatever he can find. He asked me if I was a Christian, to which I said no, and he explained that he was.

I gave him something to help him out. He asked if I had a namecard. I didn't have one on me, but gave him a post office Yu-Pack receipt with my name and address on it and told him to call around if he was ever in need. He introduced himself: Kawaguchi-san. I would have liked to ask him more, but it wasn't the time or place. He took the grubby old woollen glove off his hand and we shook. I wished him luck. Perhaps I'll be seeing him round.

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