The lane ends, and we exit Kagoshima and enter Miyazaki, our second prefecture. The road becomes crowded. The cars are noisy, and they smell of fumes. This is very different to the lane that we were on. Walking doesn’t feel as pleasant anymore.
I check the map to see what we may expect. Again I’m frustrated. Not only are kanji more difficult for me to read than romaji. The map seems differently organized too. I’m used to maps where the cities are dots or circles. You can read how far it is between them. But on Japanese maps, there seem to be no clear centres.
On Japanese maps, the land is broken up into pieces, like a jigsaw puzzle. Each piece is called a village, or a town, or a city. It depends on the number of people. But there may not be a centre of population. The people might all live all over, or around the edge. So, when a sign says: 10km to Dokodemo, what does that mean? Is it 10km to the edge of the next piece, or to its centre? And how do you know when you’ve arrived?
Another trick with these maps is that roads often disappear. Now you see them; now you don’t. It’s very strange. There seem to be two road-numbering systems, so at a cross road the name—or number—may suddenly change.
Somehow, we finally get to Miyakonojo. We have arranged to meet Pauli there at a supermarket, but we are several hours early. We spend that time in a couple of places.
First, we have a meal in a Joyfull restaurant. It’s my first time. I like the fact that you can drink as much coffee as you like. It is also nice and cool inside. Then, we ask at city hall for directions to a sento. There is one nearby. It has no coffee, but you can drink ice-water and tea.
In the evening, we follow Pauli to his home, about 2km from the supermarket. He and his wife cook pizza for the four or us. We exchange our life stories.
Pauli and his wife have been together for ten years. They met in Australia, on holiday. They bought their home recently, second-hand. In Japan, not many houses are sold this way; people prefer to build new ones. I’m interested to learn these facts, because I’m starting to think about living in Japan. The more I see of the country, the more that I like it here.
At night, we s-t-r-e-t-c-h out onto cool, soft futons.
“Is it your leg again?” Mami whispers.
“Not at all. That was a sigh of pleasure, not pain.”