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Friends on Pause

I land in Narita Airport, Japan, pull two thousand Yen out of the ATM, and get on the train for Tokyo. From memory I walk down familiar streets until I get to the New Zealand Embassy in northern Shibuya, where my friend Elliot lives. I haven't seen him in almost two years, and have only emailed a few times since then, but it's as if I never left. We joke around, walk to dinner, and make plans for the weekend.

The next day I pop my Japanese SIM card into my phone and call my friend Toby to let him know that I'm around. He tells me about a party he's throwing in Yoyogi park, so a couple other friends and I join him.

Nothing about these individual scenes is particularly noteworthy. That's the point. In various places around the world I have enough good friends that I can have a pretty normal life there while visiting.

The Million Dollar Question

On SEBASTIAN MARSHALL

August 11th, 2011. Chiba, Japan.

A mix of confusion and awe as I step off the platform.

I must have made a mistake. But maybe a good mistake.

Birds caw and cicadas click gently, filling the warm afternoon air with sounds of nature. The train platform is open to the air and on the other side of the tracks is a high fence. Beyond it, a bicycle and walking path leading to a park.

Children are running around and playing in the park, but surprisingly quietly. Very Japanese.

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