We arrive into Nagoya refreshed – a feeling I’ve never once before attributed to travel – and quickly make our way through the busy subway to the Tenpaku prefecture. Libby made sure to research the area thoroughly enough to know exactly how to take us to the apartment.

  It’s a small, four storey block set beside an elementary school. It’s approaching one pm as we reach the door and the playground next to the building is alive with the screams and laughter of the students. Some of them are at the fence as we pass, fingers curled around the wire mesh, looking down at us from the raised platform.

  I push the first floor doorbell and wait whilst the sounds of movement emanate from behind the door to our landlord’s apartment. It’s a full minute before the door finally swings open revealing a man I assume to be Sakamoto-san.

  Sakamoto is a surprising man. He’s wearing a bathrobe and I fear nothing else. I don’t know many Japanese landlords, but I can’t imagine he is your typical one. The initial shock is his age or apparent lack thereof; he doesn’t look much older than twenty five. He’s thin and rather tall, with a mess of modelled hair on his head framing his square face. He has a tiredness to his eyes and a lightly stubbled jaw line that gives him the look of an insomniac.

  “Sakamoto-san?” I ask hesitantly. He doesn’t reply straight away. Instead he moves his hand – which had up until now been resting against the doorframe – and reveals a limp cigarette, from which fragile wisps of smoke curl away from the darkened tip. He puts it to his mouth and the embers blaze red, encroaching upon his pianist fingers. He appraises us, looks me up and down first and then Libby, his gaze slowing in the most obvious areas. Satisfied, he confirms.


  “Uh-“ I start, a little stunned. His eyes are locked with mine now as he slowly lets the smoke out of his pursed lips which blows back in his face. He doesn’t blink. I ask, in sloppy Japanese, what will become my bread and butter phrase for the next month.

  “Do you speak English?”

  There’s a smile playing at the corners of his mouth as he responds. “iie” he says, stretching the first syllable of his response as he peers around my legs at the suitcases, “Ah-” he continues, wagging a finger at Libby slowly,  “ribii-chan, ne?”

  “Hai,” says my sister, excited and flustered – perhaps at having chan suffixed to her name for the first time, perhaps because Sakamoto is somewhat handsome – and bows.

  “I wirru get secretary,” he says with a wink, “wan momento puriizu.” His English is as awkward as my Japanese must sound. He turns to the room behind him; It’s a wreck, a mess of clothes draped over the TV set, the lamp in the corner, the open door of the dresser, for God’s sake – so close. Empty snack wrappings litter the floor and the couch can’t be seen for all the files and doodle-strewn papers that lie across it. In the middle of the room, atop a shrine of laundry, sits an open laptop playing music I don’t recognize through it’s tinny speakers.    

  He heads through a door at the other side of the room and as he opens it I spot the edge of a mattress on the floor and two pale feet hanging off the edge of it. He leans on the frame and mutters some Japanese to the feet and they stir, wriggle and withdraw.

  The barefoot owner appears a couple of seconds later. It’s a girl, younger than him by a couple of years. She appears at the door in a similar state of undress, garbed only in an oversized shirt obviously owned by Sakamoto with Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly emblazoned on it in bright red letters. She has long black hair and a round face.

  “I think I spoke to her on the phone,” Libby says quietly beside me as we watch them talk for a second. The girl rubs her face in an attempt to wake herself up and, after only a moments hesitation, pads over to us.

  She’s not particularly pretty but she’s a long way off unattractive. She tiptoes through the main room to greet us, smiling a smile that diminishes slightly as she treads precariously through the mess. She lets out a noise of irritation in Sakamoto’s direction and frowns at him before he closes the door to the bedroom, shutting himself behind it and ignoring the rest of the proceedings. She turns back to us with her smile reconstructed.

  “Welcome” She says, “to Sakamoto Heights.”


~ by Joseph Blame on November 6, 2010.

One Response to “Okaerinasai”

  1. Oooooh exciting 😀 i’m gonna stay up just to read today’s next part!

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