The kindness of strangers

Today, I went out walking around a couple of neighbourhoods in Fujisawa (this brings my total to 17 train station neighbourhoods finished).  The second neighbourhood was quick and easy to do, as there wasn’t much to see.  However, while I was walking around, I had a couple of very nice surprises.  Usually, while I walk around a neighbourhood, I’m quite focused on going to different places and taking pictures.  But this time, I encountered a few nice people.

First, I was taking out my notebook, writing down the name of the river that goes through the eastern part of Fujisawa, and an elderly man approached me.  He asked, “May I help you?” in English.  He must have thought I was lost.  I thanked him for his kindness, but told him that I was okay.  That put me in a good mood.

A little while later, I was walking from a park, and I noticed that someone was spraying water from a hose onto the street.  It surprised me, as I was pretty close.  It turned out an elderly lady was washing something outside her house, and she didn’t see me walking down the street.  Once she saw me, she started laughing and gave me a very kind smile.  I laughed, too, sharing a funny incident with her.  It was very hot, so the water would have actually felt good.  However, it would have damaged my camera, so I’m glad I didn’t get wet.  But no harm done, and we had a good laugh.

This is a big contrast to what happened 2 weeks ago.  As I walk through the neighbourhoods, I often meet people on the street.  They usually act indifferently, and don’t pay much attention.  However, I also encounter kind people who smile at me (usually at temples, and usually elderly), as well as the people who openly stare at me.  I think the latter are people who are quite surprised to see a foreigner walking around with a camera in a quiet neighbourhood.  What kind of tourist walks around a residential street?  They probably rarely or never see people like that.  I really need to study Japanese hard, because I would like to be able to speak with some people that I happen to meet.

On the other hand, while I’m hiking on hiking trails or on mountains, nearly everyone smiles.  We’re sharing the same experience.  On Oyama last year, so many people said “konnichiwa” or even “hello” in English.  But walking around a neighbourhood is different, as everyone has their own purpose and destination.  There’s no common experience.  But sometimes, I can encounter a kind stranger.

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