Saying Farewell

There are numerous ways to bid farewell to someone. For casual encounters, it can be as simple as a brief smile or firm handshake. As we go up the familiarity ladder, the intimacy becomes tighter: a strong bear hug, enlonged embrace, free flowing tears. However, here in the land of 6800 islands, there comes a time when the locals need to head to the mainland, for work, school, or marriage. When that occurs, something magical happens in a show of brilliance and emotion that leaves hardly a dry eye for the curious spectator. It all starts with a ribbon.


Affixed at one end to a spindle, the ribbons fan out like the feathers of a peacock, reaching the friends, relatives, and close acquaintances standing on the opposite pier.


The voyager grips the end of the colorful bundle tightly in both hands, waiting for the inevitable.


The ferry pushes seaward, away from the pier in parallel unison, stretching the paper trail as if to test its resilience.


Alas, the ribbons snap, drifting down to the waters in a fluid, artful motion.


As the boat pulls away from port, an enthusiastic group of high school students follows in close pursuit until reaching the end of the dock, when an utterly breathtaking display of unity unfolds, as a group of 5 of the most faithful companions dive off the end of the dock into the frigid mid-March waters.


Such actions truly make you rethink your way of bidding someone farewell. Are we doing enough here in the big urban centers to show our ties of loyalty?




Sea Level Sigil

5 years on, and the biggest change since the devastating tsunami is the proliferation of signage indicating your current position in regards to the sea. My neighborhood stands a whopping 1.5 meters above sea level, and for you metrically-challenged folk, that’s around 5 feet.

Do I have reason to fear? Perhaps, if history were to repeat itself. Back in the year 887, a powerful earthquake struck the Nankai trough, triggering a devastating tsunami that wiped out most of Osaka city. The Nankai fault line has been eerily quiet since then, so experts fear that another disturbance in the seismic force may be on the way, and if it comes then not even Luke Skywalker can save us.

Fortunately I live on the 8th floor, so if the tsunami does come-a-knockin’, I should at least have time to call my parents and perhaps send a text message or two before the waves takeĀ out the internet. Still, I suppose there are other things to worry about besides a catastrophic flood. Just the other day, police released stats indicating that Osaka is home to rampant cyclists with a complete disregard for traffic laws. Like we needed a government study to tell us that!

So on the anniversary of the great quake and tsunami, as I bow my head to the sea and observe a moment of silence for those who lost their lives and livelihoods, I wonder about all of those sea level signs plastered around a town. A vigil for the sigil if you will.

Koza station in Wakayama - a luxurious 4.9 meters above sea level

Koza station in Wakayama – a luxurious 4.9 meters above sea level