My first three weeks in Japan can be accurately summed up by the title of this post. While all seemingly independent things, the way that humidity, noodles and generosity have intertwined has led me to have arguably the most life changing experiences of my 19 years of life.
The weather app says that the temperature is a mere 89 degrees. This temperature alone is not the issue, having spent summers in Tennessee and sweaty places like Indonesia and Madrid. However, when the humidity index raises and is between 70% and 85% on a day to day basis, solace is nowhere to be found (except stores — reason #1 for the unnecessary amount of pens, stationary and washi tape I have purchased). Trekking across Tokyo with my trusty Fjallraven Kanken backpack, hair stuck to my forehead and friction blisters on my heels, I have stumbled on the most amazing food and people.
I’ve known for a while now that kindness and heat kind of go hand in hand. Years ago as a family we were in a bazaar in Marrakech, Morocco, a maze-like covered shopping arena, filled with loud noises, strange-smelling food, yelling people and meandering donkeys. My 12 year old self went into shock, likely sparked by heat stroke and an interaction with dried hedgehogs that looked as if they’d been through a flower press (4 years before I had written Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger a letter asking him to legalize hedgehogs as pets in California after I had a life changing week at Zoo Camp. He said no). I immediately started sobbing, and was swept into the home of a very caring woman who wiped my face down with a cold towel and made me drink water, as my family stood confused and idly by. While I will never know her name or even how to find her again, she changed my life and showed me true kindness.
So, as I was sitting on the JR Yamanote line, sweaty, hot and tired and attempting to get back to Shinjuku my main station, I experienced this type of kindness again. I was staring and fretting at the chaos of the map that is the Tokyo Railway system (see above), a voice leaned over at told me that I should get off at this next stop, Shibuya. Her name was Maki, and fast forward she is walking me through the station to show me which gate to use. She handed me her business card (which I graciously accepted with two hands. One of the few lessons I learned in my limited research before coming to Japan) and told me to contact her if I needed help with anything. Incredible kindness on her part to extend herself to the lost 19 year old with no other contacts in Japan (she was my first friend here!).
Fast forward again, and we are at a small restaurant in Asakusa eating noodles, escaping the summer heat and making plans for the future. I’m telling you, the tangle of humidity, noodles and generosity is one to be reckoned with.