This morning, I realised I'd been talking about myself. I made a few stabs at conversation, but it was clear this would be a silent trip to Narita Airport, an hour away through the country lanes and back streets of Inzai that the pitch-perfect polite lady in my satellite navigation saw fit to direct me. But at least she was talking to me.
I occupied myself with focusing on the road ahead as the early morning mists rose from the asphalt disguising the lay of the land that my electric lady pointed out to me. I hadn't even realised it had rained the night before, but then we'd closed the storm shutters to keep the warmth and party noise to ourselves.
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The teacher lifted her hand to do the same but there was no visor.
"Sorry, my daughter ripped it off in a temper tantrum when she was five or six."
"That's OK. Put the radio on. To something you like," she whispered.
I pressed the preset for Eagle 810, the station for US troops in Japan. They play good rock music sometimes, a fair trade for 60 years of occupation, I thought. It's Sunday, maybe Garrison Keillor's Prairie Home Companion would be on...
"... the coroner reports the ages of the 20 children gunned down in Connecticut were all five and six..."
The ever-present faces of Japanese politicians on roadside posters looked different now. They were still smiling, still pumping fists, posing guts and staring longingly at the sky, but they had different faces from the ones I had seen minutes before in Abiko. This was Inzai. Or Narita. Or Connecticut?
The voice on the radio changed. He was talking about the Seventh Fleet whose job is to protect freedom all the way from Japan to the Indian Ocean. He was telling us about Operation Liberty, a curfew on sailors from drinking off-base. He didn't mention the latest rape and drunken brawl that had necessitated this operation.
I checked the rearview mirror. The 17-year-old girl was looking out the window, the eleven-year-old was asleep. I was glad she was able to rest. Both girls had lost relatives in the tsunami, but the 11-year-old had lost her mother and father, her grandparents and her little brother. Everyone. We wanted to get them away from Japan and tragedies for a week at least, show them that there is a world of opportunity for them.
On the way back from the airport, Jimi Hendrix was jamming. Then he was picking out The Star Spangled Banner between the feedback. The governor of Connecticut came on the radio and said he was shocked. He said after a tragedy was not the time to be thinking of causes and explanations, it was a time to bury the dead and hug loved ones. He said you couldn't explain tragedies like this. And suggested it was something to do with God.
I disagree. Tragedies are all too easy to explain. Finding solutions is the hard part, but then that's why we have politicians; to offer solutions. Not condolences.
The first voters were making their way back from the polls as I turned off the engine, at home in Abiko.
Click here to go to Day 1 of the 2012 Japan Election Diary.