My initial train story was about a Japanese man from Chiba visiting Toyama just after the earthquake and tsunami in March.
On Monday, I had another interesting train encounter, though this time with an American man in Toyama for the summer.
It is not often you see a foreigner in Toyama who is not an Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) or Coordinator for International Relations (CIR) with the JET Programme. There are a few other English teachers who work for various companies, and other exchange students studying at Toyama University, but foreigners are still few and far between.
So when I saw a tall white American man in sleek biking clothes standing at the platform in Namerikawa, I was quite surprised.
I spotted him first on the Namerikawa train platform while waiting for a train to go to Uozu, a city about eight minutes away by train. He was carrying a disassembled bicycle, had short brown hair and looked to be in his early 30s. I was prepping for my Japanese class, so I did not have time to chat and we entered different cars of the train when it came. I went to my Japanese lesson and forgot about my spotting.
I took the train back to Namerikawa and listened to my iPod. Just as I stepped off the platform, however, I noticed him getting off the train from a different car.
“That is a little odd,” I thought. “We were on the same train coming back, too.”
I hoped he wasn’t a creepy stalker. Nonetheless, he looked friendly enough, so I took off my headphones and decided to say hello.
“Do you speak English?” I asked.
He smiled. “Of course. Where are you from?”
“America, the Chicago area. I teach English here. What brings you to Namerikawa?”
“My wife is from Takaoka [a city about 40 minutes by train from Namerikawa]. We live in America but come back to Japan for about a month every summer.”
He told me he has family in the Chicago area and that he likes to check out certain bookstores in this area of Japan. He just came back from visiting Kurobe, a city about 13 minutes by train from Namerikawa.
“My wife and I are both violinists. We live in Dallas now,” he explained.
He was about to see his wife perform at a local concert in Namerikawa. “I have kind of given up on performing, but my wife plays professionally with orchestras.”
By this time, we had walked to the parking lot for bikes.
I said goodbye and took out my key to unlock my bike.
He smiled and walked toward the concert hall. “Maybe see you around.”