Tom: The Aussie

“When I’m trusting and being myself as fully as possible, everything in my life reflects this by falling into place easily, often miraculously.”

Shakti Gawain

After a tedious day of work, I went back home to do a little work of my own, in the garden. I managed to kill an hour or-so before receiving a phone call from my supervisor. He doesn’t typically contact me after-hours, but seemed somewhat normal over the phone. Our conversations are always in Japanese (he can’t speak English, or at least he claims that he can’t) so needless to say, he proceeded to talk to me about something in a very round-about (and very Japanese) manner. After a few pleasantries, I told him I was working in my garden and had plans to make something for dinner when he asked me if I was willing to go out to dinner, that night. I found that to be a bit of a strange request, as well as, out of the blue; however, I said, yes, without knowing who I was going out to dinner with. Shortly thereafter, he told me that he wouldn’t be able to attend, but was wondering if I could head over to the Sports Park in the next village over to meet up with some of his baseball buddies that were practicing there. I told him that I didn’t really play baseball, but he said that that’s alright and that my main purpose was to head over there and be the liaison between his Japanese friends that spoke limited English and an Australian guy that spoke no Japanese. I asked him to tell me more about this Australian guy, but strangely – he barely knew much about the guy, himself; other than the fact that he was biking his way from Tokyo to Kagoshima. I told him to give me a few minutes, and that I’d be on my way to the Park. Needless to say, I took my time getting to the park.

Dusk started to settle in as I made it to the baseball field. The lights were a bit blinding, but an acquaintance saw my car and came running over to greet me. He filled me in on the situation by explaining to me that they found an Australian guy on the field and were only able to come to understand that his name was Tom, he was from Australia, and was cycling from Tokyo to Kagoshima. Other than that, they knew little to nothing else about him. His Australian accent was somewhat thick and heavy, at first, but I was quickly able to understand him (more-so than my Japanese co-workers, obviously). We started with pleasantries, before I quickly asked him what he was doing in the area and where he was intending to stay and/or sleep. He told me that he was on his 9th day, travelling across Japan vis-a-vis his bike. Apparently, he had already set-up camp in the field, and intended to make camp there for the night until the guys found him. The Sports Park is a gated area, and apparently the gates had been opened earlier, in preparation for baseball practice, but they intended to lock it back up once they were finished and were concerned about how he was going to make it out of there, with his bike, the following morning.

With this dilemma in place, I offered to let him crash at my house for the night. He seemed very stoked, and I was pleased to oblige. It was about a 12km drive from the field to my house, but since he had a bike, he made it to my place via his bike. Once there, I offered to take him out to dinner at a local restaurant owned by the parents of one of my students. While we were there, we were able to sit down, get to know one another, and bombard each other with a series of questions. I find it most interesting that Tom wasn’t only from Australia, but he had also been-to and lived in the States for a while. The biggest shocker of all, is that he lived in my hometown of Portland, Oregon for two years!! It was quite surprising to the both of us that we actually shared that common connection. In other news, Tom shared that (at the age of 27) he felt like he wanted to do more with his life. In Australia, he worked a normal job, but yearned for something more. One day, he sold all of his belongings and just got on his bike and biked across most of Australia. Once he finished with that, he got himself a working-holiday visa for Japan, booked himself a plane ticket to Tokyo, and started his trek across the country. He made a few pit stops along the way, and told me about some of the interesting people he’s met, and his run-ins with police officers that woke him up in the middle of the night for sleeping in public parks and World Heritage sites. The funny thing is that they asked him if he was a tourist, then let him stay there and sleep. (The gaijin card seems to work, everywhere!)

I pried a little deeper, and asked him what he intended to do once he made it to Kagoshima, and he told me about his desire to bike back up to Fukuoka and take a ferry to South Korea and bike his way up north from there, and back. He also talked about a prospective job opportunity he had, working for a bike shop in Hokkaido, once he finished biking through most of South Korea. After that, however, he told me about his aspirations to eventually make his way to Sweden (or was it Switzerland?) where he has dual-citizenship, where he intends to take some college courses.

After treating him to dinner, I offered him my shower, and my bed to sleep on. We stayed up until after midnight, talking about life, our history, our experiences in Japan thus-far, and a plethora of different things. Just from our conversation, I felt like Tom was a really good, genuine guy, and I was so glad I was able to help him out. When morning came, I made us some breakfast using the modge podge of bell peppers and eggs I had lying around. He tried to wash the heaping piles of dishes I had lying in my sink, but I told him that he was a guest and that he didn’t need to do anything to repay me. Not long after that, we said our goodbyes, as I had to leave for work.

I had a good feeling about this guy, so I let him stay in my house in order to take his time that morning, as I left and made my way to work. While at work, however, I received a phone call from my “other” supervisor who wanted to inform me that they were going to come into my house to change the tatami mats in my living room that day. Had I known this, I would have asked Tom to wash the dishes in the sink for me, but it was already too late. The tatami mat people, managed to get to my house around 4:30pm, minutes before I could make it there. To my surprise, Tom had taken it upon himself to actually wash my dishes and clean the sink for me, making my house look spick-and-span for my supervisor.

We never exchanged email addresses or contact information, so I’m unaware of where he is today, but I feel that just through our limited interaction, that the world could use more people like Tom. It’s so crazy to think about how briefly our lives were interconnected and then suddenly, disconnected again. I always like to err on the side of caution, but to be honest – despite what most media and propaganda likes to tell us, good, trustworthy, and outstanding people are still out there. We just need to give more people the benefit of the doubt…