At Immigration in Osaka a man in a US-style uniform – peaked cap, battledress-style top, white gloves – directs people reaching the head of the gaijin line towards the next available officer. My officer looks concerned. “You don’t know your girlfriend’s address?” I lean forward and drop my voice. “If she’s not waiting outside, it will be difficult for me.” Turns out a Japanese name and phone number will do.
Miki’s not outside, nor can I see an ATM with a Cirrus symbol. I join a queue to change money and suddenly she’s right there. We head for the shuttle bus for the fast boat to Kobe.
Japan is just four generations out of a feudal society. As the port bus pulled out, the uniformed, white-gloved who had shepherded us on board, stood on the curb bowing low to it. At the harbour two dock hands slipped the fast boat’s lines and bowed horizontal as the boat pulled out into the bay.
Osaka Bay is splattered with boats and ships beneath a big sky. Through the haze, we can make out the occasional tall building on the horizon.
We disembark at Kobe airport, catch the Portliner into town. Masae meets us. At her flat we flake out. We awake at dusk and take a walk around the neighbourhood. Back at the flat, Masae conjures a meal of vinegar-soaked beansprouts with chicken marinated in tea and a firefly shrimp salad – unbelievably good.