CH 2 ARRIVING (Hanako)
The bathrooms. So clean. Hanako blinks as she takes-in the pristine floors, the bi-fold stall doors, the gentle beep of high powered electronics efficiently doing whatever it was they were doing. She wonders for a minute if she should remove her shoes. She looks at the girl standing in line in front of her for social cues but she’s not Japanese either.
Slippers. There weren’t any. Okay. She had read that slippers were offered when ditching the shoes was necessary.
Maybe she was jetlagged, or maybe she was in shock that just ten hours ago she had hopped onto a plane in America and here she was, as if by magic, disembarked in Japan, but this bathroom at the Haneda Airport is cleaner than most private bathrooms she had used in the states.
Inside the stall, more buttons, and a toilet that looks capable of launching into space. Her own personal sink glimmers, nay, shines, to the left. Wow.
Hanako’s eyes are wide as she walks out of the restroom to meet Jiro, mounds of bags at his feet, phone in hand, most likely trying to latch onto the free wi-fi.
She makes an announcement, “Babe, I think I’m going to love it here.” She looks back toward the restroom as though it might suddenly deteriorate into a filthy, smelly, bunker of used toilet paper.
“You do huh?” Jiro picks-up their bags and inclines his head toward the other people from their flight already heading toward customs. “Shall we?”
A flutter of nerves.
Currently, they were here on tourist visas, but the intention was to move to Japan, to apply for work. Hanako had already gone through the list of things worrying her while they were up in the air. Would the customs officials see all their bags and be onto them? Would they think it strange that two Americans were declaring their intent to vacation here for two months? Who brings framed photos and a coffee maker on vacation? Did they look through your bags at customs in Japan?
The official might think at first they were in Japan visiting her family, in which case two months was nothing. But is said right there, in her passport, that she was born in Korea. Nationality, Korean.
There’s virtually no line at customs. The individual checkpoints ahead of them remind her of the stalls Hanako had seen at the race tracks when she went to bet on the horses in Nebraska with her grandfather. She supposed that when officials let people through, some might feel like sprinting out of the “gate” depending on their circumstance.
Hopefully she and Jiro wouldn’t feel that way.
The man at the station is young, and although he sits, he seems to tower above her. Psychologically this is brilliant, she thinks. Hanako wrestles with whether to say, “konnichiwa” but settles on “hello,” because she doesn’t want the embarrassment of fielding rapid Japanese from him and she feels skittish about testing what little language knowledge she has on someone so official.
He gives her a nice smile and looks back at her passport. She wonders briefly if she should have updated her passport photo. The current one was taken seven years ago, when she had bangs, and her face had resembled a blowfish. He might call her an imposter and send her back to the states.
“Business or pleasure?” He asks, in perfect, barely accented English.
“How long will you stay?”
And just like that, her imagined interrogation is over.
The official takes her fingerprints, returns the passport. Is this where I take it back with both hands? She wonders. Why could she not remember the simplest customs?
“Thank you,” he says, slightly bowing his head.
“Arigato,” Hanako says, the words crowding her mouth like antsy imposters.
He smiles. “Arigato gozai-mass.”
Photo by Eutah Mizushima