My wife, Meryl, and I were traveling around Japan during October 2014 when a total lunar eclipse was going to be visible throughout the country. We were on a three-week trip using the Japan Rail Pass and we happened to be in the city of Kanazawa on the north coast of the main island.
We had arrived in the city the day before the eclipse and I was determined to find the best location in the city to witness the event. In my search for a location with a high floor, we went to the Takashimaya department store which is an eight-story building whose top floor is dedicated to traveling foreign food expositions. That month’s theme was Italy, so there were a lot of Japanese people trying out Italian specialties. As we were leaving, we noticed a sign near the elevator that directed shoppers to another floor above where there was an outdoor seating area. We scouted the area and decided that it would be perfect location to watch the eclipse since there would be an unobstructed view of the moon rising in the sky.
The next evening we returned before the eclipse was due to begin and again spent some time sampling the Italian foods. As the eclipse approached, we saw a young Japanese couple waiting by the elevator to go down. In my best sign language, I motioned for them to join us on the roof. They couldn’t speak or understand any English but for some reason, they trusted us enough not to think we were crazy.
Once we reached the roof, I realized that I was going to have to explain why I had asked them to accompany us. There wasn’t anyone around who spoke English so I took out my phone, connected to Google Translate app and wrote the words “lunar eclipse.” As they read the translation, I pointed to them out that the earth’s shadow had just begun to cover the side of the moon. They were hooked! They then started to converse with us about themselves using their phone. We must have spent at least an hour getting to know them.
When the eclipse was more than halfway finished, the store was getting ready to close. They typed into their phone, “Thank you for teaching us about the lunar eclipse and getting to know you.”
I was so touched how genuine and trusting they had been. It was so typical of the warm hospitality of most of the Japanese people whom we had met. Wherever we went, if we would open a guidebook or looked the slightest bit lost, people would come up to us and offer assistance. There were even a few times that people went out of their way to bring us to where they thought we wanted to go and it was turned out to be the wrong place. They were so friendly that you couldn’t help but appreciate their kindness. That feeling of comfort was extended to us numerous times during our trip. We haven’t experienced that degree of warmth or lack of fear in all our travels.