Just for the record, Kutchan's real name is Kumei. Actually, that's his last name. Many years ago, Mizue and I went on an awesome adventure for her birfday to stay in an onsen somewhere in Hokkaido. We passed through a tiny town which is named after the Ainu word for the area, "Kutchan". A month later I met Kumei for the first time and immediately gave him the nickname Kutchan. The name stuck, as that's now the preferred name for him among our Rising Sun members. Anyway, he had somewhere to be in the morning, so we slept all of 4 hours, and after saying goodbye I wandered down to Odori Park to nap/plan my day/hunt for CDs/whatever. On my last day in Sapporo, I met up with Erina in the early afternoon, and we went to Globule to eat soup curry, where we met Erico. I ordered salisbury steak soup curry. On a scale of 1 to 6 for spiciness, I got a 5. When I order something that's nearly the hottest level in the 'States, it's almost never spicy enough, let alone spicy at all. When I get Sapporoan soup curry that's even in the middle of the scale, it's damn hot. Today's selection was murderously spicy. But that makes it murderously more delicious. Seriously, it was damn good.
Anyway, it was cool seeing Erico again, it was awesome seeing the gigantic painting that Gravity Free had painted in Globule (by the way, when I'm living in Sapporo, this will be my weekly hangout place), but it was especially awesome to get another chance to hang out with Erina. She was going to try to visit Miwako before she left Victoria, and of course I would have gone to visit, but it ended up not working out. I doubt I'll get her (or any of my friends in Japan) to visit Seattle, but I'm sure as hell going to try. After lunch, we met up with one of my favorite people in Sapporo, Nao. I said goodbye to Erina, and then Nao and I went to a cute little cafe for a cup of coffe before I (barely) made it to the airport.
During my far-too-short visit with Nao, she asked me if I really knew what had happened to Mizue, and I said no. A couple weeks before I left for Japan, there was a note on her blog written by Takkun saying that Mizue fell down, and she had to be hospitalized. About a week later, I was starting to worry because I hadn't heard anything. Eventually I got a hold of Takkun, who said that she was still in the hospital and that her head hurt. During Rising Sun and the following week in Hokkaido, people mentioned her occasionally, but they said things like "her head hurts", "she's doing much better", and "she's having a hard time reading." I thought it must be migraines or something... she's had health problems in the past, but those were mostly with her stomach. Well, Nao said she wasn't sure if she was supposed to say anything, but she decided I should know the truth. Mizue didn't fall down because she had migraines... she had a stroke. She was still in the hospital several weeks later because her brain had lost the various neural connections between things. She couldn't read (though looking at written words made a sense of vaguely knowing the meaning but not how to read it, which is pretty much exactly how it is for me trying to read Chinese characters ("kanji") in Japanese), she couldn't really speak because words didn't come to her, and she had a hard time understanding what was being said to her. But she was doing well. Naturally, I became extra worried, and decided that I needed to harass Takkun until I could at least meet him, if not Mizue or their 4 month-old baby Tsukuru.
So... this was all a shock to me, but I'm glad Nao finally told me SOMETHING, because it didn't seem like anyone else would, if they even knew. Anyway... more on that later.
So yeah, every iota of my being was telling me that I belong in Hokkaido, but it was time to go back to Tokyo. I knew there would be many fun adventures to be had and awesome people to meet, and maybe it was the weight of finding out about Mizue, but I wasn't looking forward to it at all. The second I got off the plan, I walked into a wall of hot, sticky humid air. I took a monorail to the city center, and as soon as it arrived, people started running because that's what people do in Tokyo. They're always in a hurry. But Jai (one of a million billion friends that Mizue introduced me to, but also one of my closest friends in the world, not just Hokkaido) came to meet me, we dropped off my stuff at his house, and went out for drinks. We walked through Roppongi, the part of Tokyo where all the gross foreigners and gross girls who want a foreign boyfriend hang out, until we found a yakitori place that looks like foreigners wouldn't hang out at. Jai is still working for the Hokkaido Newspaper, but they recently relocated him to Tokyo. He's slowly getting used to Tokyo life, but as a Hokkaido native, he feels incredibly out of place. I guess it's like if I lived in LA or New York (or even Chicago)... I like big cities, but there has to be a limit somewhere. A typical work day for Jai, just like everyone in Tokyo, lasts until 10 or 11 pm. His girlfriend is still back in Kushiro (a tiny town in eastern hokkaido; I went there to visit him three years ago), so they have to communicate using something called "the Internet". Well, he seemed out of place, but it was nice hanging out, and nice for me to know that I had a place to stay in Tokyo (every year prior I had stayed with Mizue and Takkun, but the baby changed that... and the hospitilization especially changed that). So we spent a few hours getting caught up, and it made me feel not as bad to have left Hokkaido behind.