“Would you like to see the cherry blossoms?”
I took off my headphones. A little Japanese girl had approached me. No one had ever come up to me since I started living in Tokyo. Most people just stared at me. Especially on the trains.
I was shocked.
She spoke again.
What else could I do but nod?
I followed her to a bridge surrounded by cherry blossoms.
She told me that her name was Hanako. She was 7 years old and her favorite thing to do in school was draw pictures.
The entire time I kept wondering why Hanako had gone out of her way to talk to me.
Hanako didn’t ask me why I was here in Japan or how long I had been studying Japanese. She just talked to me.
I walked Hanako home and went back to my host family’s house. I had taken Hanako’s picture but deleted it.
*She only talked to you because she thought you were weird.
I regret feeling that way. I regret deleting her photo. She talked to me simply because she had wanted to.
Sometimes my son Chris smiles at me and I think about that little girl.
Hanako is 11 now. I was around that age when I first started studying Japanese.
I wonder if she’ll learn another language too.