You are standing at the train platform with three of your friends.
You have just concluded a tasty, multi-course meal at a nearby Cambodian restaurant run by a portly fellow who would gesture in mock anger whenever the male patrons weren’t drinking enough alcohol.
Needless to say, he was your kind of fellow.
You originally met all three of these friends at the workplace, though only one of them now remains; The Gentle Sage left to start up his own business, and Lady Mankiller temporarily exited the workforce in favor of marriage. Newlywed life seems to have made her a little more tired-looking than you remember, but you reckon she could still slay a male or two if she had to; you once saw her work an entire roomful of men with surgical — and frightening — precision.
Rounding out the members of your party is Quiet Naoko, for whom The Gentle Sage organized this birthday dinner. Several more people could have been invited, but it was decided to keep things small — just the four of you, who for some reason have always gotten along. You enjoy their company, and moreover, are intensely grateful that conversations with them are completely natural, never drifting toward the dreaded, “Your Japanese is so good, English is so difficult” territory that has characterized more talks than you’d care to count.
Up until a few moments ago, you and the others had been waving goodbye to Quiet Naoko as she alone left to take a different line. Suddenly, however, a route hit you that would let all four of you take the same train.
“Hey, you’re right!” The Gentle Sage said upon hearing your suggestion, and the three of you had raced to catch up.
“But I thought…” Quiet Naoko says quietly, eyes wide and surprised.
“John Turningpin here realized we could take the same line,” The Gentle Sage explains.
This gives you a laugh. To the people of Tokyo, knowledge of the public transportation systems borders on a religion. They are obsessed with knowing where you live, where you work, what train lines you take to get from Point A to Point B, and if there is a more efficient way of doing so. You’ve seen people get into heated debates over this, pulling out their cell phones and consulting navigation software to find and defend alternate routes.
“Yeah,” you say, still grinning. “And why is it the foreigner who realized this?”
Lady Mankiller turns to you.
“John Turningpin,” she says, placing a hand lightly on your shoulder, “you’re already Japanese.”
The others nod in agreement.
And you’re not quite sure how to respond.