I have to say, I was feeling such a mix of sadness and relief on my way home from Japan. I had such an amazing time in a country for which I have so much love and respect… but at the same time, my feet were pancakes, my back was starting to feel like an 80 year old’s and I hadn’t had a full night’s sleep in weeks. It was time to go home and sleep it all off. I still had a 14 hour plane trip back to LA (on Korean Air, so it was pretty nice!), then a 4 hour layover and another 2 1/2 hour flight to Puerto Vallarta. I had the most amazing experience while sitting on the plane from Tokyo, though…
I love to draw the people around me on long flights or in settings where people are sitting still and not paying attention. I have to be a little sneaky about it though, since I don’t always get the best reactions from people when they see what I’m doing. I didn’t have too many options for this flight, since I couldn’t really see any of the people around me without leaning over them and staring awkwardly at the people beside me, so instead I drew a woman’s shoulder who was sitting in front and the the right of me, the man’s knee from across the aisle, and then the man’s hand who was seated next to me. I thought I was being sneaky, and I thought that the man next to me was actually asleep, but about half way through my drawing he sat up, tapped my hand and asked (in Japanese) if that was his hand that I was drawing. Oops..! I apologized and told him yes it was. I expected him to do what most people do; look at it for a bit, say it’s nice, then go back to whatever he was doing and hide his hands (or whatever I was drawing). Instead, he turned his light on and began admiring his hands! He kept pointing out the veins, positioning them in the way I had drawn them and saying “Omoshiroi… Omoshiroi desu ne?” (“Interesting… they’re interesting, aren’t they?”). He asked me a few questions and we managed to talk for a while in broken Japanese and broken English, then he went back to sleep (carefully putting his hands back in position for me), and I went back to drawing. He woke up a little while later as I was closer to finishing and again he admired what I had drawn for a bit, then asked to look through my sketchbook. He went through each page carefully, and commented on each drawing, before giving it back to me. Then he reached into his briefcase, pulled out a printout with some graphs on it, turned it over and began drawing. I continued drawing, but I was shocked when I looked over a little later to see that he had drawn my hands drawing his! And it was really beautiful!
He needed to keep the paper he had drawn his on, and he said that he didn’t want me to rip mine by taking it out, so instead we exchanged photos. We each signed our names on the drawings, then I took a photo of his on my camera and he took one with the phone he kept on a cord around his neck. Here’s mine,
and here is the drawing he did of me drawing! The lights in the cabin were all off, so the lighting is awful… but at least you can see it.
Signed by Nobuaki Komatsu.
We talked for a while longer and he showed me pictures on his phone of his wife and the shrine they had just visited, and I got to practice a lot more of my Japanese. So it turned out to be a very nice flight, and even though I was tired, the rest of the travel time back to Mexico wasn’t bad at all (despite being sat in the middle of a group of already drunk middle-aged tourists on their way to “Porto Valarta” from LA…).