Her host family, the Nakaguchi’s promised they would be waiting for her at the gate with a big sign with her name on it but now she was worried because at the last minute her flight had been canceled due to mechanical difficulties and she had been forced to board another carrier to make it to Tokyo on the same day. She had not been allowed to use her cell phone to call ahead and forewarn them about the change. If she hadn’t felt so exhausted she would have been freaking out in panic. She couldn’t read or speak Japanese and her flight was arriving at a completely different terminal than what her host family was expecting.
She shut her eyes and prayed again. Please, dearest Lord, help me to find my host family. Please send an angel or something to guide me!
Two hours later the flight finally set down in Tokyo and along with all the other travel-weary passengers, Hannah lugged her carry on luggage down from the overhead compartment, almost decapitating a little Japanese man in the process when it fell out of her grip.
He let loose with a stream of angry Japanese, scolding her. Hannah felt like crying. Going to Japan for an entire year had been such a dream for her but it was starting off like a nightmare!
She finally made it off the plane and into the terminal. The outside air within the airway between the terminal and the airplane was hot and very humid. In the space of just a few moments, she had sweated through her clothes. OMG! She had been warned about the humid weather in Japan but nothing could have prepared her for walking into what felt like a sauna!
She reached the terminal and looked around, hoping that by some miracle God had communicated to the Nakaguchi’s her new arrival status. She saw signs but none of them were in English and none had her name. Her heart sank. She turned around to take a 360 degree look around, lost her balance and found herself falling over someone.
“Ouch!” she cried out, feeling a sharp pain in her ankle. She looked down and could already see it starting to swell and turn blue. Great, just great. First the plane change and now this! What else can go wrong?
“Please excuse me!” cried a young masculine voice. The next thing she knew, she was being gently lifted to her feet by one arm by a total stranger. “I apologize for making you to trip!” he continued, helping her to balance on her good leg. Hannah suddenly came eye to eye with a strikingly handsome and young Japanese man. His mouth fell open in surprise and shock for a moment, then 5,000 years of ingrained Japanese politeness came to the fore. He bowed briefly then helped to maneuver her over to a seat in the terminal. Then he knelt down and propped up her injured ankle onto her suitcase so it was elevated.
“One moment, please!” he said, bowing again. He raced off to a local concession stand and came back with a towel filled with ice cubes. He laid it gently upon her ankle. Stealing glances at her every few moments, he set about to arrange her luggage neatly around her then he stood and bowed again. “I humbly beg forgiveness, Miss American,” he said, turning red. “I did not intend to cause you injury.”
Miss American? Hannah giggled despite the pain. “Uh, it’s okay…it was an accident,” she said, peering at her now bloated ankle and wondering how on earth she was ever going to find her host family now. She tried calling them on her cell phone but she had never used the international features before and needed her guide sheet on all the number to dial. She looked at the chagrined young man and suddenly noticed how handsome he was. He stuck out his hand to her, American style.
“Akihiko,” he introduced himself. “It translates as bright prince.”
Hannah blushed deeply and shook his hand.
“Hannah….uhhhh….just Hannah.” She said, wishing she had an exotic meaning for her name as well. Bright prince!!!!
Akihiko smiled at her and Hannah felt her heart skip a tiny beat. “Is there anything more I can to do you?” he asked in his faulty English. Hannah stifled another giggle, tempted to tell him that no, a twisted ankle was sufficient, but then she thought better of it.
“Yes, Akihiko,” she said, nodding earnestly. “Could you help me find my host family?” She then explained to him as simply and as clearly as she could what had happened with the plane change and how she was supposed to have been in a different terminal 1 hour from now to meet them. Akihiko nodded every now and then, making mental notes in his head. When Hannah was done, he stood up and flung his arm across his chest in a knightly salute.
“Never fear!” he intoned with a solemn face that made Hannah want to giggle some more. “Akihiko is here! He will save your day. Wait here!” With that he ran off and rounded up several airport employees. One went down to baggage claim to get her luggage so they could help her through customs and the other ran for a wheelchair. In no time at all, Hannah found herself being wheeled through the terminal at breakneck speed with Akihiko half riding/half pushing from behind while barking a stream of orders in rapid-fire Japanese.
With Akihiko’s help and that of the kind air terminal employees, Hannah was fast-tracked through customs and then they were speeding on their way to the other terminal to meet up with the Nakaguchi’s before they ever knew what had happened!
When she and Akihiko actually came up from behind them. The entire family was there, the two parents, daughter (who was the same age as she) and son a few years older.
“Mr. Nakaguchi!” Hannah called from her chair, waving her arms. “I’m over here!”
The entire family turned around in shock and gaped at her, wondering where she had come from and why she was in a wheelchair. Of course, being Japanese they wouldn’t think to even ask such intrusive questions but merely bowed in greeting before turning to Akihiko.
“Konnichiha, Akihiko!” exclaimed the brother of the family, a grin spreading from ear to ear. They bowed to another and then clasped hands like they were old school chums (which they were). He and Akihiko obviously already knew one another and began jabbering away in Japanese. The other family members listened politely and oohhhhed and aw-soooed every once in a while, nodding as they looked from Akihiko to Hannah as he explained what had happened.
Finally Mr. Nakaguchi turned his full attention to Hannah. “Welcome to Japan, Ms. Hannah.” He said, bowing slightly. “Akihiko has apprised us of everything. It was good that it was he whom you ran into; he is a long time friend of my oldest son, Kamiko. They were classmates and lives with his family near our apartment.”
“Oh!” said Hannah, unable to think of anything else to say. She looked over at Akihiko and found him looking right back at her with a curious look on his face. Awkward pause.
Taking the silent cue, everyone took a hand in picking up her luggage with Akihiko pushing her wheelchair like a proud tour guide.
They negotiated their way out of the concourse and then to a long black limousine that was large enough to fit everyone. Feeling solely responsible for Hannah’s injury Akihiko took it upon himself to help her get in and then when they arrived, helped her to get out and half-carried/half-walked her to the elevator that led to the Nakaguchi’s apartment. To her amazement, he even held her fully in her arms while the Nakaguchi’s daughter, Hitomi, helped to carefully remove her shoes before entering their home.
Hannah hopped inside on her one good leg until she found a chair to sit on. From that moment on, the entire family took charge. Hitomi and Kamiko brought all her luggage into the room she would share with Hitomi who unpacked everything for her, putting her clothes, shoes, and personal hygiene items away as unobtrusively as possible. Hannah was absolutely mortified but there was nothing she could do about it until she could walk again. Once unpacked, she was led back to her room and shown the blow up air mattress they had gotten especially for her.
Exhausted she crawled into bed and slept for the next 12 hours.
The next evening she woke up feeling completely discombobulated. Her body clock said it was morning but the window in the room showed a dark night sky. She looked over at the Tatami mat next to her where Hitomi was sleeping; her mouth slightly open. The alarm clock was in Japanese but it looked like it was 2am. It was going to be a long night. Suddenly she was struck with inspiration.
She got out her cell phone they had placed near her (along with the directions on how to call international) and dialed the number of her friend Mirriam.
It should be the early afternoon and Mirriam should be home and done with school…
“Hello?” answered her friend’s voice on the other end.
“Earwen!” whispered Hannah, trying not to wake Hitomi up.
“So you got into Japan okay? What time is it there now?”
“Jet lag is awful isn’t it?” Mirriam responded compassionately.
“I can’t talk long because Hitomi is sleeping,” Hannah whispered, glancing over at Hitomi who showed no sign of waking up. “But I just had to tell you…I hurt my ankle but I think I’ve met my Prince Charming!”
“Shut UP!” squealed Mirriam, knowing how Hannah had always longed to meet and marry a Japanese Christian man. The sound carried well out of the earpiece and Hitomi stirred.
“Gotta go!” whispered Hannah. “Just wanted you to be the first to know! I’ll email you later all the details!”
The next morning (for real), a doctor friend of the Nakaguchi family came over and inspected her swollen ankle which was now a nice black and blue color. His gentle prodding evoked a few squints of pain but he seemed satisfied that it was nothing more than a sprain. He wrapped her ankle up tight, told her to ice it regularly then left bowing.
Hitomi helped her over to the low table where the family sat politely waiting for her. She sat cross-legged since she still couldn’t kneel on the ankle and smiled thanks at all of them. They smiled back then bowed their heads and said grace over their meal. The Nakaguchi’s were one of the few Christian Japanese families that had opened their home to exchange students from America. The prayer was in Japanese but at the end everyone said “Amen” in English.
Hannah was famished; she looked at the food before her; a bowl of brown rice and hot Miso soup and of course, tea.
Just as they all finished their meal there was a polite knock at the door. Kamiko got up with a barely suppressed grin and opened the door. In the door frame stood Akihiko.
He entered the room bowing to all but his almond brown eyes were fixed upon Hannah. She felt her cheeks begin to flame. Hitomi took her arm with a smile and helped her to their room, closing the Shoji screens behind them.
“Akihiko has asked if he may take you to a traditional Japanese Tea Room for your first day.” She explained, trying to hide her grins. “I think he is smattered on you.”
Hannah burst out giggling but quickly clapped her hand over her mouth. “I think you mean smitten.” She grinned.
With Hitomi’s assistance Hannah got cleaned up and changed her clothes. The doctor had left both crutches and a wheelchair for her use. She hobbled out on the crutches while Akihiko carried the wheelchair out the front door. Armed with her camera, guidebook and purse, the family bowed and waved goodbye as Akihiko helped her into her chair.
It was all happening so fast her head was in a whirl. He maneuvered her and the wheelchair into the elevator then out to the street where he took her to a local train station. Hannah should have felt nervous, after all, Akihiko was practically a virtual stranger, but it all seemed fine somehow and she had God’s peace that passes understanding. Soon they were both on a bullet train and speeding into the Japanese countryside.
Soon Akihiko was pushing her chair towards an old Japanese tea house that had a gorgeous view of Mount Fuji. It had dark wood walls and a green tiled roof. She left the chair outside and Akihiko helped her into a small room with Tatami mats. They made her as comfortable as possible and then the ceremony began.
A beautiful geisha sat down inside the room and played a traditional Japanese song upon her Shamisen. Another geisha entered the room, sliding the shoji screens aside silently, and carried in a tray that contained the tea implements: the chashaku (tea scoop), sensu (fan), chasen kusenaoshi (whisk shaper), chasen (bamboo whisk) and fukusa (purple silk cloth) as well as the green tea powder.
Hannah watched in wonder at the elaborate preparations to prepare a simple cup of tea and could feel Akihiko’s eyes upon her the whole time. It was not proper to speak during the ceremony so they both were silent. The hot tea was first passed to Akihiko who after sipping, turned the bowl three times in his hand then offered it to Hannah.
She accepted with a shy bow and sipped the slightly bitter, hot liquid. Once the ceremony was completed Akihiko helped her back into her chair and took her further into town to a noodle house where they could talk freely and eat. They spent the rest of the day together and when the sun began to set, they boarded the bullet train again back for Tokyo. They reached the Nakaguchi home by 8pm where the entire family greeted her at the door and assisted her in. Once she was settled in a chair, Akihiko clasped her hand in his, placing a small parchment wrapped gift in her hand.
“Thank you for accompanying me today.” He said, smiling shyly. “I leave you now in the good hands of the Nakaguchi family. I hope to see you again many times before you return to America.” With another bow to her and the rest of the family he showed himself out of their apartment.
Hannah looked down at the little bundle in her hands and carefully unwrapped it as Hitomi looked on. Inside was a delicate gold necklace upon which hung letters in Japanese.
“What does it mean?” asked Hannah turning to Hitomi.
“In your language it means Destiny.” Hitomi replied.
NOTE: Hannah loved her story(above) so much that she requested a second chapter. She just couldn't stand not knowing what would happen next. So here, by popular demand, is the first "chapter two" to a wish fulfillment story...
“No way!” squealed Mirriam’s voice over Hannah’s cell phone when she had finally gotten a moment to herself to call her best friend. “He gave you a gold necklace??! Hannah!” she continued in her best Darth Vader impression. “He is your DES-TIN-EEEEE!!”
Hannah giggled, the whole experience from the moment she had gotten off the airplane up to now had been rather surreal and it was just now starting to hit home that she may have, indeed, met her “Mr. Right”.
“Did he try to kiss you or anything?” Mirriam interrogated, wanting to know every last teeny tiny detail.
“Of course not!” Hannah replied shocked. “No one kisses me until I’m married! Not even on the cheek! Which reminds me, I need to call my parents and let them know I got here safely.”
“Are you going to tell them about HIM?” Mirriam asked.
“Well yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeees,” replied Hannah, wondering how she was going to break the news to her parents about Akihiko.
“Well tell me ALL about it after you do!” Mirriam said. “I have to get going and update my blog now. This author put me in a “wish fulfillment” story and I want to blog about it.”
“What’s that?” Hannah asked, curious.
“I’ll send you the link over email.” Mirriam replied mysteriously.
“Okay, bye!” Hannah said then dialed her parent’s house. She had sent them a quick text message that she had gotten there okay but knew they would want to talk with her too.
“Hi Dad!” she said when he answered the phone.
“Hanny!” he exclaimed, overjoyed at hearing her voice. “How was your flight? Did you get to catch up on your sleep? How are you liking Japan?”
“The flight was long and uncomfortable, I’m not quite caught up on sleep yet and I LOVE Japan!!” (Of course she didn’t say why.)
“That’s wonderful, honey. We’re very proud of you. I bet by the time you get back you will be fluent in Japanese!”
“I hope so...” Hannah hemmed, trying to think of an appropriate way to broach the subject. “Uh, Dad, I have something rather important to tell you.”
“So soon? You’ve only been there a few days,” he replied. “What could have possibly happened in that short time already?”
“I think I may have met...uhhhh...ummmmm...HIM.”
“Him?” repeated her dad. “Who-him?”
“Honey, you’re losing me. Give me a hint here.” Said her dad, completely bewildered.
“Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad, you’re not making this easy.” Hannah moaned. “Remember all those talks we’ve had about when I get old enough for boys to take an interest in me?”
“Yes,” came the reply. “Are you trying to tell me that there is already someone interested in you in Japan after only 2 days?” His voice was incredulous. Hannah then described everything that had transpired from the plane change up to the present moment, leaving nothing out. When she was done the silence on the other end was almost deafening.
Then her dad cleared his throat. “Well, Hanny, I trust you to live and abide by the morals and guidelines we discussed and agreed upon together. If I didn’t trust you, I wouldn’t have agreed to let you go to Japan. I’m glad you have been open and forthright with me and I have no doubts that you will act responsibly. Mom and I love you very much; and all the animals here send their greetings. Have a great time, soak up all the local flavor and come home safely to us.”
“Okay, dad!” Hannah said, relieved. “I promise to keep things appropriate. I’ll bring everyone back some great souvenirs.”
“That’ll be great, honey. Goodbye and keep in touch and take good care of that ankle.”
“I will, dad. Love to you and mom.”
Hannah hung up the phone and fell over onto her side with a big sigh. Well that was over with and it went better than she had expected. Now she could move forward with a clear conscience.
Akihiko called upon the family the next day and spent the day with all of them and especially his school buddy, Kamiko, but his brown almond eyes constantly flitted back to Hannah, causing her to blush with pleasure constantly. Just as he was bowing and saying his goodbye’s, he finally turned his full attention upon Hannah.
“Please excuse my forwarding,” he said, with a formal bow, confusing his English words. “May I ask the pleasure of accompanying you to a Kabuki performance?”
“Kabuki?” exclaimed Hannah, unable to suppress the joy in her face. She had always longed to see a real Kabuki play but there was no such thing back where she lived. The closest she could get to seeing such a thing would be to recent a National Geographic DVD or something similar.
“I would like to escort you to see a performance of Kanadehon Chūshingura at the National Theater this coming Saturday.”
“May I have your permission to do so?”
“Oh! I would LOVE to!” Hannah exclaimed, reminding herself not to jump up and down on her injured foot. “Thank you!”
The smile that spread over Akihiko’s face went from ear to ear and he almost seemed relieved. He bowed low and to Hannah’s amazement and shock, lifted her hand and kissed the top as if he were a knight in medieval England. A thrill raced up Hannah’s arm, then neck and through her hair. She could almost swear that every strand was suddenly standing on end as if electrocuted! She could hardly wait to tell Mirriam!! Kabuki and a kiss on the hand in the same day!!!
Hitomi was almost more excited than Hannah was. To see one of the most famous Kabuki plays at the National Theater was no small deal. She took Hannah shopping the next day to find a suitable dress to wear (one could not go to the National Theater in blue jeans and cotton shirt!) she explained. They found a lovely pale pink dress with cherry blossoms printed on it that was both modest and very feminine.
The morning of the play, they both got up early and Hitomi fussed over her, styling her hair up in a French chignon and placing delicate pink enamel combs on either side. They had become as close as sisters in one week Hannah wore no makeup or jewelry except for the beautiful “Destiny” pendent Akihiko had given her. When the doorbell rang signaling his arrival, she found herself hardly breathing she was so excited. By now she was able to walk unaided and with only a slight limp but he treated her like fine porcelain, tucking her arm into his and steering her in the right direction with his hand on the small of her back.
They arrived at the National Theater (where Akihiko’s uncle worked who had arranged for the last-minute tickets). Hannah couldn’t believe how incredible and imposing it was. Because of Akihiko’s uncle their seats were fabulous, 5 rows back right in the middle. Because the programs were written in Japanese, Akihiko explained the plot of the play.
“Kanadehon Chūshingura or the “Treasury of Loyal Retainers” is famous story of the Forty-seven Ronin who track down their lord's killer, and exact revenge upon him before committing seppuku as required by their code of honor upon the death of their lord,” he whispered as the curtain went down and the lights dimmed. The music began and the actors (all male) took their places upon the stage.
Hannah had a difficult time understanding everything that was going on but midway through the play she ceased to care because all she could think about was Akihiko taking her hand in his and holding it throughout the duration of the play.