Can You Catch It?

by

Twas the question asked of me by the owners of Naniwa Noren (浪花のれん) under Hisai station (久居駅) as I casually finished my beer, paid my tab, and departed at 9:15pm for a 9:18 express. Boldly, I shot out a, “Certainly!”, with an easy smile.

After trotting up the escalator and glancing at the official clock, I slowed my stride, slipped my commuter pass into the wicket, and headed for the stairs down. Spotting an express train and noticing several people already clearing the top of the stairs, I picked up my pace only to see the train pull out at 9:16 – two minutes before schedule.

Anger mixed with a perplexed sensation, having never experienced an early departure in my thousands of rides. I resigned myself to catching the 9:21 local train for a slow ride south, but after 9:25 it had not appeared. I ran over things in my head, figured out the problem, and ran upstairs to riddle the station worker with volleys of questions to verify my suspicion.

Due to heavy rain and a lightning strike north of Yokkaichi (四日市) the trains were delayed. The train leaving at 9:16 was the 9:05 (which wouldn’t have gotten me home even if I boarded it) and the 9:18 arrived at 9:29 and took me home as normal.

Naniwa is a funny name. It is actually an ancient name for Osaka (大阪) and can be written four ways:

  • 難波 – also read as Nanba, a busy shopping area in modern Osaka
  • 浪速 – currently a district of modern Osaka
  • 浪花
  • 浪華 – also read ‘rouka’, a term for foam from breaking waves that looks like white flowers

Japanese place names, particularly historic ones, can be very difficult to read; but also carry so much of the past with them. The shop owners seemed nervous when I came in and one hesitantly asked me at a very deliberate pace if I could speak Japanese. I blurted out in Osaka dialect that I couldn’t understand Japanese at all, and they laughed heartily with relief. This is a trick I use to put people at ease; seeing that I will joke around and can use dialect sends a message quickly. Luckily, in this case, Osaka dialect was perfect for them. I love it when things come together. Looks like I have a new fun place to snack, drink, and joke around.

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