The Linnet's Wings Summer 2014 - Page 33

When I got out of the ocean there were two people eating lunch on the beach. Both of them looked like they were retired, but in the way that Japanese people often do, they also looked quite young. They looked like two friends catching up after a long time apart. One of them gave me a friendly smile and asked how the water was. I told him that it was cold but refreshing. They both looked at me with a smile. It wasn't long before I began to ask nosy questions. I asked why the buildings looked abandoned. The chatty one with the smile explained to me that the younger people were moving away to the city. He said that it was a bit better at night because people were returning from work, but that even then the city looked empty. The company of these two men is nice for a moment, but our conversation soon runs out. I thank them for chatting with me and then return to the ocean for some more snorkeling. I will see the two men when I leave the ocean, but we will have very little to talk about. * After I got out of the ocean and dried off a little, my next thought was that I needed to find a bike to rent. I found two men eating a bento (box lunch) by the side of the road. They were in their thirties and seemed like they were taking a break from something, but I had no idea what kind of work they did. They wore overalls and I thought they could have been construction workers of some kind. When I asked if there was a place where I could rent a bike, one of the two men stopped eating his bento and pointed me to a nearby bike shop. It was just a block back the way I came. I had missed it because it looked like it was out of business. It was right across the street from one of the bright spots of the city, the big, newly constructed city building. It was this building and the athletic center that seemed to contrast starkly with what was going on. City politics, I thought. A city trying to save itself through public largesse. I didn’t really know anything about it. But I thought I knew. At least I knew the story in generic terms. I had seen it all over TV. The debate about small towns dying out, the struggle to keep them alive. And it always seemed to come down to the same thing: city politicians trying to persuade the government to spend money to save their town. At first when I saw the bike shop I didn’t want to believe that this was it. The sign with its kanji was easy enough to read, but the store itself looked like it had been a