I love traveling as much as the next person, but being born deaf has meant my experiences have been quite different than others. This episode comes from a bicycle trip through Kagoshima in Kyushu.
As the cold spring rains continued to beat down, I found myself looking for any place that would offer shelter. Pensions catering to hot spring tourists tend to be cheap and plentiful and, having found an area on the map full of hot springs, I had made my way to the town of Yunomoto.
Along the way I passed an older lady on the street and presented a note stating that I was “looking for a cheap place to stay.” At this point the aged matron pulled in three other ladies and, before I knew it, a full-blown “committee meeting” had begun. After some discussion, a place was finally decided upon, and we made our way there.
When the owner of the pension came out to greet us, my well-worn friend explained I “did not understand Japanese” and, satisfied with her introduction, briskly made her way back home.
As I thought of the note which was written in perfect Japanese, the owner who had no reason not to take her friend’s introduction at face value, asked me in writing, “So, what country are you from?” To which I replied, “Japan,” followed by the apparently necessary, “But I’m deaf.” She seemed to get the point.
Amazingly, not only did the pension owner provide for cheap shelter, but also she cooked a special breakfast, and we ended up “passing notes” about my trip thus far. Her kindness, the type not found in five-star hotels, warmed my heart and made that day’s cycling all the more worth-while as I crossed through the Bontang landscapes on my way to Kumamoto.