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The Simplest Things

Golden Week this year was pretty solemn. So many people I know decided to refrain from any leisure activity out of consideration for the earthquake and tsunami victims in Tohoku. Living and working in a semi-rural part of Kanagawa, I was largely shielded from the difficulties and collective despair felt in more densely populated areas of Kanto.

When I saw the dreary, bleak faces of my neighborhood friends who had been commuting into central Tokyo, I decided we could, and had to, do something to lift their spirits. A little trout fishing was definitely in order.

On a cloudy Tuesday morning, we made our way through the industrial backwater of Hiratsuka City, past the farmland. It was the peak of Golden Week, but the roads were barren. Our drive to the tiny hatchery trout stream nestled in the hills of Isehara City took less than half the time we had expected.

We were all kind of groggy, and I could tell my friends were reeling from the stress of a day-to-day grind that had been growing tougher, even before March 11. When I think about them and other people I’ve met in recent years, it feels as if an entire generation of Japanese has been dealt a bad card.

We arrived bummed out and listless. Then one by one, I watched my friends get absorbed in a moment of childlike nostalgia as they each hooked their first trout of the day.  I’m pretty sure they had been fishing before, but it had been so long ago, and the excitement was such a big release, it was as if they were doing it for the first time, again. 

My buddy Keisuke whose work situation is the toughest of anyone I know, had a giddy ear-to-ear grin as I had never seen on his face. I chuckled to myself, “Yup, that’s the power of fishing.”

The most remarkable thing was the simplicity of what we were enjoying—nothing more than the tug of a trout on the line, a few frosty sips of beer and some green scenery. 

I remember telling some ambitious students of this very notion—how it’s important to keep in mind, no matter your level of status, success or achievement, the best experiences in life are quite simple and easy to have, so long as you take the time to enjoy them. This outing was a textbook example of what I meant.

That morning my friends had a few well-deserved hours to let loose I think we all need from time to time. Even in the face of a tragedy on the scale Japan has just experienced, I reckon it’s good for us kick back, for just a bit, and do the same.

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