Story time

Have you ever been afraid? Don't worry, it's not a horror story. A couple of weeks ago (already, time flies!) I went for a nightly walk to the convenience store with the Chinese girls. It wasn't late, but as is normal in Japan it was already dark. On the way we passed some pretty dark areas, and it surprised me to notice that both girls were quite scared by the darkness. I suggested taking a longer walk at the riverside, since the view is quite nice from there, but they preferred not to go there because it was too dark. There are 'things you cannot see' there.

I often go out to the riverside at midnight by myself. Sometimes I take a walk to the Sony building, and other times I take my bicycle to the park slightly further south. The weather in Japan is great for this. It's almost never too cold to go outside. Even in the darkest darkness I can still see city lights from every side, lighting up any clouds in the sky.

I have never been afraid in Japan. I can honestly say this. I don't know why. Even that first night when I got lost and couldn't find my way home I wasn't scared. I somehow managed to arrange a taxi, and the taxi driver found my home even though I didn't remember my address. I am not afraid of ghosts, or similar things. In fact, I would be delighted if I could see one. I'm quite interested in the paranormal. But all my life experiences suggest otherwise, unfortunately. Graveyards don't frighten me, but I do feel a kind of respect for the dead whenever I am around one.

So where is this all going? At the time of writing this it's 2 in the night, and I just came back from a walk. A regular, nighttime walk in Holland, like I do in Japan. I walked to a small natural area about half a kilometer from my home. On my way there I did not encounter a single soul. No-one. The silence was amazing. The only sound I could hear were my own footsteps and the wind rustling the leaves. I tried listening for people, or cars further away at the main road, but there were none. During a week day, there are no people at night.

And it's scary. Arriving at the entrance to the natural area I had to walk through a dark street, and beyond that there are no lights at all. Just the small blips of light at the opposite side of the lake. There was no moon tonight, so I had to use my phone's light to be able to see where to walk. I went about halfway in, until I stopped. The view of the stars is amazing. I remember the trip to Izu in Japan, where we could see the stars so clearly. Here, finally away from all the lights around our house, I can see the stars very well.

All the time during my walk I kept looking behind me, and every time I heard a strange noise I looked up and tried to locate it. And there were many strange noises. A person closing a squeeking wooden door. The ticking of the masts of the sailboats. The wind constantly moves the leaves and twigs, sometimes cracking one of them, making a loud unexpected snapping noise. Every noise made me look up, and every once in a while I looked back to see if something wasn't following me.

I was scared. Not so much by the noises, but by the idea of being alone in the middle of nowhere. I was constantly thinking that a dog might jump out of the bushes and bite me, or that some immigrant or lowlife suddenly stabs me to death. I was unable to relax as much as I hoped. This place is scary at night. There are no people awake. No friendly store people yelling 'irrashaimase!' at the convenience store. No convenience store at all. No people. The remote-ness of this area is too different from Japan. They cannot be compared.

So in the end, what am I trying to say? I guess I just wanted to write about something unexpected that happened to me. Doing unexpected things makes life worth it for me. It makes things interesting. Here is some advice, not from me, but from a song I suggest you look up for yourself:

"Do one thing every day that scares you."

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