It’s funny. The other evening I met an older gentleman. He had a sharp and engaging look in his eyes. We talked about the normal things, How long? Where from? What major? Why Japan? Standard introductory questions meant to break the ice and a good way to practice an unfamiliar language. They are questions I must answer nearly every day.
It grows ancient quickly.
Few are the days when the questions evolve into authentic interest. I guess it’s no different than living in your home culture. There are many acquaintances but too few true friends. But those moments of wading through monotony and automatic responses is worth it to find a genuine conversationalist.
Apart from a bright spot on an otherwise cloudy day, the questions can spark a flame of an entire story. Our conversation stuttered through majors, literature, sports, and then to exploration. Since my stock answer to that question is boring. (I’ve only been to Japan.) The next question digs a little deeper.
“Where have you been in Japan?”
“Have you been anywhere?”
I must be boring.
Actually, I went to Taio Gold Mine the other day!
Taio Gold Mine was a journey through time to the late 19th to early 20th century. It’s an hour and a half drive along twisty and narrow mountain roads. At times, the hairpin turns and sheer drops protected by nothing but a guardrail triggers unhealthy images of cars dramatically tumbling down the forested mountainside to a fiery explosion. Thankfully, that only happens in movies. Careful, responsible driving will ensure safe arrival.
I didn’t know what to expect as we neared the entrance to the Gold mine, or kinzen “Gold Mountain.” The parking lot was packed and visitors sprawled over the complex. We wove our way through the tangle to the entrance. The fifteen degree Celsius air rushing from the entrance tunnel was a welcome relief from the humid thirty degree day.
Inside, I was struck by the familiarity of the place. I guess a mine is a mine no matter where you are. My hometown is nicknamed “the Copper Country” because of the extensive native copper deposits found and extracted during the mining boom at the turn of the 20th century. The area may not be much now post-industrial, but during the heyday it was a hopping cultural and economic center. So hopping that Calumet narrowly lost to Lansing to become the state capital. In fact, we found pieces of native copper from my hometown available in the Taio Gold Mine gift shop.
The trip to Taio Gold Mine transported me back in time across thousands of miles. It rejuvenated my mind and refreshed my Japan experience knowing that across so many miles so long ago two different places were having similar experiences.
Remarkably, the elderly gentleman had never visited the gold mine nor any of the other local destinations I mentioned. He did want to take me golfing though.
So many times we lose sight of small-scale in awe of large-scale. Unable to see trees because of the forest, per se. Elsewhere is more exciting, more interesting, different. We forget that our backyard can furnish remarkable adventures.