Natasha Norman Visual Artist

Left Cheek Teeth

We haven’t seen Mount Fuji for four days now. An icy mist seems to be keeping it from our view. There was a light rain in the day so I pulled an experimental print. Rainy weather is best for printing, according to tradition.

Having been for a laborious early morning run in which it took at least 20min for my legs to warm up, I opted for a short stroll to the Convenience Store to buy another Royal Meiji (a yogurt dessert) for breakfast. My potluck buy had proven delicious this morning so I thought a repeat was be in order for tomorrow.

On my way home, I was hailed by a friendly local who insisted on collapsing into conversation with me. He luckily had enough potted English words in his Japanese to ask why I was here and where I came from.

“You staying hotel?”

“No,” I replied, “I’m at the MI-Lab. Keiko’s place.” It’s a small village and the neighbours all know each other.

“Ah yes. ‘me’ lab,” he replied giving me a broad smile that revealed the fact that he only had bottom teeth on the left-hand side of his face. His crinkly eyes were shining and he nattered away in Japanese for a bit until he looked at my blank face.

“You rent there? I am (couldn’t catch the name but I presumed it was our landlady he was referring to) cousin.”

“Ah!” I nodded, indicating I understood.

“Which country you from?”

“South Africa.”

“Africa!” He looked completely incredulous. “Which country? Kenya, Zimbabwe, Nigeria?”

“South Africa,” I replied. He looked confused so I persisted with, “Mandela?”

“Ah Mandela!”

I had to laugh. Our first democratic president is more widely known than the name of our country.

“I live in that house,” he whisked round and sucked on his left cheek teeth a little, pointing to a jumble of wooden beams and an old-school Japanese roofline. “One with blossom tree. This,” he gestured to a yard full of junk, which on closer inspection could be second-hand goods, “this is my business.”

I got another toothless grin and a handshake. “Pleased to meet. I see you again.”