From the back seat I shook hands with my new driver and his best friend as they introduced themselves.
“Hi, I’m Takeshi.”
“Hi, I’m Makoto.”
“We’re on a mission.”
I know we just got started, but let’s pause the story for a minute.
You may be aware that there are a few things that every guy loves doing. I won’t go through them all, but sitting at number four on that list (just below being part of a heist) is going on a mission. From religious missions to space missions to missions impossible, we have been doing them for eons and we just can’t get enough. If there’s a guy near you right now, take a look at him. He’s probably either on a mission or in the planning stages of one.
You can imagine, then, the relish with which I took in this fantastic news.
“A mission? That’s amazing! I am on board. One hundred percent. I’m here for you. What are your mission objectives?”
“We must visit every Seicomart convenience store in this part of Hokkaido. We have to cover 400km and get to 30 stores. We must finish before the last one closes.”
They were volunteer organizers for an upcoming festival at their university and had distributed posters with an incorrect date to all of the stores. Each store had to be visited individually and had a number of sub-objectives for completion:
1) Run inside store
2) Quickly explain situation to staff
3) Find inaccurate poster
4) Change date using black marker
5) Run back to car
Unfortunately, my spoken and written Japanese were inadequate for sub-objectives 2 and 4 but I enthusiastically and flawlessly completed numbers 1, 3, and 5 at each location.
I wondered if they couldn’t just phone the stores and ask the staff to change the dates, but that would have simultaneously killed the mission and heavily damaged my reputation as a man -- I kept silent.
To these guys, phoning wasn’t an option. They were donating their time, Takeshi's car, and considerable gas money to help out their school. I was impressed. They were literally ‘poster boys’ for the famous Japanese work ethic and I was happy to help (and of course happy for the ride too, which took me most of the way up the ‘lonely coast’ I mentioned in an earlier post – good decision, Dave).
The ride also netted me an invitation to the festival advertised in the posters. A wanderer cannot also be a planner, though, and I couldn’t commit to going. I had no idea where I’d be that very evening, much less in 10 days.
And yes guys, I know, I haven’t forgotten. You’re wondering whether we completed the mission.
You bet we did.