lately, i have had an unusual high level of communication activity in my inbox: i’m trying to get couches (well, futons) for me and my two friends all over japan. it’s been no small feat since the japanese dwelling is famously small and since the japanese don’t really have the cultural thing of inviting people over.

still, i found many, many nice people who are willing to help us see japan by offering a place to crash for the night. it is heartwarming to get messages in engrish :) showing people’s willingness to do something to help, even if they can’t get you a couch: they are offering to show you around, to have dinner or drinks with you, to even call some friends in case they may be able to host. it is a great feeling and i, for one, can’t help but feel close to these great people who are so kind as to give to strangers. and, in my head, the map of japan is full with friends, even if we’ll never meet or just meet once, for dinner, or share the same apartment for one night.

couch surfing is not just about getting a place to sleep: it’s more than everything about getting to know the real japan, the tiny apartments (not the hotels), the neighborhood restaurant (not the ryokan dinner), the minuscule bars and the best places for ramen. it’s being closer to japan than the regular tourist. it’s using the sleeping cars in trains, with the locals, and not flying between far away cities. it’s talking about things with dozens of people, getting a more complete picture. it’s eating every day completely different things and using the amazing transport structure and discovering the infinite ways the japanese find to be civilized and polite. it’s being sucked into this happy place where everybody is trying to make things happen and they smile while doing so (and, believe me, i am from romania where barely anybody smiles so i appreciate the effort, even if it’s not always heartfelt).

couch surfing is a network of over 2 million people worldwide contributing to an amazing common goal: travel and help others travel. i’ve been a member for 4 years and i made friends with some of the couch-surfers i met and i have a better, more complex image of the world i live in. and it’s first hand, no media reports involved. i believe this is being rich: knowing the geography of places, the smells and the tastes, the sound of the language and the colours, the people.  it’s a subtle wisdom and richness. it’s my aim.

my chart is now complete so japan is now full of friends waiting for our arrival. and we’ll be great romanian ambassadors!