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A Clear Night

Tonight is one of the clearest nights I have ever found while in Japan. From my balcony, overlooking a well-kept garden, I can see twenty or more stars and a brilliant full moon, brightly lit and open to intruding glares.

It is November in temperate Tokyo and the nightly temperatures are falling. I stood on that balcony and took in one of the great smells of this world, the smell of a chilly autumn night. The smell of the cold. A smell crisp enough to burn my nostrils upon entry, but too appealing to keep me from breathing deeper again. It is simple and clean. The air is clear enough tonight to make me forget I am in smoggy Tokyo, if only for a moment. The sky has chosen purple for its color tonight, though it is deep enough for the casual observer to miss that. I didn’t miss it. I stood outside long enough to see it was not blue or black or gray, no, the cold November night was as purple as it was clear.

Still, there is nothing particularly Japanese about this clear night, but it feels different. Despite the goose bumps on my arms, I am warmed by the cold air in my lungs and the clear sky in my eyes. I am warmed just as I am when Nat King Cole’s crackling version of ‘The Christmas Song’ begins to play from my computer. There is only one place in the world I am meant to be at this moment, where cold November nights and clear skies are common place and I can play all the holiday music a month before December I want without being labeled just an American.

Jaa ne,

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