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Prayers in Japanese

He’d always wanted to go to Japan. Many long years he studied the language, the culture. He made sure he wouldn’t be “that American”, the one who talks too loudly, too much, and always in English. That American was always asking for directions, always crossing over some invisible line, some taboo. That American made him want to say he was from Canada, or England, or anywhere else that he could pretend to be from.
He looked Swedish, with his shock of snow blonde hair and six-foot frame, but he couldn’t claim a home he’d never been to. He was descended from a long line of Swedes, but he’d only gotten the genes and not the language or the accent. Even his last name had been assimilated, Americanized to fit in. He couldn’t pretend for long. Once anyone heard his Midwestern accent or saw his passport, the jig was up.
So he blended in other ways. Learned how to not offend. Learned their habits. He always bowed lower. He always wore the right shoes, even the special bathroom slippers. It was important not to stick out any more that he had to.
He hoped that even if he couldn’t blend in physically, he could blend in culturally. Even if you look Japanese, you’ll stick out if you break the rules. He wanted to lay low as long as possible, hoping they wouldn’t notice him after long. This was the only chance to get to stay.
He wanted to see all the temples, praying at every one in the country. This was why he had to not get noticed. Going to just a few temples wouldn’t do. He had to go to every one. Maybe then he would get an answer to his prayer.
He had never spoken of it to anyone, never written it down. He didn’t want to jinx it, to have a self-fulfilling prayer. Or was it prophecy? He forgot. All he knew for sure was that it would only count if his prayer was answered through divine means. Anything else was sure not to last.

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