The One with the Accidental Sugar Daddy
One-Hit Wonders, Story #1
To be clear, we’re just gonna focus on the first half of that text (for the second half, you’ll have to ask my friend!). Welcome to January’s first story dedicated to the theme of things I did once and the unexpected ways they’ve added to my life. …I gotta find a shorter way to say that. I know: One-Hit Wonders! Welcome to my One-Hit Wonders. You voted, and while it was close, The One with the Accidental Sugar Daddy came out on top. Ya pervs.
Alright, so let’s rewind the clock. In late 2017, I hit the buy button on a round trip ticket to Japan. I’d wanted to travel there ever since I had been, back in the day, your typical teenager growing up on JRPGs, Adult Swim anime, and Studio Ghibli films. I was down to wholeheartedly embrace this new thing (traveling alone and internationally). I was down to embrace the opportunity to be a beginner (signed up for ikebana, which means Japanese flower arrangement for the Samurai Cop fans). But I did not yet know when or how I would decide to move on with gratitude, until I met Hong.
I arrived in Tokyo in the middle of March, fully intent on taking in the beauty of the ephemeral cherry blossoms. The Airbnb I was staying at was right along the Meguro River. It was a modest, three-story building hosting all sorts of travelers. Everyone had their own tiny bedroom, with common spaces including bathrooms on each floor, and a modest kitchen, table, and living room on the ground floor. Every morning I’d hurry down the stairs and out the door, the days passing in a blur of spicy ramen, a flashy robot show here, a dreamy Final Fantasy shop there, and fun meet-ups with fellow travelers I’d befriended.
One particular morning, I was reading at the kitchen table before heading out to Harajuku. An older man, probably in his late 40s, came down the stairs and sat across from me. We smiled at each other, and I greeted him in Japanese. He started to speak in Japanese. I only knew a handful of phrases, so I whipped out my phone and opened up Google Translate, typing, “Sorry! I don’t understand.”
When he looked at the screen, his face broke out in a huge smile, and he motioned for my phone. Thus began a delightful exchange thanks to the power of technology. I learned that his name was Hong, and he was from China on a trip for his pottery business. He’d been to Japan often and asked if I was here alone. I explained that it was my first time visiting Japan and I was indeed traveling by myself for fun. He offered to show me around and invited me to join a group of friends he was playing tour guide with that day.
I politely declined, explaining that I wanted to explore the city on my own. Undeterred, he asked me what food I liked so he could give a recommendation. I had yet to try sushi, so he suggested meeting for dinner at Tsukiji Fish Market. He knew the perfect restaurant, the best one in fact. Having met up with a couple other travelers on my trip, I thought this was a perfectly splendid opportunity to enjoy a taste of Japan with my third new friend.
After a full day in Harajuku, I headed over to the fish market to meet up with Hong. We walked over to a restaurant named Sushizanmai, and I immediately noticed this place was Fancy. The host guided us to a couple of seats right in front of the sushi chef, and a quick glance at the menu confirmed it was indeed Fancy. Oh well, when in Rome! I thought to myself. Hong knows this city well, so why not? I’ll splurge a bit.
The meal was indeed amazing, and when we finished, Hong told me to wait, getting up from his seat. I quickly realized he was going to pay for our dinner, which was easily at least $200. No way. I immediately protested, but he firmly insisted that it was his treat. As I watched him walk away, my This Is Weird senses started tingling.
When he returned, he smiled and asked if I wanted to get drinks next or go home. My senses crystallized, hindsight forming in dreadful 20/20. Oh no.
“Let’s go home because I am tired,” I basically shouted on the outside as my brain internally blared, “ABORT. ABORT. ABORT.”
That internal siren continued all the way back to the hostel. Our walk was paved with Hong’s attempts to pay for everything, followed by my tensely polite rejections. There was my ticket on the subway (“I have a Suica card!” I all but screeched). There was the medicine at the neighborhood drugstore for my cold (“No! nO. No. NO!” This went on for almost a minute in front of the expressionless cashier who paid us no mind). I pulled out my phone and typed, “You’re too nice! Dinner was enough.”
Hong read the text and laughed all easy breezy, typing back, “Chinese men pay for everything. Especially because you are a woman and we take care of women.” Oh boy. I had never been so happy to arrive in front of our hostel. As soon as I opened the door, I could flee up the stairs to my room and drown in a pool of poor foresight!
I turned to Hong to thank him for the dinner and bid him good night in the little Japanese I knew. He typed into his phone and I glanced at the screen. “Do you like Chinese or American men more?” OH BOY. All I could muster was a hysterical non-answer of a laugh (to which he responded with that easy breezy laugh again) and a firm oyasumi nasai as I flew upstairs.
Once in my room, I proceeded to text my fellow American friend in Japan about my night. Somehow between saying good night and rushing up the stairs, I had started to second guess my experience. Maybe it was just a cultural difference? Had I overreacted?? He did try to hold my hand on the subway but it was also kind of crowded and maybe he needed to hold my hand for balance??? I even tried to give him the benefit of the doubt by calling his behavior “fatherly affection” (a feeble conjecture which said friend swiftly shut down).
I figured that was the end of the comedy show as I slipped into a most welcome slumber. But there was still one last encore waiting for me in the morning. I awoke to a text from Hong in Chinese, the only English word being “Mai,” followed by a smiley face. I slowly copied and pasted the text into Google Translate.
Mai, good morning. What would you like for breakfast? ^_^
I wasn’t too keen on an episode two. Luckily for me, that day was my last in Tokyo, and I was suddenly very pleased to be leaving for Kyoto. Willing all the powers of Nope that I could manifest, I grabbed my belongings and quietly shuffled down the stairs. Peeking into the kitchen area in full stealth mode, I noted the coast was clear and disappeared into the sunrise.
Hong and I never spoke again. And honestly, props to him for appropriately assessing that my lack of response meant he should return to (pottery) business as normal. As for the rest of my trip, it was blessedly sugar daddy-less but still shenaniganful nonetheless.
So there you are, the first One-Hit Wonder. If you’re wondering how this event added to my life, it wasn’t in any particularly grand or revelatory way. Small steps and things you experience once don’t always have to. This was just a funny story, one for the library of life. One I could share and laugh over with friends and future friends for years to come. And now, unexpectedly, with you dear reader. Stories are gifts that keep on giving. And for that, I am grateful to Hong, my accidental sugar daddy.
Until now, this story’s been off the record, but now it is here FOREVER (Ever! EvEr! ever… e) for all to enjoy. I hope you did. Maybe you even have a similar one to share? Also, this past week’s been a real doozy. I hope you’re doing okay, and that this story gave you a laugh. I can’t promise the rest for this month will be as ridiculous, but they’ll be meaningful in their own way. With that, it’s time to vote again! Which story would you like to read next week? Hit reply to this email or that dialog bubble icon thingy to leave a comment.
The One Where Mai Saves the Orangutans
The One with the Imaginary Lifeboat
The One with the Ayahuasca
The One with the Video Game Musical
As always, thank you so much for reading. See you next week.