By Lauren Decosta
As it slowly starts to warm up, making it almost feel like spring at last, everyone is no doubt being graced with the infamous small talk about the weather. It’s an easy conversation starter, opening up the path to better communication, or so I’ve been told. Undoubtedly, after you’ve been here long enough to have the same seasonal weather conversations eight times a day for months and months, you start to wonder if it really does work. Sometimes, it does.
It was October a few years ago, and I was on study abroad in Hiroshima prefecture. It was arranged for all of the exchange students in my program to go visit a nearby town for their crab festival. We watched as groups marked by unique festival wear heaved portable shrines up a flight of stairs to the main shrine, and then back down again. Once the festival itself was mostly over, we got the chance to go see some of the portable shrines up close where they had all been lined up, the shrine bearers relaxing nearby.
So here we all stood, waiting for the attending professor to tell us to go get on the bus to head back to school, when I heard some of the guys from the festival talking behind us.
“It’s so hot today, isn’t it?”
My mouth and I decided that clearly this needed to be answered, because it was obviously an open statement to all who heard it.
“Right! It’s pretty hot.”
These guys were shocked that I responded to their Japanese weather talk, and ended up chatting with a couple of the other exchange students and me for a bit, offering us beers and cracking jokes.
At the end of the day I boarded the bus with a still chilled can of Asahi in one hand, and a story to take home with me. Sure, I never saw those guys again considering the festival was in a different town as the university, but the experience served to prove that, every once in a while, that dreaded weather small talk really does open up the chance for more conversation (and that Japanese people are often willing to bond with you over a beer at festivals).