I found this photo yesterday from a 2004 Japan trip while moving files around different hard drives and thought I would share it here.
It was my first (and hopefully not last) trip to Japan. I was often struck by the absolute calm and tranquility of the Japanese countryside that stands in direct contrast to the bustling energy of its larger metropolises. This was shot at the Ise Shrine in the Mie Prefecture.
I had a very random and curious experience at this spiritual place with a young Japanese man. He approached me quietly and after gaining my attention extended his had and gave me a sort of woven orange charm he purchased at the shrine as a spontaneous gift. At first I thought he may have been a vendor or someone who wanted something from me. But it was obvious he was just a pilgrim visiting the shrine.
When I asked him what the charm represented, he told me through an interpreter that the charm would bring health and spiritual protection to my unborn child. It struck me as odd since he was so specific about a baby and I'm a man and wasn't traveling with my wife. I bowed to thank him and he calmly smiled and meandered away down a graveled path into the misty rain.
Stranger still is that there was no way for him (or me) to know that my wife and I were about to become pregnant just a few weeks later. Kathy was over 7000 miles away back home in Grand Rapids.
Could it have been just random luck that he sensed something and was inspired to give me a gift so specific to something that would come true just a short time later? I was the only person this man approached...our interaction was so brief...it seems so surreal now.