Kate

"She's my friend from Kazakhstan" is how I first heard of Kate.
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Yet I quickly learned Kate is instead a kokusaijin (国際人) — an international person, someone cosmopolitan, flexible, and open-minded. A Kazakh of Korean heritage whose first language is Russian, living in Canada, but met in Japan. Yeah! I know.
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And while in Japan, we became weekend companions. I have yet to experienced so many novelties with anyone else: remote art galleries & sumo championships, Japanese dance recitals & fire festivals, anime movies & manga cafes, temple hopping & island cycling, Hiroshima okonomiyaki & Hokkaido all-you-can-eat.
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Like a spring's spray of cherry blossoms, I was mesmerized by Kate's quiet honour, punctilious style, and electric softheartedness. A presence that is calming to the point of invulnerability.
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My favourite thing though is her appreciation of the specificities of place. Her principle to be immersed by all the quips, quirks, and quintessential details of where she is.
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She dives right in: learning the language, dancing in competitions, searching for the local specialties.
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All that creates an air of unhurriedness. Kanso (簡素) — elegant simplicity, an attractive absence of clutter. Someone with an engineer's frame of learning the intricacies of what's around but also content in leaving other mysteries as an effect of pure design.
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We first met at Amanohashidate, one of Japan's three scenic spots. We later visited Itsukushima Shrine, the second. The third is still on the list.