My first contact with Finnish people was in 2009. It was my second week in Tokyo and I changed my place for the third time. The next morning, I wanted to visit the southern islands, so I booked a two square meter „room“ in a capsule hotel near the ferry port. These islands are rarely visited by tourists, it used to be almost impossible to reach them without at least an understanding of the local geography or the japanese language.
Short was the night. Besides sleeping, the only thing I wanted to do was to charge my camera. The hotel – eight floors, each with 50 to 80 capsules and windows that closely let you examine the wall of the next building – only seemed to have one working power outlet. It was near the elevator, underneath the only table on the floor, where two young men where playing poker. To the left, a bald head shined pale around blue eyes and to his right was a guy with thick blonde hair leaning on the chair. Plugging in the camera, I accidently tipped over the cards on the shaky table. The men just smiled and whished me a good night.
With a lot of luck, I caught my ferry the next morning and found a cheap room on the island. It was in an old japanese house that’s been turned into a hostel for surfers, who weren’t here now for the rainy season. In fact, I was the only guest in the huge mansion. It wasn’t until the evening that two more guests from Europe arrived.
Our conversation went on for a while before we all realized it and pointed the finger at each other like they were guns: The two guys here in the mansion now where the same two guys who were playing poker the night before on the fourth floor of a rundown capsule hotel somewhere in the megacity. We barely exchanged any words back then. But now we met once more, 170 kilometers south of Tokyo, somewhere in the pacific on an island. They came from Finland.
That night, we told us stories about our home countries.
They described the cold winter to me and a scandinavian sport, that is somewhat related to ice hockey, but played with a tiny plastic ball with holes. Only countries from northern Europe compete in the tournament and every nation hates the other with competetive ambition. Proudly they told me how Finland triumphed over Norway sometime in the 1990s and they showed me clips from the game on Youtube.
Both of them had just finished their military service and traveled Asia on their guerdon. But they mostly stayed just among themselves. Finnish people keep their distance, they told me.
My next encounter with Finland happened a couple of weeks after the island. I was still in Tokyo and wanted to buy a new bed, so I replied to an ad online. That’s how I met Tiina. Through our emails grew a friendship – even though I never bought her bed.
Tiina considers herself an unusual Finnish – meaning she is social and talkative. I now visited her for the second time in her country. And in that moment, when I was holding the trash bags in the hallways of her home in Helsinki, while she smilingly danced down the stairs, I had to think back how absurd and coincidental it all was, that the only reason I am here now was because she was selling a bed in Tokyo.
Five years later, both of us have found the Götan maailma, a place full of absurd things that arrived here through a chain of coincidences.
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