While National Friendship Day began in the U.S., it always reminds me of one of my first friendships in Japan — one of the people who inspired me to create Tatcha.
In July 2009, I was pregnant and visiting Kyoto to explore the city and take some photos. My hotel assigned me a driver for the day, named Toide-san. But halfway through my day of sightseeing, I found myself throwing up behind the bushes of every temple as morning sickness got the best of me. Disappointed, I knew I had to return to my hotel. Toide-san graciously brought me back and — feeling defeated — I immediately went to sleep.
When I woke up, there was a package waiting for me at the front desk. Inside were three CDs, each with a photo of me at a different temple printed and glued to the top, along with a little note that read: “Since you couldn’t see Kyoto, I brought Kyoto to you.”
Rather than taking another job, Toide-san had spent the afternoon driving an hour and a half home, burning thousands of his own photos onto these CDs, and driving back to the hotel to share his love of Kyoto with me, all to make me feel cared for.
That was the moment that I fell in love with Japan and Japanese culture. Toide-san is the embodiment of omotenashi, which people often translate as Japanese “hospitality,” but I like to think of as making somebody else’s happiness your happiness. He was my first friend in Japan; nine years later, we are still friends. Whenever I am with a client, I think about how Toide-san made me feel that day and try to pass on his generosity of spirit.
Years later, I asked Toide-san why he did that for me. He replied, “You seemed like you needed a friend.”
Toide-san taught me that we don’t need complex reasons to live intentionally, thoughtfully, or generously; there is nothing simpler than being good to one another. So as you go forth and celebrate Friendship Day, take a lesson from Toide-san: look out for those who need a friend.