The shop is on a corner, and when I arrived there was nobody around but several bicycles had been lined up along the guardrail outside. The sliding doors to a space no bigger than a large bathroom were open, and only a desk and a shelf of tools occupied the space. Who would leave everything open like that? I wondered. But then again, this is Japan, and the honesty of the people in this place is unparalleled.
Within a few minutes a tiny truck pulled up and a small man hopped out and walked our way. He must have been in his late sixties, and he marched with steady determination and a clear destination even though the limitations of age were apparent. His shoulders were wide and square as if he had been carved out of a block of wood. He acknowledged our presence without saying a word or looking us in the eye.
He walked up to my bike and again without a word, grabbed it and began looking it over. He showed me how the back tire had been worn down to threads, and our brief exchange gave him the go-ahead to replace and repair whatever was necessary. Without missing a beat he flipped the bike over and dragged out an old wooden toolbox, which looked to show about as much wear as its owner. My friend left and the repairman offered me a seat next to his desk
Within moments there were pieces of bicycle metal, screws, nuts and bolts in a neat pile at his feet. He had done this a thousand times before, I was sure. Soon he had everything back together and I presented his payment. A slight bow and obligatory “hai, arigatou” followed, and the man went on with his day. And I rode away.