Well, the title should explain most of it. In 2007, in July, Reona Kobayashi came to Alaska, and hitchhiked out into the Matanuska Valley by way of the Old Glenn. Someone recommended that he camp at Jim Creek. So he did. He set up camp, walked away for a few minutes, and returned to find everything gone. He reported it to the State Troopers, one of which was kind enough to let Reona stay with him. He contacted his parents back in Tokyo, who sent him more money. He bought new equipment. A few days later, he was walking down the road when approached by a man in a truck. The man said he had found the person who stole his camping equipment. Reona trusted him and went off into the woods on a four wheeler to find the equipment. He was then hit in the back of the head with a log and his money stolen. By the same guy who robbed him in the first place.
Talk about shitty luck.
But what experiences would he have missed out on without this violent and meaningless initiation into the lawless Alaskan Frontier? Apparently, a lot, because I hung out with him last weekend, and he’s the funniest, coolest guy, with the most positive and happy attitude toward his experience in Alaska.
Natsuko, another friend who I met through a spiderweb of connections and coincidences, traveled in Alaska last August. She met Reona and another Japanese man, Senbongi (lit. one thousand trees, and he’s a forestry major) in Denali National Park. While she visited me here in Saroma two weeks ago, she showed me these pictures, and as she described how this guy she met had been robbed, I began to remember a story that my friend Sabrena Jackson had told that summer, and found incredibly funny, about some poor Japanese sucker who got bad advice and met bad people. I couldn’t believe it. “Oh yeah, he goes to college near Sapporo. I was gonna meet him next weekend.” I really couldn’t believe it! So, on Saturday night, we met him in Sapporo and had a nice night out.
He is a student in veterinary medicine. His English is good. And he loves Alaska. He was a real traveler, who did some really cool things. He went out to Beaver, Alaska, to help with the celebration of Frank Yasuda’s life there, a Japanese who basically started that town. He walked and biked around most of Southcentral and Interior Alaska, while wearing only one pair of (according to Natsuko) very very dirty jeans. Now he works part time at a bread factory, goes to school, and lives in an incredibly cheap apartment that has no hot water.
Neat how things connect, huh? By the way, I paid for his dinner. Least I can do for someone mercilessly robbed (twice!) in my hometown. Also, see the Frontiersman article from this February detailing the sentence meted out to his attacker. It seems justice was served.