Serendipity in Tokyo

In the past three weeks I have travelled a lot of miles.

Atlanta to San Francisco for a long weekend.

Atlanta to Barcelona for Thanksgiving week with the family

Barcelona back to Atlanta for 12 hours

Atlanta to Tokyo for a week of work

Tokyo back to Atlanta for two days

Atlanta to New Orleans for three days of interviewing.

Phew.  I’m tired, but so very satisfied with the wonder of the world and the joy of travel.  


There was so much intensity to this travel - wonderful times with family and friends and colleagues. But there is one experience that stands out - a “small world” experience that started in Tokyo.  

Several different people had recommended that we go to the top floor bar (52nd floor) of the Park Hyatt hotel in Tokyo.  This is the same hotel bar as the one in the Lost in Translation movie.  Lost in Translation had kind of been the theme of our week as we attempted to do our work with a translator buzzing in our ears. So, on our last night, after a week of long work days and time zone acclimation, we decided to head to this hot spot. I was kind of reluctant to go to an American hotel bar while in Tokyo, but SO many people had recommended - we just couldn’t resist.  I went with two colleagues to the top of the Hyatt bar in Tokyo for a cocktail.  We are lucky enough to be seated at wonderful window table where we see all of Tokyo displayed like magic below us.  Skyscrapers.  Below us.  The lights seemed to stretch on forever.  Tokyo is this giant, clean, magnificent city that goes on and on and on.  


We order a cocktail and are mesmerized by the people watching and the view. I have to add this is possibly the sexiest bar on earth.  We decided there was no better way to describe it; a jazz trio playing, dark and sultry, and everywhere we looked there was that stunning view. There’s no other drink than a martini for this situation, and Sunil commented on his love for blue cheese olives. (Who doesn’t love a blue cheese olive?) .  At the table next to us was an American couple - the guy leans over and says - “blue cheese olives are the best” ! We chuckle and move on with our conversation, never really thinking twice about this person or the conversation.  We share some delicious food, have a second martini, and end our beautiful evening after an extraordinarily long day. 

The next day we are heading back to the US in the afternoon, and my colleague and I decide to seek out an Owl Cafe - who knew there was such a thing?  There are several to choose from; we randomly pick one that doesn’t seem too far from our hotel.  The taxi drops us off, we wander up and down some alleys searching for it.  We don’t find it for awhile, but instead stumble upon a tiny little park oasis in the middle of a residential street behind the bustling shops.  The leaves on the trees are a combination of brilliant red, yellow, and orange hues- Tokyo in the fall - wowza.  There is a little hut with two benches.  We sit on each one and close our eyes to take in the birdsong and the peace of the moment.  There was no need to talk.  It was a lovely place to just be.  I found myself thinking about the wonder of being in this beautiful spot halfway around the world.  I found myself thinking about the fact that I literally hadn’t stopped to breathe for the past two weeks (traveling so many miles by air in such a short period of time is not for the faint of heart) - the days were full of work and translators and constant activity and social engagement.  I took a deep belly breath and was grateful.  I was grateful for the job that brought me here, the people I had travelled here with, this moment in time, and for the family I was returning to later that afternoon.  We snapped a few photos of this lovely spot and rechecked our GPS for the Owl Cafe…we were a block away.  Imagine a small alley with a four story unmarked building - we see a small owl on the sign and realize we have found it.  We climb to the fourth floor and enter a tiny little cafe with only a few people in it.  We pay for our experience - which includes a matcha latte (my new favorite warm drink) and the feeding and petting of owls! There is a small porch off of the little cafe - multiple owls seemingly just awaiting our arrival.  Or, perhaps they were wondering how and why the hell they are trapped on this porch.  It was a combination of beautiful and creepy; owls can be a sign of death or good luck and there is something quite magical about them.  The soft feathers around their eyes or the top of their head is where they like to be touched; they felt like soft cotton and seemed to enjoy the attention.


As I look to the left I see a couple sitting on the mats on the floor - (two of the four people in the room).  I take a second glance and think - “isn’t that the blue cheese olive guy from last night?”  This is weird.  Tokyo. American.  Two random places.  The room is TINY (so tiny we are practically sitting on their laps….), so it’s certainly not awkward to ask him the question. We laugh and he says it was them.  We introduce ourselves and discover he is an ophthalmologist from West Palm Beach.  Weird…the next potential indication for the drug that I work with is for a rare disease potentially treated by opthalmologists.  We chat about it a bit - he has heard of my company, says he has been following us and reading about our pipeline, knows about the disease (RARE), the drug, how it works…everything!  He launches into everything he knows about this disease. In fact, he tells us he is an expert in that arena.  Let me explain something here - I work in rare disease - no one EVER knows what I am talking about when I talk about our diseases, the mechanism of action of our drug - all foreign to even the most well educated of doctors.  That is why this is so damn weird.  All of this blows my mind. We are in TOKYO.  I ran into the same person twice at two distinctly different places in different parts of the city. He is teaching me things about this rare disease, and I am dumbfounded.


We snap a smiling photo of the three of us, feed and hold owls together (a bizarre experience!), and are on our way.  I think about the serendipity of this - I think about the powerful charge of the universe and know that somehow we were brought together because there is probably some patient in West Palm Beach whose life will be impacted as a result of us meeting. I am certain the universe brought us together.  I text the photo to the local rep along with his card - tell her to reach out to him if and when we get the indication because he wants more information.  

When I return home I tell this story to many people; serendipity is fascinating to me. Fast forward a week and it’s the next Saturday night.  I’m at home binge watching the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (best show ever - Amazon prime), and I get a text from the rep in West Palm Beach.  The exact words were something along the lines of HOLY HOLY SHIT…look who is at a table at the wedding I am attending….and it’s a photo of her and the opthalmologist.  In West Palm Beach.  l am literally speechless which doesn’t often happen.  Small world doesn’t even begin to describe it.  They were sitting at the same table, she overhears him say he is an opthalmologist, she looks up and BAM.  The realization and recognition hit her.  You can imagine the tirade of questions she must have asked him.  I’m laughing as I think about this right now.  At the same time, I am overwhelmed with the magic of the universe.  I don’t know what role this guy will play in our lives, but wow - there is no doubt the universe knows.