「ドリームキャスト」のチャットで小学生の時仲良くなった女の子に、20年の時を経て初めて会いに行った話。— Rosana:miho@LOVEBITES (@miho_dotdotdot) April 4, 2021
I was a pretty hardcore geek back in elementary school. I had a pretty impressive collection of game consoles, and my parents and relatives were quite tech-savvy too.
While my friends were out playing in the park, I would always be sitting inside playing video games. I loved games with pretty girls. There were a lot of Sega Saturn and Dreamcast ports of visual novels and dating simulators for PC. Needless to say, I played a bunch of them.
Around that time, I’d won a ticket for an event where I could try the Dreamcast’s new online features. My dad took me to the event, and I had a lot of fun. It’s still a fond memory to this day. I remember hearing about an online chat function being introduced.
Every day since then, I’d come straight home from school and connect to the internet. We were on dial-up at the time, which meant that no one else could use the landline while I was connected. I think this stirred up a few arguments, which led to us getting broadband not long after. Not that I remember much about that part.
It was still the era where internet access wasn’t really commonplace. Being able to talk to new people online, people who might have lived far, far away, was a really special experience.
One day, I stumbled upon a chat room called something like “Grade schoolers, assemble!” It was in that chat room that I met a girl from Osaka with the username “Rena”.
We hit it off and spent hours a day chatting about video games. It was a blessing to have found a female friend in my age group that shared my interests. At some point, we decided to trade phone numbers as well. I didn’t have any acquaintances from Kansai back then, so when I first spoke with her, her accent and husky voice made me feel a little nervous. She was a lot of fun to talk to, and very mature. Almost like an older sister.
We started off typing raw HTML into our Dreamcasts, which evolved into building GeoCities webpages, and I think this was the point where we discovered how liberating it was to express ourselves online.
However as all things do, we slowly lost contact with each other. Despite this, I knew that thoughts of her would always remain somewhere deep in the back of my mind, and I wished that I could’ve met her just once. I’m confident that I wouldn’t have become the person I am today if it weren’t for Rena and my Dreamcast.
As time went on, ten years passed.
I’d gotten wind of a girl who was making rounds on Nico Nico Douga with her makeup videos, so I decided to check out one of her videos just on whim. I could tell straight away that this was Rena. The games that she liked, the way she talked, and more than anything, her uncommon yet charming real name; all the signs pointed to the girl I’d met so many years ago.
I remember being dazed by what an amazing person she was. She was beautiful, she had the confidence to boldly put herself out on the internet, and to top it all off, she was extremely talented.
My first thought was to get in touch. I really wanted to meet her. Maybe I could catch her if she ever came to Tokyo for an event. But would she even remember me?
“Someone as amazing as her must have had countless unforgettable encounters. Was I as important to her as she was to me? Maybe she doesn’t even want to see me.”
My hesitation led to inaction, and I wasn’t able to bring myself to reach out to her. Every now and then, I’d tune in to check out her new videos, but I wouldn’t go any further than that.
But again, time passed. She started a bar in Osaka, and I joined LOVEBITES as a bassist, which gave me the opportunity to travel the world on tour. I visited Osaka a number of times, but I never went to see her. My schedule would always be too busy, or my indecisiveness would get the better of me. Every single time, I told myself that I’d go next time.
And then COVID-19 struck like a bolt from the blue.
LOVEBITES was no longer able to perform, and I was no longer able to go to Osaka. I was crushed, but after a year of suffering through lockdowns and restrictions, and delays upon delays to our travel plans, we finally made back it to Osaka.
Our visit to Osaka was right in the middle of our tour, so I was reluctant to visit a bar while I was traveling for business, but our plans shifted miraculously and our Osaka performance ended up being the very last event in our tour. If it weren’t for that, I don’t think I would’ve been able to convince myself to visit the bar.
I knew I had to take this chance.
It’s become a lot easier to meet people online, but it’s also become a lot harder to go wherever you want, whenever you want. I had to make the most of the opportunity so that I could see Rena. I figured it would be great if she remembered me, but if she didn’t, then I could just enjoy a few drinks and head home.
As I walked through the entrance of ChemmyKiller, I was greeted by Akemi, who was bathing in the sunlight, and Akira, striking a cool demeanour. I told Akira that I met her twenty years ago in a Dreamcast chat room, and I came to the bar to see her.
She yelled out “Hina?!” (my old username) in response to my introduction. Tears welled up in her eyes, speaking volumes about just how much she thought about me, and how much she also wanted to meet me.
We had a blast chatting about old times over some fantastic drinks. Video game music was a hot topic, and a few of the other regulars also joined in to share their musical tastes and expertise.
I’m really glad that I was able to work up the courage to visit her bar. Twenty years later, we’ve once again become great friends. It’s a pleasure to meet you again!
And one last thing.
We’re now living in a world where travel restrictions are enforced at the drop of a hat. If there’s anyone that you really want to see, then I urge you to follow through on that desire. But don’t forget your COVID precautions.
Let’s meet again, as many times as we can.
昔のゲーム機「ドリームキャスト」のチャットで小学生の時仲良くなった女の子と、20年の時を経て初めて会った話を聞いてください。 pic.twitter.com/ssHAEPMR4b— クサカアキラ (@Akira_Kusaka) April 4, 2021
She was “Hina”, and I was “Rena”.
Those were the usernames that we chose when we first connected to the Dreamcast’s online chat room twenty years ago.
Every day when I got home from school, I’d throw my backpack in the corner and boot up my Dreamcast without even changing out of my uniform.
“I wonder if Hina is online today?”
Forget mobile phones—computers weren’t even widespread at the time. That was probably why my little friendship with a girl I’d never met felt so special. The brimming excitement from my childhood was so much more than anything I’d feel speaking to a stranger online today.
We got together in that chat room every day, and talked about everything under the sun.
What surprised me the most about her was her reverence for dating simulators despite being an elementary school girl. She even had a website where she hosted her artwork. A large proportion of the titles I’ve played were on her recommendation. There were definitely very few people as unique her back then.
Eventually, we swapped phone numbers. I still remember bits and pieces of our nerve-racking first phone call. I had a pretty husky voice from a young age, and I remember Hina commenting on how mature I sounded before anything else. That was definitely a little embarrassing.
There was even an episode where I introduced all of my school friends to Hina over the phone.
As I made my way up to middle school, we naturally fell out of touch with each other.
Time passed, but even as an adult, I would still think back to her every now and then.
“I wonder how she’s doing.”
“I wonder if she’s still alive.”
“I wonder what kind of person she is now.”
“I wonder if she still remembers me.”
I exerted my best Google-fu with what few fragments of personal information I could remember about her, but unsurprisingly, I ended up with nothing.
And then today, she came to see me at my bar.
Even though twenty years had passed, we still felt exactly the same way about each other.
I discovered that she found out about me by pure coincidence from my videos that had gained popularity ten years ago.
She put all the dots together—the person in the video was called Akira (I’d told her my real name), she lived in Osaka, and she had the same, husky voice—she knew it was me.
Sending photos wasn’t really a thing back then, so neither of us knew what the other looked like. I’m honestly amazed that she was able to remember so much about me.
However, even though she knew it was me, and she would watch my videos, she could never bring herself to get in touch because she figured that I’d forgotten all about her.
But now she’s an upstanding bassist that gets to travel the world, and she found herself in Osaka once again. But this time, she finally managed to work up the courage to visit my bar, even if I didn’t remember her.
I’ve never been happier to be running a bar in my life.
So with that, Hina—no, Miho and I have once again forged a new friendship.
We hit it off so well that you’d never think that we hadn’t spoken for twenty years. We had just as much fun as we used to, and I had an amazing night.
Thank you, Dreamcast.
Thank you, internet.
Thank you for bringing us together.