“and I love this country dearly”

6/5/12   –   7:42

The featured pic is my side of the room after I’d packed up all my stuff and turned in my futon. It’s empty and sort of sad which accurately reflected the mood of the last morning before my flight. Seminar House had been almost completely emptied at that point and all that was left was a pile of futons in the lounge and everyone’s discarded belongings in the foyer.

I’m sure the question everyone was struggling with was: “How could I make it any less painful to leave the people and places I’ve come to know so well”?

There was a lot of thinking to be done about how everyone would miss Japan. But also about how there are some things that would not be missed. Here’s a summary of my thoughts on the matter:

Things I’ll miss:

– Convenience store onigiri
– Loft
– Nature around every corner
– The train system
– Being in 吹奏楽部
– Engrish
– Book Off / Tsutaya Ecobooks
– 100円 shop
– Vending Machines
– Host mum’s cooking
– The prevalence of tsukemono
– Magic toilets
– All the different flavors of kit-kat
– Area-specific omiyage
– Talking Elevators
– Snow
– The smell of a buddhist temple
– Feeling a quarter in my pocket but it actually being $1.25

Things I won’t miss:
– Natto
– Losing a quarter but it actually being $1.25
– Japanese Ketchup
– Prepaid phones without keyboards/T9
– Taping my store bags closed
– Japan’s all day spitty rain
– Overly packaged things
– Having to separate my garbage
– Being unable to use my debit/credit cards

And so on and so forth.

The only thing I really had to do that night was attend Brass Band one last time where I made a rousing farewell speech to the present individuals [and made people cry. YES.] and took a whole bunch of pictures with all the people I don’t want to forget which is everyone. The clarinet part got me a wonderful looking and equally delicious cake and made me one of those little albums with messages from everybody that Japanese clubs are so fond of. It was a very moving experience. A tear came to my eye but I think I had internally run myself dry. There was plenty to go around as far as the others were concerned though. I hugged Saori and she cried. I made Yuka promise to invite me to her wedding.

Afterwards there were more pictures and then Shotaro was waiting for me for our last night out [for real this time]. Apparently his friend was able to drive me to the airport in the morning and we would thus be having an all night road trip and then they’d see me off in the morning. “Sweet,” I thought. I really do owe Shotaro a lot. Misaki-kun also tagged along unexpectedly and we all walked to meet Takashi at the 7-11 where we would get into Kenichi’s car and grab some food.

We grabbed my bags from seminar house [all 100+ pounds of them] and stuffed them in the trunk and sped off to Kura-zushi where I would have my last taste of authentic fast-food conveyor-belt sushi at $1.20 a plate. It was glorious. And Takashi paid. Thank you Takashi.

From then on, we debated about what to do and finally decided on a rambling tour of Osaka at night. It’s the random shenanigans I live for. We climbed what is certifiably Japan’s smallest mountain, 天保山, which took me about 20 seconds to scale. We saw great views of Osaka Bay and the Osaka Aquarium at night. It was just very peaceful because nobody in Japan stays out at night. Ever. It was just very quiet and I enjoyed the silence.

During our interludes between stops, it was just nice to open the window, hang my head out and stare up at all the buildings of downtown Osaka. The air was just a little bit cold and the buildings were lit up only faintly. Every surface was tinted with the orange glow of the street lamps.

We climbed a mountain [with the car] and the view of Osaka at night was simply breath-taking. I told Shotaro that between Osaka and Kyoto, I would always say that Kyoto is prettier, but after seeing the lighted city from afar, it has its own charms, I’d have to admit.

And there was a ferris wheel. And Misaki tried to talk to a cat.

Oh, man. I almost forgot. There were swings, too. And while I was on the swings, wondering what the hell I was doing at 3 in the morning in Benten-cho on a swing-set with three other grown men, I realized that’s exactly how I wanted to spend my last night in Japan.

Come morning, everyone had passed out at least once, including our driver, and we all smelled like cigarette smoke and the night. The sun rose up over the city and we crossed the bridge to Kansai Intenational Airport where part of me died a little because I realized it was just about over.

More people filtered in to bid me farewell and it was a tearful goodbye, but we all concluded that it didn’t even really feel like goodbye. They all felt like I would be coming back after the weekend. I assured them my trip to America was only a day trip and I would be back that night. It was a sad time.

But there were plenty of opportunities for laughter too, cause we made them. We would all joke around about how everything was my “last” thing. Like my “last bench.” Or my “last green public telephone.” Also, there were bubbles. Who can be sad at bubbles?

And then it was time, and instead of saying bye, I told them “I’ll be back.” Because I wholly believe that’s true. I walked through the security gates and then I couldn’t see them anymore.

~ ~

Here’s something I wrote a few days before I left:

Some people view study abroad as a way to put off graduation for a year and live without too much responsibility while simultaneously getting drunk with the natives. A lot.

Don’t get me wrong, getting drunk with the natives is a key part of cultural assimilation but the experience as a whole is much more than that.

For the entire last week, I was scared I was going to wake up on Sunday in my bed in my room in my parent’s house and wonder if the entire past year was just some ridiculously fun and equally highly-detailed dream. But I can’t deny the reality of the situation. I have the pictures. I have the memories. I have this blog to stand testament to the nine months I spent living on the opposite hemisphere, the things I did there, and the people I met.

These past 9 months will be something that I will always look back on fondly. It’s not even the things I did. It’s the people I experienced those things with. I said this in the last entry about photos how it’s not the photo itself, it’s the people in the photo that matter. And it’s true in this case too. I met the most ridiculous array of people in my 9 months at Kansai Gaidai and I really would not change that experience for anything in the world.

As much as I keep saying I want to go home–and don’t get me wrong, I do. I miss America and lutong ina and my car, and real fake mexican food–there will always be the part of me that wants to stay abroad forever. I feel like there’s just this bond that I have to this country. Half of it I forged myself through intensive study of the language and culture, but the other half just happened on its own. I don’t think I could ever call this my last time in Japan. I’ll be back. Definitely. It’s just one of those things that you know you’re going to be doing.

One Response to ““and I love this country dearly””
  1. Anonymous says:

    :'(. That was deep. This is an awesome blog and I really enjoyed reading your blog. Your Nihon adventures and interlude in the other various Asian countries were really a great distraction! I hope there’s more in store. And congrats on graduating.


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