I spent the three months prior to leaving in a state of elation. Happy to enjoy Japan as much as possible, knowing I would see my family of friends in the States soon, ride a motorcycle and generally get back to a kind of life that was familiar. Now on the plane to Alabama, it is setting in that the familiar has shifted. Japan was everyday. Japan was familiar. Riding my bicycle to a train station, then the train to work was familiar. The people where infinitely kind and accommodating for my lack of understanding both of the language and intricacies of the culture. The mildness. The very parts of being Japanese that I wanted to learn and take back with me and see. The patience. The trust. The wa. The we.
Even before getting on the plane in Osaka an American pushes through the line to get ahead of others. Maybe he hasn’t been here long. He doesn’t realize that this is not how we act here. I say we because I feel more like them and less like him, even in the fact that I am not angry at him. I just find his selfishness to be foreign. Strange. Why be that way?
Speaking of, my wife and I made virtually no American friends while in Japan and we tried to get to know the the Japanese folks around us and that interested us, to limited success. Sometimes to what felt like short term but great success. We were only getting to know them, as it turns out. Now we leave. Sad.
My wife and I lived in Japan for almost a year. Prior to leaving we thought, it will be nice to return to the familiar idioms of my daily life and family and friends. Then when you board the plane, or go to your goodbye party your heart sinks and cries out for more familiarity. I barely know you. I can’t leave now. I wan’t to know you better. I wan’t to know my friends more. I want to learn their language. Again a piece of my gut sinks and exits my body, to be stored on an Island in East Asia. It can’t go with me. I only borrowed it and it has to stay until I return. Family beckons but Japan must be a permanent part of me now. It must be a permanent part of my marriage now. We left with an open invitation to return. I believe we may.
First picture by my camera. Second picture by Rie, thank you Rie.