This is my last day in Kodomari. Tonight I will take the bus from Goshogawara down to Tokyo, arriving in the morning, and I will fly out of Narita at 6:00 pm tomorrow. As that leaves me with a day to myself in Tokyo, I will use the opportunity to fulfill a childhood dream and visit the new panda pair at Ueno Zoo. Hopefully I will actually accomplish this goal, as it will be my first time exploring Tokyo without Trevor, and, as I can barely find my way around down-town Madison, I could very likely end up wandering the streets somewhere, all lost and nervous. But if all goes well I will finally see some pandas, and leave Japan a happy girl.
Happy as I can be, that is. This is my last visit to Japan for the foreseeable future, as Trevor will be ending his time as a JET
this July and moving to Boston with me in September. So tomorrow when I leave Japan, I really am saying goodbye, as I won’t be coming back again in just a couple months. I’m finding it much more difficult to leave here than I had anticipated. Over the past two years, Kodomari has become my second home, and though I often complain about it, my irritation for Japan is only matched by my fondness for it. Because for every time I’ve found nothing vegetarian on a menu, I’ve been overwhelmed by the beauty of the landscape. For every time I’ve been huddled up in the cold or boiling alive in Trevor’s house, I’ve visited a magnificent shrine or walked beneath an explosion of sakura. For every person who’s stared at me, I’ve met a kind, welcoming friend.
Perhaps it’s also hard to leave because I’ve shared Kodomari with Trevor, and we’ve had wonderful experiences here together. We’ve shared a life in Japan, and even though we’ll have a life together back in the United States, it’s still hard to say goodbye to it, to the habits and routines and happy moments we’ve built here. There is no one else with whom I’d rather travel in a foreign country, and it’s been wonderful. Sometimes maddening, but always wonderful.
It seems like this month has been mostly goodbyes – like this entire trip was made just so I could say goodbye to Japan. Since coming back from Kyoto, we’ve been busy meeting friends so I could see them one last time, going to all our usual spots so I could bid farewell. And yet there have been new discoveries. I always say that Japan is like a treasure chest, and this past weekend, Trevor took me and a friend a little up the coast from Kodomari to a lovely beach and waterfall he’d just discovered. I finally got around to karoake at one of Trevor’s fellow JET’s birthday parties. And I got to meet some monkeys.
This past week I said goodbye to our friends Yudai, Mami, the Eikaiwa ladies, and Toshiko and her husband.
Though I expressed my certainty of seeing them again one day, I’m not so sure – Trevor and I will no doubt come back to Japan as much as we can, but I don’t know if we’ll ever come back to Kodomari, as it’s so out of the way and hard to get to. I want to, but I don’t know that it will happen. Our friends also hope to visit us in America one day, but I’m not sure that will ever happen, either. We will be sure to keep in touch, though. They are all such wonderfully kind people and have made me feel welcome and accepted when I felt strange and uncertain. And since the earthquake, when I wasn’t sure if anyone here was okay, I feel even more grateful for them, grateful they are okay and escaped deep grief and loss.
Four or five years ago I could not have imagined that I’d ever live in a small fishing village in Northern Japan. Even now I sometimes find it hard to believe that I’ve spent eight months of my life here. But now I don’t know who I’d be without it, who I’d be without this experience. I feel so much more expansive, certain, understanding. The earthquake made me realize how much I care for this country and its people. I didn’t know how much it had become my other home until I sat in front of the news for weeks, my heart breaking. Though I’ve definitely whined “I hate this country and I want to go home” more than once, I wouldn’t actually trade this experience for anything.
Leaving Japan for me is sad, but I know it will be so much harder for Trevor when he leaves a month and a half from now. This has been his only home for two years, and he is very attached to the country and the people he’s met here. His Japanese has gotten so very good, and he is a great teacher. This morning I went with him to his nursery school class, and I was so impressed with how he handled them, and they seemed to like him very much. To lead a preschool class well is hard, but to lead a preschool class in Japanese is even harder, yet he is fantastic at both. It saddens me that he’ll be leaving all that behind. But I hope that he will get the chance to come back often.
It’s a lovely summer day here, so before I head off tonight, Trevor and I are going to make one last stop at the beach so I can collect sea glass one last time as the sun sets across the ocean and hills and the mist rises. It’s fitting that my last visit will be to the beach, as when I’m back in America and picture Kodomari, the view of the ocean is always what I see.