My final feelings on Japan – Thoughts upon the year (21st August)

It has been a week since I have returned. Was the wind always this cold? Were the people always as animate as this? Did the buildings and roads always look like this? My mind tells me that everything is as it was, but my heart simply tells me that what I’m seeing simply is not. No doubt that I will soon settle in again, but being away from what I have known for so much of my life for so long is still bewildering; 49 weeks. For 49 weeks I tried my best to use Japanese, to keep myself afloat in Japan, and had marvellous experiences, and then just like that it is all over – it has simply become another memory that passes as quickly and fleeting as a single second. I really am glad to have made this record of my time – there are so many thoughts and feelings that I would have otherwise forgotten at the drop of a hat. I simply look through this and I remember, I remember the feeling of the moments and the images return.

I feel both happy and sad to have returned but for the most unexpected of reasons. I feel happy because at my core I am British – for my personality this is home. As adaptable as I can be I still needed to try my best in Japan, this stretched me to breaking point a few times. I tried to be sociable constantly, I put myself out there, to sometimes good results, but at other times to very painful results. A good result would be that on my adventures I caught up with so many wonderful people and was fairly well known around the dormitory (a double edged sword). A bad result would be that in Niji events I would burn out and feel inadequate very quickly because no matter how I pushed my personality I never felt like it was enough to connect with most people there; in this I pushed myself too much and it broke me every time. Like a vase being smashed against a brick wall. It is for this I am happy to return – the me here is more accepted than the me in Japan.

A sad reason for returning is that I can no longer step out of my door and experience a thrill of adventure. I never truly knew how each day would pan out in Japan, one moment I could be walking along in a park I’d never been to and then the next I could be meeting somebody to go and eat. Life was fast, which is again a double edged sword, but in this case I’m wistful of the possibilities that it allowed. I think there is more potential in Japan for me to burn brightly, and I miss this! There was no time in which I burned more brightly than when I was travelling in particular.

When it comes to travelling I have many fond memories. With music in my ears I would head out into the unknown when I could. I had 4 adventures in total: Kyoto, Hokkaido, Fukuoka and one final trip to Kyoto, each of them fantastic for different reasons. In the first trip I was full of energy, I remember seeing my friends from Ritsumeikan, seeing Rae and Oda, travelling alone for a while and then going to Miho museum. I was fresh and ready to soak everything up, as was my camera. Everything was bright and I fell in love with Kyoto once again. It was here that I had my best day in Japan: Miho Museum. Miho museum on its own was an eye-opening place for many reasons: a ridiculous quantity of wealth, the lack of other people, the mountain air and its incredible architecture are just some of the reasons. The other reason was being able to go there with Mizuho; without her there it would have been a great day but not the unforgettable experience that was had. It was tiring by the end, but pleasantly so!

Then onwards to the trip to Hokkaido which was my largest solo adventure. Precipitated by a drunken moment of booking a plane flight it was me keeping my word to Yukiko that I would come and visit. Aside from Yukiko I knew nobody, I had no idea how I was going to travel initially, and quite frankly I threw myself into the deep end. What I saw were plains of snow and ice, I saw a volcanic caldera that was steaming with heat and suphur, I saw rivers and lakes and experienced a hot spring like no other. Every step along this trip I was met with a surprise of some form. It was truly one thing after the next. Adventuring alone may be lonely at times, but if this trip is a prime example then you have the most unexpected adventures too. My own footprints as companionship is enough at times.

My most emotional trip came a mere week and a half after I had finished my trip to Hokkaido/Tohoku when I braved the skies once more in order to travel to Fukuoka. Noriko and Koichi let me stay at their house, cooked for me and also took me out for a day – this alone made me feel on top of the world. Then Akemi took me on a road trip to an onsen hotel. By this stage I could barely stop myself from permanently holding a big, stupid grin on my face. Between the two of them I felt loved, truly loved. I think back and smile at their generosity, their own grins and I remember their voices. Friends that one day I hope I can help in any way needed! It is difficult to describe this precisely with words though.

Education-wise I hated Waseda University. There were some amazing teachers there for sure, three jump to mind instantly, however normal humans can only absorb so much knowledge before they are saturated. I pushed myself here again until I broke. In the first semester the lessons were easy (the system put me in level 2) – allowing me to generally cruise past without investing much time in homework. In semester 2 I increased the difficulty, not to unbearable levels, but the sheer number of lessons overwhelmed me. I don’t believe I can achieve much more by taking lessons at this point, not due to having extensive knowledge, but simply because my brain now switches off.

There were some plus points though. The campus was lovely and with plenty of exploration to be had. The people I met in classes (most notably Abby and Fuka) were absolutely lovely, even if I remember not most peoples’ names. It was also very close to my accommodation. Despite this I wish that I had chosen the easier SILS route instead of 100% Japanese. I may have enjoyed my time a little bit more when interacting with the Japanese students rather than fellow exchange students.

This next part is hard to write about. Exceedingly hard. As much as I can be a social butterfly I prefer having a few people to confide in who are close. Most of these people know how much this year has hurt in regards to romance. I thought that being 6000 miles from the UK would help, having the chance to be a new person would also help, and being optimistic would also help. I was wrong on all accounts. If I have interests in people then almost without fail they have no interest the other way around.

What happened with Tomoko left me numb, confused and awake. With Ayaka I’m simply resigned, and my faint hopes with Seika by the end were nothing but laughable given the other choices. I hate my optimism and I hate feeling like I want to stab myself just to stop feeling emotions after each time in my life I like somebody. I never know whether to hate myself or everything else anymore – it leaves a blank space within your heart that slowly swallows all other emotions. Oh I forgot, being a man I’m supposed to shrug it all off, laugh and then try again with my limitless self-confidence/courage. How nice it must be for love to come and find you instead. On this whole subject everything can fuck off because I’m finished.

Noteworthy people

-Seika

A bubble of energy and enthusiasm. Sometimes I wouldn’t know exactly what to chat about, but she was there during my trickiest times, and also loved food. We played badminton, went to Oedo onsen, and many niji events together. Even though she doesn’t seem too interested in coming to the UK she is still always up for silliness.

-Erin

Probably the most important person in my year abroad. It is amusing because I remember asking her to go to a café to eat twice and she certainly looked the part (I felt a little bit shoddy in comparison). We just ended up doing a lot of things together because I generally felt very comfortable around her, she also helped me out without realising back in December/January. I didn’t feel great back then – heck I didn’t even update my blog. After first meeting I wouldn’t have imagined everything turning out as it did but I’m glad it did! A strange one for sure, but a strange one that I’ll miss!

-Aum

When she met me she didn’t actually like me, much to my amusement upon discovering this! She isn’t mentioned in my blog, but we ate together tons. Me and her would try to alternate dinners and would cook if either of us didn’t feel like it. I also owe a lot of my Japanese practice to her because it was the easiest language for us to communicate with – by the end I caught up with her when it came to talking too. She is a crazy kanji machine though. I’ll visit her in Thailand sometime soon; I need some more of her cooking already.

-Mizuho

For someone who lived so far away we sure met up a lot! We chatted a lot, and even sometimes called. Japan really wouldn’t have felt the same without her – even if she was 300 miles away. I don’t think I even need to write much here but I can leave it as this: bumbling yet a heart-warming person! I really can say that she has her own special spot in my heart!

Niji was a double edged sword for me. I have some incredible memories with Niji and some memories that feel dreadful. They only feel dreadful though because I am a bit of a mis-match with this group. I remember the ski trip, flying down the mountainside, eating the food with friends, I remember listening to Holly playing her music, or Seika dancing. I wouldn’t trade this experience for much else though. It was a good learning experience for me. A learning experience I’m glad to have now rather than later in life. I probably should have stopped going after the first semester and joined a different club, but this is why it was a learning experience.

The good parts are still there though.

Putting aside the ridiculous cost of food if you are to make anything worthwhile that doesn’t include rice, the food was as you would expect. Perhaps with less sushi than expected. It was generally delicious, and shockingly beautiful. Japanese food doesn’t seem to be considered as food unless it is a feast for the eyes too – sometimes meaning that despite its beauty I’m still hungry. My favourite food was naturally purin, the number 1 purin being Nara’s Daibutsu purin, number 2 Hokkaido’s heavy cream purin, and number 3 Melissa’s. Other foods worth mentioning are donburis and kara-age. In fact soon I will buy a deep fat fryer with the main purpose being that I can create kara-age!

I can’t say I will miss all you can drinks due to slowly appreciating the taste that a good beverage has compared to a bad one. I will certainly miss plum wine though, the same can be said for the sukiyaki that I ate with Min Jae! But for the moment I am appreciating British food’s heaviness, soon I will once more begin to appreciate the art and subtlety in a well-made teishoku or bento.

Has the year abroad changed me in any way? I’m somewhat more realistic, less full of dreams and more about knowing what I need to do. From an objective point of view this is good – I know I am far more straightforward now and less caring about what I say. Sure this could also be a bad thing in the wrong circumstances but we will need to wait and see. I am probably less-caring about things too and less patient; this is a bad thing as it was something which I used to pride myself on, however I’m sure I can still make it work.

Reading through this blog I can truly understand why I have had so many ups and downs and why my overall experience of the year is so muddled. I believe it was all worth it for me to grow as a person. Would I desire to have the same experience all over again? No. But I wouldn’t trade my time, friends or experiences for the world; after all, I did the best I could.

Now that my eyes are open I want to dream again, perhaps to find a balance between the two of dreaming and being realistic. That is the Jamie I want to strive to be from here on out. 4th year will surely test this, but I am looking forward to digging through journals again and writing essays. I will make next year mine for sure!

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Ewelina, Amy and Nao (Final days)

I was supposed to meet Ewelina but was cancelled on for an entirely alright reason – her adult babies had manage to crawl away, leaving her to find and round them up again. It was a wasted day for the most part but messaged Erin and watched the wind and rain howl. There was also an earthquake to my enjoyment.

Then the last full day arrived. I didn’t really go anywhere, but had invited Amy to come over – she would end up being the last friend I met in Japan. We met at Akabane station, bought alcohol, drinks and then made our way back to my place. It was a lovely farewell, the type that sticks with you as the positive feeling/memory that remains when you go home. For the most part we gorged on chicken (lots of it…), watched a large number of film clips, and then for the most astonishing part: played rock and metal songs late into the night! This part shocked me and again goes to show how many hidden parts of people there are until you really get to know somebody. The hard part is getting to that stage, when someone is comfortable to mention this. I almost felt bad for our neighbours. Almost.

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The next day didn’t go as planned. I didn’t get to meet Nao due to her work and my own pure stupidity. I barely managed to catch my flight after dashing through the airport. It was closer to a fun experience, but it did exhaust me and make m hair stand a bit on end. I’ll give myself more time in the future. Onto the plane and off I went. It felt anticlimactic. I don’t know why I expected the year to end with a bang, with fireworks or with J-pop tumbling out of my ears, but at the end of the day, it is just the act of going back home. I did have a 14 hour layover in Bangkok which was crazily long, confusing, and full of walking too. But I will skip this segment as nothing too eventful happened. From here on I will try and summarise this year. I don’t believe I can make this short either. But here goes. The conclusion of my 2016/17 year abroad in Japan by Jamie Little!

Floods, Friends and Flames (6th-8th August)

The two hours of sleep was irrelevant once I was on the bus. I was sat next to a newcomer who was nice enough (Chikako) and had people in my vicinity who I could chat to. Thanks to having someone interesting sitting next to me I actually enjoyed the self introduction garbage that is typically forced  onto you. I gave out some crisp-like things, chatted and happily stared out of the window at the changing scenery. Being full blown summer the mountains were in full green bloom once more while beneath us there were lakes and rushing rivers of blue and white. It was truly a verdant place. I suppose I ought to explain where this was: Yamanashi prefecture, but not near to Mt Fuji this time. The perfect place for a summer camp.

Upon getting off of the bus I looked at the required route and was terrified. My suitcase and bag together weighed over 30kg and yet we needed to traverse a dirt track through a forest of all places. I gritted my teeth and began to mentally prepare myself for the pain that my body would soon be dealing with. The pain never came – there was a ski lift-like contraption that alleviated all worries! Perhaps not all of them I might add upon second thought. As we slowly trundled down the path while taking extra care as to not slip on the tree roots we came to remember the suzumebachi. Asia’s number 1 killer hornet had made its return. It kept flying around Sean, I even needed to nudge it away from his leg, but it followed him for over 100 metres. You can’t try and kill them unless you are able to one-shot them, but I’m aware of how strong bugs that large are.

After crossing a bridge overlooking a valley and a secluded, watery grove we made it to camp. We waited, chatted and admired the scenery while waiting for our luggage to arrive, we also prepared our places to sleep. Then it was into the river! Cold. So very cold, so very refreshing. The water was unbelievably clear. A sheer wall of green met it on the opposite side of the turn too, giving it such an azure feel. I couldn’t tell you how long I was swimming for, just enjoying paradise. I played with everybody else, dunking them in the water and pretending to as well. I was so happy!

Eventually we returned to the top in order to hear the schedule of what would happen, and also for a massive water fight where I targeted a few people and got targeted a few times. This is when the rain began. It got heavier and heavier, until eventually everybody was huddled beneath a shelter. Except me. Like a child I was savouring the downpour, so heavy and wet. I didn’t feel like I was going to get ill and I was already wet so there was no harm in pissing around. I spent the following three hours chaperoning people around the camp to my, and their amusements. It was my gift and my duty, I was also repaid with embraces. That last point may have been the icing on the cake.

Eventually it was dinnertime. We made gyoza. Needless to say I was chopping like a rocket and making the most gorgeous gyoza there! Years of practice had honed my art, and it was time for me to run an exhibition! Then once I could no longer be a gaudy show off I began to cook them instead. I even spoke to Kashiko, or rather she was speaking to me while I worked my magic on the food. It was at this moment that my imagination kicked in. Fire barely a foot from my sweat-sodden face, tired, and dust coated, I worked my magic as a blacksmith forges his blades. I was a sight to behold. I knew I was fucking cool even without these observations from everybody else!

Then it was time for a shower where me, Min Jae, Sean and Seba had a humorous time shooting each other with jets of water. We were such children, especially while we recited Bohemian Rhapsody with our arses pointing towards anybody who opened the door behind us (male or female). Then at long last, the first nomikai began.

I don’t remember a huge amount about this one. Up until then I had been surviving on coffee, my energy was also being spent on socialising. My long term memory may have been affected by both this and the alcohol. I remember Chatting to Haruka and having a tickling contest/wrestling match with Umi. I remember talking to Tomo and a few others in the pitch black (they said super nice things -like my being utterly crazy). I remember collapsing in bed, tired, but with a warm heart.

Day two

One of the first things that happened: being asked to go for a swim with Seba. We were in there shortly after this proposal. I was wearing my Niji sweats due to having my swimming bottoms thrown away – I could barely swim against the current. The previous day I was fine, but the amount of drag generated was ridiculous. We also got accosted by two Suzumebachi, forcing us to swim beneath the water level for a while. They came straight at us so it wasn’t as if it were a casual fly by; after we resurfaced they were still looking as well. Damn hornets.

From here we headed to breakfast. During this time the clouds made their return, accompanied by the tell-tell sound of thunder. I would like to say that at this moment I was still flamboyantly bouncing around with the energy of a small child. I was outwardly, but on the inside I did desire for a bit of good weather. It isn’t necessarily a “summer camp” if you don’t get to have at least 5 hours of sunshine on a given day. In addition, the swimming costumes won’t come out unless the sun is out really. For breakfast it was buns and sausages – not the most filling of meals given the “wiener” nature of Japanese sausages, but nonetheless it managed to fill a hole. I then made some small chat and completely failed to strike a conversation with Maina. Haruka (first year) joined me in my kingdom-gazing though. She even sent me the photo that she had taken.

Following this I remember feeling a rush of loneliness somewhere around lunchtime – cumulating in me deciding to take a nap along the BBQ, where the dying heat of the fires continued to emanate towards. I slept here for a while, balanced on a few rocks and three metal bars. Following this I retreated to my room where I slept a large quantity of the day away. I’m usually content with being a one-to one person, and not having a group, but this meant that now more than ever I was isolated. I had this feeling while the sky was darkening, while the wind and rain pounded the little shack I was staying in. The atmosphere was nice, the feeling quite the reverse. A combination that soon placed me into a deep slumber – I did not wake for many hours.

Upon waking the rain still pounded my senses. I was late for dinner. Should I go? These thoughts whirled through my mind as I simply laid there. I went. Kashiko and Satoko upon finding out I hadn’t eaten piled my plate high – on these kinds of levels I love people; especially those who give me far more than I deserve/more than my fair share. I was then alerted by Nikita that the boys needed to change rooms – the river was going haywire. The huts weren’t all too close to the water, but a good landslide under these circumstances would spell the end of a lot of lives. In this I do not jest, for if I fell into that torrent, even without being surrounded by debris then my chances of getting out would still be very low. We all relocated. I showered while everybody was still fussing around and then read my Kindle app while waiting for the final nomikai to begin. The final Niji nomikai is a strange thing to consider, even back then I could hardly believe it myself.

So it began with waiting through two hours of performances. As usual the performances with Seika were my favourite. This time the street dance one was particularly riveting. Some memories of the nomikai – I told a lot of people my full thoughts of them. I don’t think the chances of meeting many people are very high, that being said I had nothing but good thing to say. I remember carrying Haruka around, slipping and dropping her. She landed on me thankfully and is as light as a feather anyway and therefore wasn’t a problem. I danced and played drinking games too, which seriously screwed me up! So it came to be that under dawn’s morning light I was in my underwear and jumping into a paddling pool filled with water accompanied by Sean. It was a good memory – I was wearing pants though, this is an unfortunate part of the memory as it involved having wet undies for a while. Then finally, along with Miki we sang Utada Hikaru into the growing light and the end of the memory – that was a beautiful moment to me; singing the songs that got me into Japan as a final song to sing goodbye to the country I had come to dream of living in. That being said I guess I had already for a year

The farewell the next day was mostly full f watching people doing picture crazy – I was exhausted and didn’t feel like socialising any more. So after group photos, a few singular ones and a ton of hugs from Miku I left. I was tired by the time I got to my accommodation, and extremely sweaty. I know that during the night I was forced to withdraw more money (I didn’t really want to), drank chocolate milk and ate Yoshinoya. Then I wrote and slept. My time ticking down.

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Yokohama and fireworks (4th August)

Late at night, and weary I eventually got off at Gumyoji station. My hands were hurting, my stomach was growling, and my head was in a bit of a pickle. Travelling does this rather effectively unfortunately. Thankfully I was rescued from my bewilderment by Maria! One lovely long hug later and we’re plodding back to her accommodation. I was happy. We arrived and I was treated to a night of relaxing decadence that left me feeling all warm and fuzzy. How to put this. I can go to 20,000 yen per night ryokan, I can travel five hundred miles away and eat exotic food, but the unsung stories are those that are of friends who are happy to put up with you, cook you food and drink with you until the early hour of the morning. I was tired, but my heart had been warmed. It is for things like that this that I miss people, those long nights of gaming with Chris (and George if he stays awake), or bumming around with Pagan and Emily. Just being at home too – that feeling of coming downstairs and eating stew with nothing to worry about. That is real comfort. Or perhaps that is how I feel because it has been so long. Although Noriko and Akemi allowed me to experience that earlier this year.

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I woke up and remembered where I was and bummed around all morning. I was in Yokohama. I was with Maria and Cody. I had a large number of possessions. I was approaching the end. Suffice to say that this day was mostly spent sleeping and arriving late to a fireworks festival. Joy had cancelled on me the previous night, leaving me to wonder if I could ask anybody else to go to the fireworks with me. There weren’t many people I wanted to go alone with and for once would rather have gone with a group, but I braved the crowds alone and in my Yukata. I had come here before years ago or so I had though, but the memory and visual cues at the time simply didn’t add up. As expected the fireworks were gorgeous though. As you would also expect the trains were unpleasantly full, I practically grinded somebody which made me feel rather unpleasant given these circumstances.

The night was rounded off with kara age, chatting and noodles. In fact, only two hours of sleep were acquired that night. I don’t regret this either!

The final adventure begins: Return to Kyoto (27th July – 4th August)

Day 1 – The Waiting Game

As a few droplets of rain landed on my face I made my way into Kyoto station having just finished a restless night on the night bus. Suffice to say I was operating on reserve energy, but still had roughly nine hours to wait until I could check in to my apartment. This first day due to this isn’t anything to really write about as it was simply a waiting game of colossal proportions that can be summarised as thus; pulled a suitcase needlessly up a mountain, waited at a mini-stop for 2 hours, slept on a park bench in front of small children, and then slept the rest of the day away. Hardly makes for eventful reading does it? I suppose I threw a ball back to some kids, that could almost count as a highlight..? Momentous!

Eyebrows

Oh, thinking on it, I did discover there were bugs in the apartment that I’d be staying at. Thankfully they don’t bite, or if they do then it doesn’t leave a mark or hurt.

Apartment

Meeting Maho and a surprise Mizu

This is where some of the magic began. I had wanted to meet Maho one on one. The first reason for this was because I prefer these situations because you can easily be heard and conversations have to flow along a certain type of track. The second reason was because I wanted to get to know her better – someone who organised and pushed to go to Tokyo in order to visit me; if I can’t talk one on one with somebody who wanted to meet me that badly then it would put me at a bit of a loss. Truly, that sentiment was not lost on me. The last time I was able to speak to her like that was in the UK 3 times, and once at Arashiyama, but with 20 minutes being the limit.

Starb w Maho

So, the initial plan was to go to Kokedera Temple, however we had made arrangements too late and became unable to go. This was unfortunate, however it was of no real consequence because I will both have the opportunity to go again in the future, and also because hanging out was the main objective anyway. While waiting I had developed a rather lovely sweat as the sun was high in the noon sky, not allowing many places to escape the onslaught of heat therefore causing me to be rather relieved to be entering a building soon. After a meeting place mix up we both eventually reached our first point of call: a Starbucks that was themed like a traditional Kyoto teahouse in the Kiyamachi area. When I saw her I actually involuntarily moved, almost bashing a poor small person next to me, slightly to my embarrassment. We then went inside, and after a small mix up managed to get seats in the specially themed room – which I realised was a bit of a miracle cosidering in the whole building there were only about 6 seating spots where you could do this.

Drinks

So we chatted and drank. We mostly used Japanese, jumping to English on a few small occasions, the conversation started off slightly strange-feeling, but eventually I think we got a feel for one-another. She even gave me a little gift too, a tiny keychain onigiri omiyage! After around 50 minutes or perhaps more we left, we had been there for easily the longest amount of time out of everybody (there had already been 2 rotations of people). It was still boiling so Maho got out her umbrella and we went searching for the nearby Pagoda while chatting about tanning and sunburns. As it turned out on that particular day we couldn’t actually climb it, leaving both of our plans in a bit of turmoil with both my Kokedera and her pagoda plans in tatters!

Me and Maho

It was at this time that I came up with the masterplan of going to Kiyomizudera, this was where things went from interesting to plain exciting for me. We ascended the slope and stairs, at times dashing past other people and kimono wearers as a pair of children would while playing games; we were both laughing. If fact, I think she may have actually been sweating more than me by this stage – there goes that myth! By the time we reached the shrine there was some cloud overhead, and I remember being a little bit surprised that it had come in without me noticing. We had a couple of girls take a photo of us (they couldn’t use my camera), we thought they were Japanese so Maho asked them – to which they replied in English that they didn’t know Japanese, making both of us laugh as I asked in my language instead!

Just before the temple there was a place which involved entering a dark passageway, which you navigated by holding a rope. I thoroughly enjoyed this bit as it was so dark that I really couldn’t see a thing. This may sound strange, but when you’re constantly surrounded by light (even at night) you never really get to experience complete darkness – which makes it fun. Even a pitch black room in a house typically has a single source of light somewhere which vaguely illuminates everything else. Here I was walking into Maho every time she stopped and mistook her arm for the rope at one stage to amusing results upon finding her head! We found the rock and made our wishes, I admit, my “wish” was more of a feeling than a focussed thought.

The next spot was the temple itself, I bought two tickets (I was actually prepared to buy entrance to Kokedera for the two of us before anyway) and after washing our hands we entered the main complex. It was actually under construction works – as I’d been here last year I didn’t worry quite so much about it, I wanted to go to the waterfall. Maho on the other hand was searching desperately for a rosary bead (数珠) which I actually found to her happiness. The idea is that for each temple you go to you get a bead with its name on, resulting in making your own full version – I’ll try this myself one day after returning. We then went down to the waterfall.

The rain

It was at this moment that the heavens broke. It wasn’t as if somebody had merely turned on the tap – that happens slowly, it was as if somebody had decided that the sink had offended them in some way and decided to sledgehammer the poor installation, tap, sink and wall! Rain, and a lot of it! The forecasted weather had been of sunshine and yet we were being cloudbursted. I loved every drop. And so it came to be that from this point on I found myself huddled beneath a tiny tiny umbrella with a local Japanese model – there are a lot of fanboys who would probably have killed for this moment and I must say, I did enjoy it. At the waterfall I drank for marriage/relationships, Maho drank for study. We then sang and skipped and slid down the road to the bus stop and here to a train station – our time was coming to an end.

Maho is too pretty

Saying goodbye was again an odd affair, we said goodbye, and I was asked to keep her updated on my address – usually that is my line! Neither of us made any move to leave again, this moment culminated in a surprisingly long hug goodbye. I watched her go, and she looked over at me and laughed three times as I waited for her to go out of sight. It was a good afternoon out! I was glad for this chance, I guess, I’m aware of her in her professional context, but in my head she is simply Maho – the cute girl who wanted me to show her around Norwich, help with a presentation in English, and had an odd quietness back when we all met. A year and a half sure travels fast.

Then the evening came around. Where with Maho initially I felt slightly nervous due to not knowing how conversation would flow (in the end, easily), I had no such worries when it came to Mizuho. When I spotted her I again sped up with happiness, where Maho is playful, Mizuho is simply a big flipping ray of giddy sunshine. This was actually where she worked, this Okinawan themed restaurant. We sat down and chose our food and drinks – settling on the most unusual things possible. There was this strange flavoured vegetable called “Gomu” I think it was. I had a tempura version and also a drink version; it was possibly one of the most bitter things I had ever tried. We also ate sweet doughnuts, a big cheesy dish, a bamboo salad, and I’m pretty sure something else too. We also drank a lot of drinks between us, perhaps six?

Mizuho restarant

As for the conversation we chatted away of mindless things, I was pretty overjoyed by this stage! I did flirt a small bit to no return, but I expected as much and wasn’t terribly surprised either – despite this I am very casual around her. Mizuho had also come up to Tokyo before to visit me and wanted to spend an extra day there to be shown around, so again I am thankful to her! Not to mention Miho museum. So again, if I have the chance to bum around with her I will. The food was great, and the company even better. I walked her back home afterwards, I’ll see her again in a week for a bit of mountain climbing.

Happy Mizu

 

Amanohashidate

Today was the day which I had planned seemingly minimally for in the end, I ran out of the door in a frenzy in order to catch my bus – which was an earlier bus than I had initially planned for, but in the end seemed like the best choice. I was off to Amanohashidate with Rae and Oda! We met at the train station and I prepared the godlike pass that is the Seishun 18 pass. We passed the ticket gate, found our first train and like the wind we were off, heading due north.

Rae and Od

Amanohashidate was somewhere that is mentioned in my travel book and the more that I thought about it the more I decided that I wanted to go there. When I suggested going to this place with the girls the seemed to be up for it, despite the ticket setbacks that I was having with private railways and the JR railways not being standardised with the tickets that you are allowed to use on them; such a nuisance that I have encountered before with planning. We mostly caught up on the train, while I showed off pictures of the previous day and talked about next year a bit too. It really had been too long or so it felt – despite actually catching up more times than expected over this past year.

Upon arriving at the station (and a somewhat scenic train journey), we stepped out of the station and proceeded to… put on some suncream while I adjusted my camera’s focus. Then checked out a souvenir shop, then explored a bit, bought some lunch, and then found our way to the bottom of a chairlift. The general area was honestly pretty clean and nice, but definitely had a touristic feel. Naturally somewhere like this survives because of tourism – and later this would lead me to wonder how recently this location had been designated as a place of scenic beauty. Perhaps it was designated as such because it was its only method of survival?

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After some confusion we bought our tickets and headed up the chairlift. Higher and higher we floated, with me taking pictures from behind while the other two  would occasionally (and goofily) look back for some reason or another. I wanted to eat my lunch on the chairlift, but if I dropped any of it then it would simply be heartbreaking – as it’d result in my lack of anything to eat. A hungry Jamie is a sad Jamie. The top was also well equipped, fit with rides, you could pretty much call it a tiny amusement park; it wasn’t too expensive, but the rides really were more for small children than anybody else.

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I will say that I thought the view from here was pretty good. More than anything the way in which from this location it was possible to see all facets of the bay. The bridge itself was certainly pretty, although possibly due to the cloudy atmosphere of the day it was slightly blurred. I liked this location more for the view of the whole area than anything else, also it was slightly cooler – which is a huge blessing for Japan at this time of year. High places let you dream of being a bird for a while, or allow you to have the illusion that you’re on a movie set with how dramatic it can be. It was at this stage that I tucked happily into my breakfast, sparing not a single grain of rice in my pursuit of satiety. Then after finding the girls we proceeded to take dozens upon dozens of photographs, mostly of ourselves with the view, being the vain, apparently narcissistic bunch that us motley trio were.

Me amano

After binging on photos we took the chairlift back down. I took a video for the majority of the way down, and according to Oda I got shouted at by the man for bumping up and down – although I had actually stopped ages ago. Heck, there was even a small bug at the bottom saying goodbye to us. We then made our way to a shrine (where I picked up and subsequently discarded a mere small luck omikuji), and then bought ice cream, where we had an amusing bit of money confusion, but all was well in the end! Now, next came a rather juicy bit, or perhaps wet bit.

The bridge itself was actually very spacious once you began to walk through it. There were trees towering overhead, sand mingled with rubble shifted slightly underfoot, and there were plenty of cyclists to avoid. We walked onto the beach and waded knee-deep into the water. It was at this moment, chatting away while looking around at all of the people having fun and also looking into the horizon I remembered that I was in a foreign country on my year abroad. It was time to let loose and swim. In this fuck it all moment I took off everything except my glasses and my underwear and leapt haphazardly into the water! It was shockingly warm, shockingly dirty, but unshockingly enjoyable – like that song about glorious mud, mud “nothing quite like it for cooling the blood”. Rae came almost straight in too, while Oda took a moment to ready herself – but went with a bra which was slightly risqué but earned my respect. We played around, learned to swim once more, glanced occasionally at the two girls near us (ok, probably just me) and eventually got out once the sun was weakening due to increased cloud cover. I got out, air-dried, and within my head was laughing to myself!

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Next came the drying walk, and honestly I was surprised how long it took to cross the whole sandbank, we were checked out quite a lot during this time for some reason, although I will admit we must have looked rather odd in the scheme of things. Didn’t particularly mind the attention. I will note that the calm side really did look quite picturesque with the water as serene as it was, and of course was contrast to the gentle crashing of the ocean on the opposite side.

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Upon reaching the opposite side there wasn’t much that we did besides discover a rather high-tech temple. Although after consideration we ended up renting bikes (to the irritation of one annoying ‘punter’). It was a wonderful experience, cycling back while chatting and laughing to the other two. It had been so long since I had ridden a bike that the feeling of my legs moving and the wind in my face was almost alien to me. I enjoyed every moment of it!

Biker gang

As a final thing in the area we ended up stumbling across an abandoned house, the water was ever so clear and deserved a few photos; in fact it was practically inviting the photos – especially with a crane perched on its eastern flank! As a final exhausted thing, we went out and ate together. I had had a wonderful day, but I was certainly craving my bed by this stage. I was glad to share an adventure, going solo isn’t always for the best!

Saki, mark II

We were actually supposed to have met the previous day, but as the weather decided it was not to be we followed its suggestion and rescheduled. So it came to be that on a bright early morning we met at Kyoto station. Throwing all previous ideas of where to go to the wind we went to Uji in pursuit of ice cream; which truth be told I was glad for – both Yuzuki and Nagisa had mentioned this place to me before. We hopped onto the train and paid absolutely no heed to the outside world flying past as we began catching up, or rather talking of absolutely anything and everything may be more of a correct term.

We arrived at Uji and god-damn it was hot, so far I don’t think I have sweated more in Japan than that one moment, it was pouring from my face, even Saki’s face was sweating – that alone should be a pure testament to how warm it was. As it was too early for ice cream we checked out Byodo-in, a famous place due to its use as a setting in “The tale of Genji”, which is a story that Saki took the time to summarise for me. It was pretty much a tale of how Genji wasn’t picky in who he had sex with – this sounded like a fair representation of the era honestly once he found a rather young girl to his tastes. We binge photographed the building itself but weren’t all too fussed with entering, especially considering that the other museum, all full of old depictions of Buddhism deities were fairly cool anyway.

saki and byodo

We eventually left in pursuit of shade, lunch and things to do. For lunch we ate green soba noodles which were most likely tea flavoured, there was also a smoked salmon in mine which I found most certainly to my taste. There was also a waiter who was quite clearly done with life – we found this of particular amusement: at the way in which she set the food down with a clatter and her sheer nonchalance. She was a badass and she knew it. From here we braved the heat once more and headed towards a temple that was supposedly full of hydrangeas when in the correct season – which it was not. On the way there there was a jump in laughter in the conversation, and we came across a cicada who was dying in the middle of the road. Cars actually took care not to run it over after seeing our fascination with it! Its bequeathed posthumous name was Peter if you wanted to know. Never forget!

Peter

Leaving our friend behind we made it to the temple. Upon the approach we wondered if there was anybody in admissions – there was, however we casually walked past, happily dodging the 400 yen admission fee, score! From here we explored, continued chatting and took photos. For the most part pictures of bugs were taken as there were very few flowers that were actually in bloom. I was surprised to hear how close some families could be, but I liked the sound of it.

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While walking back I actually decided to tell her that I liked her last year – I couldn’t actually tell if she was surprised or not, but I felt nervous regardless. The conversation left this topic pretty quick which gave an indication, but I felt better for just saying it. The next stop was an ice cream place where we had to wait for an hour before we could eat. I must say, that was some good ice cream – it had a very strong flavour of tea to it, and it was also immensely creamy. I didn’t like the jelly too much though, I’m not a fan of it with my ice cream, the combination is all wrong and have thought so ever since I was a kid! Ice cream and jelly, no thank you!

Ice cream

Following this it was a train journey up to a 2000 year old shrine. We passed through Keihan lines and I saw Maho’s face everywhere which still makes me chuckle, even to this day! Going somewhere and having a  friend’s face pop up is just plain amusing. It was at this stage of our journey that it began to rain. The first real indication of the degree of rain was seeing a lightning bolt roughly 3 kilometres away, and then about five minutes later it began once more.

My umbrella was useful, Saki’s was somewhat useless considering how small it was and also because it was suited for protecting her from the sun than it was for protecting her from the rain unfortunately. So it didn’t take long before it showed. I’m not sure she was in the best of moods from this point. On the other hand I was having the absolute time of my life, thunderstorms do not happen all too frequently in the UK, therefore having one as awesome as this right in front of me while being battered with heavy rain AND heading towards a sacred site was simply incredible. The path which we were walking was flanked on either side by trees, and later became almost like a wooded park, it was nice, what with the occasional flash from an unknown location and the quickly forming rivers around our feet/in our shoes. On the way to the temple/shrine we actually came across a rock which apparently was the origin of the Japanese national anthem. I couldn’t read the rock, and to me it looked pretty much like any other rock, but who am I to argue which rocks are considered sacred. Honestly I’m not one to argue such moot points.

At the shrine itself we actually got trapped by the rain for a bit, and then eventually ploughed through. There wasn’t anything special about the place, or so I felt. This is despite it being a 200 year old shrine oddly enough. Places like Fushimi Inari are much much younger, and despite this have much more of a refined air about them, it felt like there really was nothing there. On the way back it stopped raining and we crossed the river via stepping stones. On the way to the other side the water was traversable, however when it came to coming the same way back across the stones the water even actually appeared to increase, much to my amusement and already soaking wet shoes. After this little escapade we went our separate ways, it had been a very long day and we were both soaking wet.

Overall the day was fun and with lots of conversation (in English). Although I did kind of run out of topics from time to time, leaving a few awkward silences, and I definitely felt like I was speaking too much by the end of it – the proof of this was that my voice hurt a little bit at the end. I also felt a little bit strange saying goodbye, but that was most likely due to both of us being exhausted by the rain more than anything. The next time we meet I will use Japanese though. It will feel strange, but hopefully it’ll be good enough for complicated types of conversation.

Meeting Ayaka

Two and a half years. It had been a while. I seem to have this magical gift where I don’t see or talk to anybody for years on end, but then end up catching up with them after all of this time. I suppose you coud call it a useful trait, however part of me does lament about all of the time which I could have used in order to get to know those people. But honestly on the other hand there is the issue that I can only solidly communicate with so many people at once in earnest. I knew Ayaka from the first Ritsumeikan group that came to UEA, this was back when I lived with Rin on Wellington Road. Because 4 of the 6 people in our house were Japanese second years I was able to tag along on this boat, meaning I was able to talk to them and get to know them. I remember Ayaka’s sadness at having to leave. I also remember receiving a letter from her and gave her one in return.

Fast forward two years and recently from time to time we have been chatting. She’ll be going to the UK to study for her masters for a year. In Edinburgh though. This is quite far away from Norwich, but I always did want an excuse to go up there and have a proper look around! So we started the day with us both being majestically late in arriving at the station. Or rather, we managed to meet up on the train on the way there by an amusing (but slightly deliberate on my part) twist of fate. She couldn’t actually recognise me on the train despite looking at me several times down the cars. It was here that we began chatting – the chosen language: Japanese. So here began 8 hours of chatting mostly in Japanese and catching up on various things. Catching up may not be the right phrase though, more like getting to actually get to know one another. Meeting somebody briefly gives you an outline, from there the intricate details of a person begin to be fleshed out.

Tengu

We got off at Kurumadera station, there was a faint covering of cloud, but otherwise it was a beautiful, if not rather hot day. We started off by wondering if there was a convenience store nearby, which proved not to be the case unfortunately. I had my water, but Ayaka definitely needed some water for the day (I actually had ice at that stage). The feel of the general area was lovely, it felt secluded. It felt different from a lot of the generic temples that are always found around the touristy areas. There was hardly anybody else around and were in the lowest part of a valley, some old styled shops and houses were nearby, but besides from that it was positively verdant. We walked up the steps and towards Kurumadera, I took photos as I went.

Entrance kurama

We walked a little faster than I wanted, not giving me much time to take mental photos, but I still have a few tucked away. There was a hand purifying fountain which was delightfully cool, there were lots of stairs, there was a lift that let you gain a significant amount of altitude. I would have preferred to walk, but thought I’d go with my companion’s apparent desire as she was quite clearly overheating. There would be no point in doing any kind of hike if one of us is fried from the very beginning. So under the trellis of trees and past hundreds of orange/red lanterns we walked. We weren’t being hit by the suns rays too viciously any more and there was a nice breeze being funneled up the valley, giving us a moment’s pleasantness in what had normally been a hellish inferno of fire and humidity. Kyoto is like being pressure cooked alive.

Ayaka

The end of this complex wasn’t anything too special, being an open space with two altars of sorts, but then we finally ventured into the woods. They were old, the ground was laden with roots at parts, with the stairs leading continually upwards. We spoke of Harry Potter, books and magic, also films, it felt as if I had been whisked away to another plane of existence. There was also a shrine in the woods, right next to it was a huge tree with one of those sacred ropes and what I assume were wards of some type attached. Only in Japan do you stumble onto these magical little mysteries, so many secrets, so little time. When I come back one day I will spare more attention to it. Walking downhill from here took a bit of a toll on my legs but we eventually made it, at the bottom were signs warning us of more bear sightings recently. That was lucky I guess as we saw none, or unlucky? It depends on how you view it.

Me and Ayaka

Once we were onto a regular concrete road again civilisation bared its fangs at us once more in the form of mammals – bipedal mammals that are slow, loud and some much prettier than others. A fair number of people were wearing yukata while visiting our next shrine: Kifune. Kifune was much smaller than Kurama, however the aesthetics were also crammed into this small space alongside a gorgeous approach with lamps on each side of the path. Here we both had a photo and continued up. At the shrine itself there were trees with Tanabata wishes in the central courtyard, there was also a queue for praying, which we did while armed with 5 yen coins. My prayer was kind of answered in my omikuji, although it was a vague hope/desire than a solid wish with a direction. We continued exploring the area and then retreated down to the station. Downton Abbey talk ensued, and also Father Ted oddly enough. Of all things, Father flipping TED?! This one is an unusual one I remember thinking as I laughed away.

Smiling kifuneAyaka kifune

From here we made our way down to Kyoto to find food. I remember being arm and leg to leg curving into each other while reading my kanji book. I’m a little wary of being hopeful to read too much into it these days, but it was comforting! The place we chose to eat at served tantanmen, a dirty type of noodle that was quite honestly delicious. It was loaded to the brim with meat, there were lots of cooks and the air smelled of burnt pepper and spices. Suffice to say I was very pleased with her choice of food. Fast forward an hour later and my brain had begun to melt down – it had been my first meal of the day, which set me into digestion mode. I was a bit like a language confused zombie, but we eventually made our way to Kyoto station where I showed her around the place (it was built for exploring!). Following this we found some delicious ice cream and chatted of books. We traded book suggestions, had a final lovely chat and then we had to say our goodbyes. Heck, we even hugged. We’ll catch up in the UK no doubt though!

Dirty ramenIce cream2

Trip to Ise- oh wait…

… I overslept. Shit. Oh well, maybe next time. Following this revelation I was prepared for it to be a wasted day, or a day of typing, or lamentations. Really just a dull day. This was until me and Mizuho decided to go out and eat dinner together! She lives close so it was simple for both of us to head down and binge on sushi. It was cheap, filling and delicious! They had a huge variety of sauces and random sushi types too, such as cheesy hamburger sushi?! I had lots of kara-age, chips and left the place feeling significantly more full. We then went to Mcdonalds so that she could write her report and I could write this diary. Only we hit a slight snag: she brought her Playstation power cable instead! I probably laughed more than I should, but it was such a ditzy thing, so silly that I could imagine myself doing the same thing exactly. I was impressed, but only served to affirm we’re friends. Why do I say this? Meeting, eating cheap, shitty sushi and then going to Mcdonalds to eat/steal Wifi; if this isn’t a happy student friendship then what is?! Two finished coffees and 1500 words later we bid each other goodbye. We were going to see each other the next day anyway.

As a final note, I helped to fix her computer that she believed was broken for 3 months but couldn’t send it in to be repaired. It was the stupid function button touchpad lock button. Why they don’t set these functions to reset on shutdown is beyond me.

The final day and meet up

The curse of oversleeping hit again, but I’m pretty glad for it this time. My initial intention was to climb Fushimi Inari Shrine at the crack of dawn and had extended the invitation to Rae and Oda. They on the other hand had gone out drinking the night before. Between us the plan fell apart. But I’m really not sure climbing up a mountain with two still-drunk humans and one extremely sleep deprived human would be a wise idea. I myself had only managed to get some sleep around 5am due to some real difficulties sleeping somehow. Mizuho later blamed the coffee that the pair of us had at Mcdonald’s because she to had difficulties sleeping that night. At any rate, the final result of the morning was me heading down to Ryukoku’s student accommodation at around 12-1pm.

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It took me an hour and a half to finally make it whereupon I bought takoyaki and this delicious adzuki bean… thing. That little shop is easily the very best takoyaki shop I have come across in all of my time in Japan, 200 yen, a choice of sauces and a free adzuki-thing for 200 yen. Myself and Oda waited for Rae at the dorm (haircut), and then upon her return prepared to go out. Before going out I may have been tongue tied by a friend of the girls’. That was amusing.

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We left and made our way towards the Shine, passing by a river, talking of how mosquito bites an usual and how they are just the worst. Upon reaching the shrine’s area there were actually less people than usual – it is an extraordinarily popular place for tourists to go and the sheer beauty of the place explains why. Such popularity might bring money, but it does also bring hundreds of selfie sticks and masses of people mindlessly bouncing off each other. Ok, perhaps they don’t quite bounce off each other, but for all of the irritation they bring they may as well. Perhaps with sound effects too. There was one stall vendor along the way who kept shouting “YES, YES, YES” too, he was particularly irritating.

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This aside it was a nice day and also contained a bit of a breeze, Kyoto had been downgraded from pressure cooker to fan oven today. We were off the beaten track pretty quickly and following a route which I had actually begun taking once before, before turning back in fear of it not leading towards the summit. We followed this path, bumping into a few other people, but far far fewer than what would otherwise be the case. The trees rolled by on one side, and a bamboo grove on the other, and soon the sound of wind through a forest was all that graced our ears, as long as you forego including our voices in this description. Voices talking of ear infections if my memory serves me right.

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Some things seen along this path: a shiny beetle, forests, a few spiders, and a lizard being ever so slowly consumed by ants. A pretty standard forest I suppose. There were small graveyards nestled in places, another section where myself and Oda pretended to be frogs and shaded areas where we would engage in a vicious battle for the ownership of our own blood (mosquitos). Rae found some cats who just ignored us, and I was shown a lovely secluded shrine which had a waterfall too. Due to the moving water the mosquitos were not as prevailent here too.

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Then began the climb up the mountain. Lots of stairs, not much to look at either. We reached the top drenched in sweat. I prayed with all of my remaining 5 yen coins and then we hurried down the mountain in order to quickly shower and meet a few people at the station. By the time we had arrived there they had been waiting for the better part of 40 minutes unfortunately. I felt bad but that was the cost of hygiene and polite company.

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I had this strange feeling of trepidation – I knew speaking with Mizuho would be an easy task, but I wasn’t too sure how conversations would roll with Ryoga and Aimi as I was mostly unfamiliar with them. I needn’t have worried though. I started off by chatting in Japanese to the three of them, and think that I shocked Aimi and Ryoga rather substantially; I felt like their exclamations of “Jyozu!” had some basis at the time. A flicker of arrogance, perhaps, but well deserved considering how much I’ve tried this year! While chatting a friend of Mizuho’s also walked past and recognised me as Jamie – making me wonder if I was being shown off. I can only hope!

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While waiting for Chris we bought ice cream from the same place I had been shown the previous day and wandered around the station, chatting and killing some time. Another noteworthy point was the group of us being waved at by a giant mascot, we thought we were about to be chased by it, however I do not believe any door was big enough to allow it passage! After Chris’ arrival we went hunting for a particular place to eat – all you can eat yakiniku. To our sadness though it no longer existed. Three failed locations and two umeshu cartons later we found ourselves waiting for one famous restaurant while looking at Kyoto’s main river. It was ablaze with reflections and shimmering forms. A crane was also present, as was a beaver that had clearly decided it would be a marvellous time to investigate what the land humans were up to.

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From here on we ate and chatted in an izakaya themed around old movies and TV shows n general, the lighting was slightly on the over side, and I quite liked it. We seemed to split ourselves into male/female groups as we could only have four people per table – a binge eating of kara-age commenced to my delight, and also an eating of frogs legs. Frogs legs tasted nothing like chicken, or perhaps a little bit, but there was a very fishy flavour to it as well. It isn’t something I will probably go out of my way to eat again but neither was it terrible. I suppose I have little specifically to say of the end of the evening, I had fun for sure and was sad to say goodbye. I remember finding it interesting how people are linked, for example Aimi seemed to have an eye for Chris, whereas I have an eye for Mizuho per-se. Through this it is interesting how people have kept in contact throughout the year. So it came to be that my time was now at an end.

Video: https://youtu.be/16b_AcPLh68

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Until next time Kyoto

Kyoto is always an adventure for me. I like the aesthetics and its people. I like its history and the atmosphere. It couldn’t be much more different to Tokyo in many ways. Where it lacks madness it makes up for it with adventure. If Tokyo were an insomniac madman then Kyoto would be a slightly mottled travelling monk with a straw hat. I daresay the world needs both though or else it’d be a slightly less interesting place. I’m still more inclined to coming to live here in the future instead of Tokyo though, the only issue is that Tokyo has far more job opportunities in the long run. We shall have to wait and see.

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I left my creepy crawly accommodation behind and not before long had begun my long train journey. During this journey (Kyoto to Tokyo via Seishun 18) I encountered an angry Osakan man who couldn’t hear any of the announcements and was sporting a rather flamboyant orange guise, matching walking stick included. In the next train I met a GPS researcher who also played the guitar – he was interesting enough. There was one other event but that has since slipped my mind.

 

Leaving the dorm (26th July)

So, today I finally departed from Nishi-Waseda dorm and am currently typing this from a secluded spot in McDonald’s. Today has been an odd mix of exhaustion and impatience, from waiting impatiently at the dormitory for the final room check while watching Mike run around like a deer in headlights to feeling exhausted in thanks again to the waiting. As a matter of fact I’m currently waiting for the Night bus; another hour and a half to go I suppose.

So the day began quite early – I didn’t sleep particularly well and therefore woke up feeling as if I’d hardly rested at all. It wasn’t until the sweet coldness of a can of coffee hit my lips that I began to feel capable of functioning as if I had a few missions to achieve in that day. I pretty much began by bathing, shaving and pondering how to go about saying my farewells. After this I tidied, and began wandering around.

I had actually said goodbye to a few people the previous night, however there were a couple more. All whom I met smiled warmly, and encouraged to either come and visit them (I like the sound of Paris and Finland), or threatened that they would come and visit me – to which my response was naturally along the lines of “of course!” India and Oxana were flattered that I came and found them, I got quite a few hugs from them as we chatted of mindless things and the games that we could play once we’re less busy and in the same region of the world – and more importantly with a little bit more time on our hands. I also bumped into Amy again and apparently made her cry, I thought her eyes were telling a story so I wasn’t too sure what to say though.

Heading into university I bumped into numerous people, Umi, Abby, Fuka, Aum, Yok, and then upon returning to the dorm once more bumped into Henriika and one other whose name right now is just beyond me, but I’m very tired. Upon re-entering I met Erin, briefly chatted, and then received a letter (more later on that). It was then a countdown of 28 minutes before I left the dormitory. In this 28 minutes I was showered with Ramune, thanks Mike! It was our final drink and besides the stickiness that comes from having a carbonated drink poured over you I appreciated this. Michael also came to see me off – reminiscing the Niigata trip and good times. Mike walked me to the station, and he genuinely seemed emotional. How peculiar.

fuka and abby

I opened the letter from Erin once I sat down, I may have had the favour returned to me as my eyes watered a bit too, I read it over a few times and stopped to think. In front of me was laid the letter from Erin – 2 pages of positivity and friendship, on my left wrist a handmade amber bracelet from Fuka, and to my right a gift from Yok. Along with dozens of memories flashing back I couldn’t help but smile. “This year hasn’t been a waste”, is something I realised; I’ll do a larger summary post after everything is done and dusted but sure, far from everything has gone to plan, but I’ve made better friends than I feel I deserve here and I’m elated to realise this!

erin letter

Now, it is time to go and see a few familiar faces over in Kyoto. Hopefully I won’t melt due to either the heat of a cuteness overload.

The final Mocha, with a hint of amber (25th July)

It was a day that started slowly, with my trip to Kabukicho in order to tell the local council that I would be leaving Japan soon, and cancelled the continuation of my health insurance. After this rather dull event I dashed up to Ootsuka in order to have one final mocha at the Riddle café and chat to Elisa once more. This consisted of taking photos of the lamps and writing her profile. Profiles are far easier for others to write than yourself, at least for people like us who overthink things. Afterwards we indulged ourselves with ramen and chashu! A double egg for me, yes please!

Dirty chashu

Hanging around with Elisa has been an amusing thing, most of what we talk about ends up going into great detail, making it very thought provoking and also rather riveting! I’m glad that I got to meet her over a round of drunk hugs those many months back, it is funny though; how friends become friends is ever the mystery! It was around this time that I got a message from Fuka asking if I was at uni. I said I would be there shortly and bit goodbye to Elisa, not that it is really goodbye as we both have intentions involving around being based in Japan in the not so distant future. More of a “mata!”

Me and Elisa

Upon reaching the university library there was no Fuka, only the endless stream of students entering and leaving the library in a dejected fashion that can only signal the existence of that which is exam season. Fuka eventually arrived and gave me a gift. A gift that she had weaved, sanded and drilled herself; the most beautiful amber bracelet! I was quite overwhelmed and couldn’t stop saying thank you – the colour I was told later really matches me, and I’d really agree. It was so unexpected that again my eyes watered, especially considering the effort that would have gone into making this. I bid her goodbye a bit later, only for her to realise we needed a photo, so I was pulled back into the library! What a lovely night!

Me and FukaMe and fuka gift

Dreaming through life