Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Final Days in Japan

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The below was written from Canada while we were laid over yesterday.

Our final days in Japan were hard for me. Despite initially feeling anxious and concerned about how I would do in Japan at the beginning of the trip, by the end I was feeling very comfortable in Japan. And, even with reminding myself of the things our countries have in common and what's missing from Japan, I found it difficult to start our trip back.

Our hostess in Miyajima was very sweet, even when she had to prepare breakfast for us extremely early in the morning so that we could leave for Tokyo as soon as possible. She took a picture of us to remember us by; I think I will send her a post card once we return to the states to thank her for her hospitality. I don't think I've ever slept as well as I did on her futons, and it was fun to practice my Japanese with her.

As we rode the first train back to Hiroshima, I started to cry. I didn't mean to, and I knew it wouldn't help anything, but I definitely don't feel done with Japan yet. In fact, being there only inspired me more. And, from a honeymoon perspective, Terinati and I are even closer than before. We learned a lot about each other and I think we trust each other even more than we did before. We worked well as a team, getting each other around and listening to each other's needs. It started out rough, but only got better and better as things went along.

I pondered a lot of things on the trip back, like how I want to study even more Japanese when I return, the things I would miss, and all that we went through. By then, we had 302 photos to upload to Flickr and 2 small videos, along with many other souvenirs and inexpressible memories.

So, in that line of thought, some things I learned while I was in Japan!

New favorite foods: cinnamon and red bean ice cream, okonomiyaki, English-style in the pretty little teacups, tempura momiji, and many eggplant dishes, including spaghetti with eggplant and bacon.

Insightful thoughts: When I couldn't understand what people thought of us for sure, it became easier to be myself, and I was happier. I know I shouldn't care what other people think, but now I feel even less scared of the consequences. They maybe bad sometimes, but I do my best and I have someone who supports me. I am coming back to America looking at it and its people in an entirely different way. I think it's healthier.

Cleanliness: America is really gross. We could learn a lot from the Japanese. However, I'm glad to have the resources available to me to wash my hands again after using the restroom. :}

Green Tea and Kit Kats: If you love Green Tea, you can find anything Green Tea flavored in Japan, from ice cream to chocolates, even Kit Kats. In fact, Kit Kats come in a bizarre variety of flavors in Japan, including Soy Sauce, Apple Vinegar, Caramel, Vanilla Lemon, and Green Tea. Those are just the ones that I saw, and I suspect there are more. I didn't care for apple vinegar, but caramel and vanilla lemon were alright. I have a green tea variety in my bag to try later. But, again, if you love Green Tea, I don't think there's a tasty treat you can't find in Japan that comes in Green Tea flavor. It must be quite popular!

Video Games and Cutesy Things: Video games are, at least environmentally speaking, much like being in Japan, especially the RPGs. The music in the inns, particularly the old Final Fantasy stuff by Nobuo Uematsu, is just like what they play when they prepare breakfast in the morning, be it Japanese or English-style meals. Video games seem to come to life in Japan, with its incredible style, people, and atmosphere. Also, everywhere you go, you can find somewhere cute, even in places that seem extremely serious. I think this makes Japan a more happy place. Perhaps the U.S. could use more cuteness! Speaking of, why have I never seen Yoshikitty in America and just Hello Kitty?! Yoshi Kitty is so much COOLER! :}

Japanese Hotels: They provide you with just about everything. In every hotel, we were given toothbrushes and toothpaste, fresh every day. However, I found that I preferred my own toothpaste after a while because the hotel toothpastes just didn't cut it. There was also always towels, body soap, and shampoo. However, conditioner was sometimes combined with shampoo, and girls with hair like mine will need to bring their own conditioner. Also, every hotel we stayed at provided either a bathrobe or a yukata (the modern style, not the ones that take forever to put on), so there's a lot you can leave out of your luggage; traveling in Japan is convenient because the hotels are excellent in this way and a lot of traveling signs are printed in English.

There's so much more, but I've been awake for about 22 hours now (trying to kill jet lag before I get back to the states; we're laid over in Canada without internet as I write this up) and I just can't think of it all.

Anyway, when we got back to Tokyo after traveling nearly all day, it was raining pretty hard. It matched my mood, but was okay because I wanted to blog and upload photos from the previous days anyway. It was sad, though, having our final meals. The regular bed that night was not as comfy as the futon, and the cake just seemed bittersweet when I thought of returning to our apartment and our previous lives.

We made the most of the Shinjuku district, where we stayed our final night in Japan, even though it was pretty rowdy and relatively filthy compared to everywhere else we'd been in Japan thus far. We saw obvious hookers, love hotels, and other stuff inappropriate for minors very much in plain sight. I was kind of like, “Whoah!” but . . . it's not like everyone doesn't know that someone uses those services, so it wasn't really a big deal. It was just weird to see it. The night life in Shinjuku was mostly in rowdy, loud gaming centers that often were full of smokers. We did go in to one to use the restroom and saw the most AMAZING game player just doing his thing, blowing the game away . . . It was like guitar hero for your hands, but there were so many more buttons and the speed at which he played, perfectly, blew my mind. I wanted to give him applause, but really Terinati and I felt embarrassed for gawking when he had finished. His girlfriend seemed pretty proud, though!

One thing that saddened me was seeing homeless people in the street. They were just sleeping there, a few of them inside cardboard boxes, and some of them only with something to lay on to separate them from the street . . . and everyone just walked around them like they weren't there. 100% of the homeless people we saw there didn't even have a shirt to wear, and were older men. My heart felt for them, but at the same time I reminded myself that perhaps they had put themselves in that situation. Still, to pretend they weren't there was impossible for me. It was just too sad to see someone cramming themselves desperately into a large bundle of cardboard boxes to go to sleep at night. The stray cats there weren't pretty either; I'm guessing food on the street is slim pickings when it's a clean place like Japan.

We finally found a Mos Burgers, but it was pretty much the same as the Lotteria restaurant we'd found in Hiroshima. Still, I was pleased we had found one in Tokyo, just so that we could say that we had been there. :)

After stuffing ourselves, we went to bed. It was hard for me at first, because the night life went on long after we returned. It was also strange because we didn't find out until that night that all the news showing pictures of Michael Jackson were talking about the fact that he had died! Whoah! Had he been sick for a while? What happened? We still don't really know, as we probably won't be in the loop until we're home again, and it's just weird. I mean, I was only a kid when he was really big and the 3-D feature of Michael Jackson appeared in Disneyland in Los Angeles. He's not that old, is he? I guess, “was” he is more appropriate, but it still seems hard to believe. Weird!

For our trip back to the airport, we had reserved seats on a bus “limousine”. It was big for Japanese buses, but pretty average size for our buses in the states. It was a nice trip, and I spent so much time just admiring how beautiful the trees are, so green and lush, much like the rice fields we passed so often. It's like magic, how beautiful and vibrant they are; I've never seen anything that kind of lively green in America.

But then, it was over. We were in the airport terminal, spending the last of our yen on some Maneki Neko chop stick holders and music I heard playing and candies, and the rest we have now exchanged back to dollars. We really have to thank those who paid to dance with us at the wedding; your money paid for our meals and other expenses while in Japan that weren't initially covered. We wouldn't have had such a relaxing time if it weren't for you! We had been planning on having to really scrimp the whole time, but because of our loved friends and family, we were able to have a real honeymoon. Thank you so much!

I know I'm only in Canada and there is still some traveling left to go, but I guess I feel that things are now over. Terinati is falling asleep at the table we're sitting at, and the line is getting long in the cafe where we sit, so I should finish here and make some space for other people. Only two more hours until we're on the next plane headed to America. I miss Japan, but Terinati has promised me that we will return there someday. I'm holding him to it! In the meantime, it's back to my ordinary life. I hope my blog has helped other potential travelers headed in that direction! . . . * sigh * I hate endings, but without them there are no new beginnings.

So, with that, I say a final sayonara (at least, for now), to Japan. I miss you!! :( . . . Sayonara.

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