The End of an Era

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As predicted, the last two and a half months in Japan have flown by in a whirlwind of classes, internships, and activities. In fact, my time in Japan has already drawn to a close, and I am writing this entry from a hostel in Seoul, South Korea, where I am spending a few days visiting friends before heading back to the US of A. I’m faced with the prospect of returning home to my first three weeks of summer since, well, summer began, and I am beside myself. A small part of me is excited to go home, but the rest of me, the overwhelming part that never gets homesick and constantly seeks adventure, is heartbroken over the prospect of settling back into the “same old, same old” and the doldrums of the fall semester.

This experience has been so different from what I anticipated in so many ways. Japan crept up on me. I didn’t have many expectations, either good or bad, about my experience, which consequently made it hard to form opinions once I arrived. The more time I spent in Tokyo, the more things I discovered to love and hate in very unequal measure. There are definitely things about Tokyo that bothered me, or that I, as a foreigner, found unnerving and frustrating. But there were many more aspects of the culture and daily life that I found pleasantly different from daily goings-on in the States. I am frequently asked the question “What will you miss most about Japan?” And though the obvious answer is “the food,” or “the culture,” or “matcha lattes, of course!” I’m not sure that’s entirely accurate. More than anything, I am going to miss the people. I’ve made amazing friends both at school and at my internship and it tears me apart that I have no idea when I may see any of them again. I’m going to miss being surrounded by the Japanese language and feeling a sense of accomplishment in communicating even the most basic ideas. I’m going to miss the utterly ridiculous over-prevalence of combinis, because how will I survive without a Lawson’s, Family Mart, and 7-11 every 300 feet? Where will I buy my mildly overpriced, oddly tiny hot matcha lattes and accompanying baked goods?

IMG_1880The Great Buddha at Kamakura, a place I would love to spend more time.

I reflect on all the tourist attractions I didn’t get a chance to see—all the places I didn’t visit due to either time or monetary constraints: the shrines unvisited, cities unexplored, museums unsought—and I know I have to come back. Already, my brain is working furiously to find a way to return as soon as possible, somehow tying a trip across Siberia and down to Tokyo into my potential study abroad plans for next spring. I think about all the friends I made here, plenty of whom are coming back to Philly, but just as many of whom are not. Will I be able to come visit? I can’t help but hope that I’ll be back as soon as possible to see old friends and make new ones, experience new sights and places and return to those that I fell in love with this time around. Tokyo is unlike any city I’ve ever been to in so many ways, both good and bad, and I know it will call me back again.

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