I almost couldn’t escape this country. Hokkaido tried to kill me multiple times, with the final attempt as a savage blizzard assaulting quaint Hakodate, exposed on three sides to the sea. In the floodlights you could see snow streaming sideways, passengers in hurried transit. Yet somehow, just 90 minutes late, a JAL flight landed in the midst of tempest. An hour later, it was my plane to Tokyo, ready to take off.
Hokkaido felt like a somewhat different animal from the rest of Japan. The scope of valleys, forests, mountains, and even the coursing flow of the ocean waves felt grander. A certain Japanese sensibility felt flimsier only in the mundane, practical architecture. The more interesting buildings had an international flair in Hakodate and Sapporo alike, and the snow-capped mountains by the sea beats just about any scenery I’ve witnessed to this point. I’m still angry at Hokkaido for making me miss about two flights and giving me a three-inch-radius bug bite on my thigh, but I’m going to go back some day. The skiing was excellent.
Hokkaido did, however, put me firmly back in the realm of tourist, which I hadn’t been for more than four months. I really did feel like a student living in Japan, for which all credit goes to CJS at Nanzan University and the Light Fellowship. Japan is a special place to me–I think Americans can learn a lot from its culture, history, arts, lifestyle, and manners. On the other hand, I know very well now that Japan is far from a perfect place. The education system, working culture, and political system are all deeply flawed. But to me there really is nothing else in the world like relaxing in an onsen, or walking through a zen garden, or enjoying Japanese hospitality and bottomless beverages at a nice restaurant.
But “Thank You” goes to the people, not the country. Thank you to Mr. Light and the Light Fellowship staff for letting me come back over here. Thanks to all the hard-workers at CJS for helping exchange students live in Japan legally with health insurance and all that important stuff. Huge shout-out to my Japanese teacher, Okada-sensei, who is a wonderful person and helped me improve my Japanese in countless ways. At YKK we also had four elderly Japanese managers of our dorm, who varied in their personal traits (cough cough @ strict af Yamada-san), but all were dedicated to helping us live in an enjoyable and convenient dorm.
And FRIENDS! STRANGERS! Why was everyone at Nanzan so nice? I thought Japanese people were supposed to be formal and impersonal! (I mean sometimes stuff was awkward, but, しょうがなない、ね？) I joined jazz club and jammed with a bunch of first-years who had never spoken to a foreigner before; Japanese students came every week to our class to help us practice and chat about fun topics; a girl named Mariko went out of her way to help me volunteer at an elementary school; Tam and Momo invited me to the club every weekend; Billie-Jack was always hosting cooking parties with delicious food where everyone was welcome; Asuha was always down for some Super Smash Bros; Keelan always had wine to share; Pia laughs like an evil Disney-witch at last turned good; Saho and Sayaka and Haruka and Yukimi were always bright faces to see at Stella at lunch time; the list goes on and on and on and on and… it simply doesn’t stop. To every single person: ありがとう。
To Japan: また、ね。