Okay. Call this a sentimental post. This post is written in response to:
1. One of my good friend, who happened to be a Japanese, and who happened to spend his 10 days of spring break here in Indonesia went home a month ago (sigh), leaving me missing Japan even more.
2. My home university happened to be so actively involved in maintaining friendship with KUIS (my uni in Japan) so they sent five of my juniors off to experience a two week spring course at KUIS. That, leaves me so miserable because I can’t help feeling so envious.
3. I basically always miss Japan.
You can’t stay at a place for a year without forming certain bond and felt attached to that place pretty strongly. At least in my case, I can’t. I love my family, my friends, my life here and everything, but being in Japan — as Jude said, is like living my dream. Being in Japan has brought so many new experiences and form so many good memories and at certain times it feels more painful than it usually is to accept the fact that I am no longer staying there.
So, I figure out that if I manage to write things about Japan, maybe just maybe, it’ll ease the longing feeling a bit. Then here it goes, seven things I will always and forever miss about Japan!
What? Don’t give me that look. I haven’t been in another country with four seasons before and I experienced all those four seasons for the fist time in Japan. I miss that.
I miss the smell of spring. Flowers will literally bloom everywhere and there is no way you can miss it when spring really comes. Beside the sight of the famous sakura or cherry blossom, you’ll know it’s spring by the smell. And spring smells sooo nice.
When the Sakura’s blooming, it only means one thing: Hanami!! Hanami literally translates to viewing (mi = viewing, looking ) the flower (hana = flower). It’s an activity where people, families or friends or colleagues would sit together usually under a sakura tree and eat together, talk, drink alcohol (yeah! yeaah!), singing out loud or just simply adoring the beauty of Japan’s most famous flower. Here’s a picture of sakura tree in my uni and a Hanami we did that time. We were on school ground so no alcohol whatsoever and I guarantee everyone was sober enough to attend the next class. LOL. It was such a good time!!
Then it gets a little hot in summer, but summer means beaches and fireworks and watermelons and it was so great having everyone gather to hang out together. It’s utterly HOT, that’s true. But still, happy nevertheless.
When we are not so busy playing fireworks at the beach, Rini, Ho and I usually go to Fujiya, one of the well-known family restaurant in Japan and indulged ourselves with the marvelously delicious Fujiya Parfait! Those sweet little babies are definitely a survival kit to face summer in Japan! *grin*
When Autumn approaches, we have a loott of good things to enjoy. The leaves started to change colors, and the view was simply amazing. Whether you take a walk down the Meiji Jingu temple or take a day trip to Nikkou, the colors are just amazing. Autumn is chilly, and I remember that the food somehow tasted better,
Then here comes the winter. I experience the cold of winter both in Chiba, where the snow falls down as a frost, like pieces of ice falling down from the sky and also winter in Hokkaido, where the snow was more like a powdered snow, you can throw your friends with nice balls of snow and start a snow fight, build a snowman or simply just look at the stunning beauty of city covered in soft snow. Hokkaido looks almost like a… yuki-onna’s (the snow girl, a ghost in traditional folklore in Japan) country of residence.
I’m kidding! There was no yuki-onna or ghosts alike involved. Hahahahha.. it was just because Hokkaido was entirely and literally covered in snow, it was freakin cold but it was beautiful indeed! I got -9C for the lowest temperature and, people, it’s freezing. I’m a tropical girl, what was I supposed to do in a yuki-onna’s place? I really can’t believe what Aloince, Jenni and Jonne’s going through with -30 in Finland. I’m gonna die.
One of my friend took Japanese Literature as her major and she told me a very interesting thing about the four season and how it is related to Japanese’s attitude. Japanese are well known for their ganbaru spirit. I can’t find exact translation for ganbaru, but it is a spirit that push yourself to your limit, sometimes even exceeds your limit. That each time you fall, you push yourself to get up. Each time you do something, you push yourself to give it your all, your best shot. My friend said that one of the reason why Japanese are so strong is because they stay in a place with four changing seasons and their country located geographically in an unstable climate and prone to earthquake and other natural disaster. Japan is a natural magnet for earthquake and tsunami, for goodness’ sake. But been going through that disasters time and time again, Japanese are strong. Staying in a country with four seasons and experience them in a year trains you to be strong. And I miss that, always and will forever be.
Have I ever told you that Nihongo (Japanese) is a fascinating language? You know, you can learn about a country’s culture by studying its language. Learn Nihongo, and you will be able to experience Japanese unique culture and understand a little bit more about its people’s general characteristics. It is amazing because this probably is not something native Japanese will realize. But as a foreigner I learn the root of the language and it’s crystal clearly explaining who Japanese truly are.
First of all, by learning Nihongo you will come to realize that Japanese are polite and they are the most unselfish human beings ever walk the earth. They will always think of someone else’s sake first. They seek for harmony, living in peace with their friends and neighbors, respect others’ privacy and try their best not to stick their nose unto someone else’s bussiness.
Secondly, most of them are very reserved, they are not used to speak their mind or express their feelings, in accordance to their basic principle: living together in harmony. They fear that by expressing their opinion or feelings, they could create possibilities of conflict and ruin the harmony in their circle so they refrain from doing that.
That is what they believe….. BUT!
But believe me, learn Nihongo and you will be surprised. The language of Japanese is a language filled with emotion and feelings and has deep meanings. But sometimes, for native Japanese, they got so used to speak their own language, they kind of missing the root and the true meaning of it.
For example, I lived in an international dorm run by a Japanese family and they naturally taught us how to behave well in Japan. So basically at Japanese homes you say “Ittekimasu!” when you leave the house and the people who stay in the house will reply “Itterasshai!” to you. I was so thrilled about this fact, I can’t stop talking about it at my first day in class. Then my sensei smiled and asked me if I knew what “ittekimasu” and “itterasshai” means. I answered yes, it means “I’m going out” and “see you later”. My sensei smiled again and said that the true meaning was not that simple. When you say “Ittekimasu” as you leave your house, you were actually saying “I am going out now and I will be back.” and then, “Itterasshai” means “Please come home safely, and come home soon. I will see you later when you’re back.”
Who says Japanese are not good in expressing their feelings? 🙂
Another example, at Narita International Airport in Tokyo, you can see another proof why Japanese are actually pretty sentimental. I had a chance to travel to South Korea and when I got back, I entered via international gate. The writings in the sign looked like this
The Japanese writings read Okaerinasai. And the exact translation of that is 100% different with the English one that is written below the Japanese one. Okaerinasai does not mean “welcome to Japan” in Japanese. Okaerinasai means “welcome back (home)”.
This tradition goes back to this:
In Japanese homes, when you’re entering the house after going somewhere, you say “Tadaima”, which translates to “I’m home.” The people inside your house will then reply with “Okaerinasai”. It is a custom you do only when you are going back to places you consider home, like your house or if you are a member of certain club at school, you will also say that upon entering your club’s room. You don’t say “tadaima” when you are entering other people’s house and of course you dont expect them to greet you with “okaerinasai”.
See, the Japanese writings in the sign above is written in hiragana, which gives you the idea that it is actually intended to be read by Japanese. While the government welcomes foreigners by saying welcome to Japan, they welcome their own kin by saying welcome back (home).
When I first came to Japan, I see the sign and my eyes were automatically set to the English writings since I didn’t really speak or read Japanese that time. But by the time I went home from South Korea, my eyes set to the Japanese writings automatically, now that I do read and understand what I read. To me, as a foreigner, the hiragana writings of “okaerinasai” means, “Welcome back. Now you know Japan is your home too.”
I miss this. I miss speaking Japanese in my daily conversation and finding deep meanings in it everyday. I miss practicing my Kanji by staring at a lot of ads inside the train trying to figure out how to read the Kanjis. I miss listening to people speak in Japanese. I miss listening to the jokes, not being able to understand the funny part and ask a Japanese to explain and laugh after that. I miss being able to improve my Japanese skill each day by only staying in Japan. I miss Nihongo so much, always and forever will be.
This. Is. KILLING. Me.
For those who are not aware of it, Japanese Railway System is UH-MA-ZING. You can literally go around cities by trains, you know. They are precisely and nicely arranged in a way you can always find a train to go anywhere at anytime. Seriously. Oh, here’s a very handy site enlisting all the schedules of all trains. In case you read this and get inspired to go to Japan, this will help you!
Staying in Japan is seriously comfortable. It is easy to go anywhere. Bus stops are connected to train stations and the craziest thing is their EXACT time of arrival and departure, it almost got at a scary level, really. Living in Jakarta for my whole life, I am so used to people, buses, trains and everything being not on-time that I developed the habit of sparing at least 2 hours to go anywhere. I mean, for example I’m supposed to have a class at 10 am, then I will have to leave house by 8 am, oh, make it 7 am. It is a bit better now that the Commuter Line is already working with better schedule, but, still.
In Japan, I was so surprised seeing trains arrive exactly, for example, at 10.12 am and depart exactly at 10.13 am. They do it every single day for every trains, you know. So it is almost impossible to blame the train if you are running late somewhere. Because you can always predict at what time your train will be arriving at specific stations.
That, makes your life SO MUCH easier. I don’t have to spare 2 hours!! Just check the schedule and you’ll be safe.
My home station is Makuhari-Hongo Station. It is around 5-7 minutes by bicycle from my dorm and is the closest station from where I stay. I miss going to this eki (train station). I miss hearing the announcement
“Makuhari-Hongou…Makuhari-Hongou desu.” or “Mamonaku, ichiban sen ni, Mitaka houmen yuki ga mairimasu. Abunai desu kara, kiiro sen made ni o sagari kudasai.”
This was one of the very first phrases in Japanese I remember, because I hear it almost everyday. I remember I did not really catch the phrase at the first time (yes, my Japanese was THAT bad) and I would go to class unconsciously reciting and mumbling “mamonaku..ichiban sen ni something something what was that again…” and Takeda sensei would automatically finish the announcement for me and I would look up at him and laughed. I remember then he would always told me that I was doing great and someday I would be able to recite the train announcement all by myself.
And he was right.
I miss going to the train station and took the train to various places in Japan. I miss the quietness inside the train, and all the ads I could use to practice my Kanjis. I miss coming home to Makuhari-Hongou station feeling so happy that I’m only 5 minutes away to my room. I miss this, always and forever will be.
#4 Kanda University of International Studies
I have super super dedicated teachers who apparently are exceptionally trained in teaching second tongue language to us, their students, and many of us were.. pathetic. Hahahaha..
Seriously, in my case I came to Japan being able to read Hiragana and Katakana without knowing what it means. Under their guidance, I could at the very least communicate daily with people and even got a 3 months job of translating Japanese once I came back here. To remember that I did not even know what a ‘tanjoubi’ means or the difference between ‘tori niku’ and ‘buta niku’, (that’s chicken and pork, by the way) and see now that after a year I could develop my language skill this far… I think the uni along with every aspect of it (the program, the facilities, the teacher) deserve more than a “thank you”.
There are 7 levels of Japanese classes at total in KANDA and they use a placement test before each semester begin to determine our levels. Me, obviously, was in level 1. My teachers use the mix of Japanese and English to explain things and when one of us was not that good with English either, he would download his student’s native language’s dictionary directly to his phone and use that to explain some difficult words.
The other teacher would call upon a senior student who spoke the same language with non-english speakers to assist them.
Teachers would also always listen to us. They are very good with that, listening. They would correct our grammars every now and then but will always eager to listen, to advise and to encourage us to go on with our study.
They are one of the best teachers team I’ve ever encountered, considering that their students came from different parts of the world with different cultures but they still manage to teach everyone equally, nicely, perfectly. I heart them so much!
As for my uni, even though the other Japanese students kept saying that KANDA is small for a uni in Japan, I still think that… it’s actually pretty big. I could probably put 3 or 4 Atma Jaya into KANDA’s ground.
I miss walking in my school ground, seeing leaves changing colors, watching the other students play soccer, rehearsing their dance routines, playing rugby or simply chatting with friends. I miss coming to SALC, the English library which by the way is one of the coolest place ever in the whole KANDA universe. Hahahahaha..
I miss grabbing that delicious Creme Brulee and Cinnamon Rolls from Balcony Cafe for breakfast or during break between classes. I miss having lunch and indulge in some friend quality time with Rini at Lapaz Cafe and also miss the nice food.
I miss going to classes, learning Japanese and meet my teachers and my friends and learn together with them. I miss attending school festival, seeing all the foods from so many countries (because KANDA has a lot of language department, the student sort of selling food unique to their own’countries’ depend on what language they’re studying) and also watching all the culture festivals they held. I miss cheering for Akira and the rest of the soccer team when they had game at KANDA. I miss the euphoria and the chill we always feel after watching Step In (KANDA’s dance club) members show their ability off in front of us.
I miss my Kyuudo and Kendou club! I miss My seniors and also the training. I miss their happy faces looking at us and encouraging us to train with them. I miss… I miss going to the clubs so bad.
I miss going to KAEDE lounge, the lounge in which international students would usually gather around for lunch. The lounge is mainly consisted of teacher’s room and a big space with sofas and tables where we usually chat and, um, sleep, sometimes. I miss catching Jonne, and also Estela and Nayara, sometimes Marina and Jenni there at KAEDE. I miss our random lunch talk and the chaos the boys created over lunch break.
I miss building 7, place where I would always sit and reflect to almost everything. Building 7 is special because sometimes when I want to, or need to be alone I would climb to the top of the building where I have a nice view of the school and sit there on the green grass..just.. staying still there. It was also the place where Rini, Jenn, Achien and I rehearse our play for the farewell party. It was also the place where Rini, Jenn and I cried over the fact that we had to leave Japan.
It was rather dramatic, but the emotion was strong. The three of us sat there, around a week before our departure and we have this view of KANDA from above building 7. We recalled our memories, how far we have come, good and bad things that happened, funny moments and also our experiences. We talked about our job, we watch over the soccer team, the Kyuudo club and also some students who were there, down below in the green grass of soccer field. We hugged each other, thanking God we have each other and promised ourselves that we will go back here one day.
KANDA is very special to me. I miss KANDA, always and forever will be.
*note*: After that when we went back to the dorm this conversation happened with Akira. He was practicing soccer and apparently he got this nice view of three suspicious Indonesians on top of Building 7.
Akira: “Um, by the way, what were you three doing up there in Building 7?”
Me and Rini: “You saw us??”
Akira: “Yes. Clearly. What was that? you three rehearsing dancing move or what? Because all of you keep jumping and…”
Me and Rini: “……..” HAHAHAHAHA. Did not realize we were that visible to everyone else. Sumimasen.
Presenting Aki-chan to you!!
uh-huh, she’s my beloved bicycle. She is just perfect and amazing. She’s been with me since the very first week of my stay in Japan. I bought her at Don Quixote (pronounced Don-Q-Ho-Tea in Japanese. Cute.) along with Rini’s bicycle too. I named her Aki because I bought her in autumn and because the name “Aoi” (blue) is already taken by Rini. LOL.
I miss riding bicycle to, practically everywhere. To school, to the supermarket, to visit parks and to visit Jenn at her dorm. Even when I have to go by train I would still have to go by bike to the nearest train station.
I had this quite fun experience with Aki-chan. Estela and I went to hang out together in Tokyo and we parked our bikes at a place that is supposed to be the designated bicycle parking lot near Makuhari Hongou station. Little did we know that we had to pay 100 yen to park (we did not read kanji yet, seriously. we have no single idea about parking bicycle and paying for that). We went back to Chiba around 8 pm and….. our precious bicycles were… gone. MISSING! I was deeply worried because I know they had been towed by those guys at the “please-keep-the-city-in-order-and-clean” department. We searched and searched and searched and found our bicycles were in the darkest corner, along with some others and we have this green ticket saying that we have parked our bicycles at the wrong spot and they fine us 2,000 yen.
I dont know which feeling was the strongest. The relief because I still have my bicycle back, or the shock to pay 2,000 yen. It’s around 200,000 rupiah by the way and it sucks to pay that much money only because you could not read the kanji. In the end we did not pay the fine though. But we messed up pretty bad with the dorm supervisor and she made us tell everybody about our mistake in attempt to embarrass us and so the other dorm members wont do the same mistake twice. She succeeded in her attempt to warn the other member but nowhere close to embarrassing me and Estela. Why, our fellow dorm members were supportive and they did not find it an embarrassing mistake. It was natural to do mistakes, and my dorm supervisor was just too selfish to admit that her dorm members consisted of people with low level of Japanese by the time we came to Japan that Fall semester.
By the time I have to go home to Indonesia, Aki has been accompanying me for almost a year. I had to let her go, I did not have other choice. I could’ve bring her back by shipping her but it would be no use because I can not use her here in Jakarta without injuring myself. Jakarta’s street are not really bicycle-friendly. So I left her so my junior could use her and in hope that she will be a great company to Katrin, I let her go.
I miss riding my bicycle, always and forever will be.
#6 Wee Pee Day Care
I worked at Wee Pee Day Care for around 6 months as an English teacher. My main job was obviously teach English to young children aged 3 to 12. That was the happiest job I’ve ever done in my whole life. I talked with them, read them stories, played and dance and sing. I went to the parks with them and hanging out together, eating lunch and it was amazing. I dont even feel like I was working. I miss going to Wee Pee every week. I worked on Wednesday, perfectly in the middle of the week. I would always have this energy boost upon working there. Little children will came greet me in front of the door, hugged me and asked me to hold them tightly. They will jump happily and took my hand to start play with them.
The other teachers and staff will welcome me warmly, smiling and… I needed Wee Pee to keep me balanced with every other things I faced at school, at the dorm and they helped me fighting the homesick feeling I felt.
It was amazing, almost like finding a shelter after staying in Japan for a while. I got the job by the recommendation of one of my senior and I could not thank her enough for introducing me to Wee Pee day care.
Some weeks before my departure, it was Tanabata Festival in Japan. At Tanabata Day you will write a wish and hang it at a bamboo tree. I came in to Wee Pee that day and Hide sensei was grinning at me, as usual, and hand me this yellow paper. He said “Write a wish. It maybe works, you know.”
With all my heart, I wished for some more time to spend with Wee Pee kids and teachers.
Maasa Sensei, Hide Sense, Yuko Sensei, I really miss you guys. I miss the children, I miss working there.
On my last day at Wee Pee, they gave me such a pleasant surprise. They gathered up the children and everyone said thank you in English. Then they handed me this photo frame that could record voices. (Japanese stuff, dont get too surprised with those kind of thing. Japan got the cutest stuff ever! Hahahahha)
They have recorded the voices of the children and the teachers too, saying, “Thanks Ria, we will miss you.”
Inside the photo frame were two pieces of photographs, of me and the children.
You can not believe how warm it makes me. I was all teary and Maasa sensei hugged me. I miss her, too much. And then Hide sensei was like “noooo don’t cry!!” Hahahaha. I really miss his face and the way he lead the team. He is amazing.
On my last day in Japan, I visited Wee Pee for one last time. Hide sensei and Maasa sensei talked a lot to me, giving me advices, patting my back and hug me once again. They said that it will come a day when I will be back. That day, probably it will not be them who run Wee Pee anymore but that one thing I should believe is that Wee Pee would stay the same, Wee Pee would still welcome me home.
I dont know how it will be the same without them, but I do know that Wee Pee was one of my happiest place in Japan.
I miss that, always and forever will be.
And last, but not least,
#7 Staying in the Dorm
I miss staying in the dorm. Seriously. I might not always be in the good mood at the dorm and there were always problems and things happened, but never did I regret my stay at Bekka Ryou. I miss walking home and finding faces that were always glad greeting me “okaerinasai”. I miss cooking at the kitchen or just hanging out at Jenni or Eden or Estela or Rini’s room. I miss hiding in my room when I wanted to be alone. I miss the birthday parties we threw at the dorm and always miss our girls only movie nights. Word only would not be enough this time. Because that place, that building, with the people inside hold my memories, my gratefulness, my happiness, my heart.
I have never posted any picture of my dorm before. Now probably gonna be the right time. This is the common room. Tables on your right are internet corner, up to 8 people can use internet at the same time, and we are basically not allowed to have internet in our own room. On your left are the dining tables, we would always gather there for parties, playing cards, or simply chit chatting. The door on the left lead to the stairs to girls room and the corridor to boys room. Door in front of you lead to the kitchen.
The picture below is the front door. Rini took this picture for me not long after we arrived at the dorm.
My room was the 207. My neighbor was Estela at 206. It was the third largest room in the dorm. I took this picture and yeah it was a bit untidy but… well.
That thing that looked like a computer is actually a television. And the CJ7 character’s doll on top of it act as an earthquake warning for me. Too often it will fell down with loud voice that would normally catch my attention. I like the room because I got two pair of windows (the other only got 1 pair) and I got a closet too for my clothes. I miss my room. 🙂
There are a lot of things I miss about Japan, really. I miss my friends mostly, who are by the way, literally scattered around the world. I only hope that my hands would be big enough to hug each of them tonight. All of us shared a moment in life that we will never forget. That’s a big deal, and that makes them precious.