These days, as I bike down the street, as I enter my gym, as I go to the fish market, I'm chanting in my head. Remember, remember. I'm willing myself to make mental photos, like that of my husband lounging on the futon in our ryokan in Kyoto, when I convinced him to wear a matching yukata with a "It'll be our last time" whine. A mental photo of my friend Vikki taking the awkward first sip of nihonshu (sake), where you have to bring your lip down to the glass because it is too full to pick up... It was a just-girls night at our neighborhood soba place, and we ordered two glasses of nihonshu the owner recommended. Sake is a man's drink here, but within 10 minutes of our glasses arriving, two Nihon-jin next to us, also out for a friend date, ordered it. (So don't say I never did anything for feminism, okay?)
Remember, remember. Starbucks at home won't have seven flavors of Frappucino, and you won't put your bag down first to save a seat, and there won't be Disney tunes played on a harp on the speakers. Home will be different. I will forget.
It's the final countdown.* Nine days... no wait, now eight. My dear bike goes to a new home tomorrow, with the AC unit and lights following on Saturday, the fridge and washer and dryer on Sunday. Movers come on Monday and Tuesday (two days for 600 sq feet, Japan?!). We check out on Wednesday, cancel phones and bank accounts, bullet train to Tokyo on Thursday, fly home on Friday. This is real. This is happening. The fat lady is singing as I fold laundry and make list after list. Emotions cloud the brain; I can't rely on myself to remember to pack 45 days worth of underwear and to include something that can pass as Halloween costumes, since we won't have our home delivery before October 31st.
I thought this would be the time of pro and con lists for Japan, for my life here, for my experience as an expat. But it's still too early, my emotions are still too strong. This is the hard part of the move, the part where all you do is say goodbye after goodbye. All of these goodbyes are leaving holes in my heart, little spaces there wasn't before. You need this space when you move to a new home, to fill it up with new people, adventures, and hellos... but this making of the space? Man, it hurts.
I don't want to say goodbye. Even though I know its time to go, it doesn't feel like time to leave. We have made a life here, a sweet life, a good life. Now we say goodbye.
It all feels very real, quite raw, and entirely too fast. Decisions we have made, especially around moving, around leaving, around Japan and America, they all seem wrong, even though I think they might be right. My emotions are sitting heavy in my stomach, and I seem not at all excited about our return. All I can see is our departure.
I will miss the attention to detail. The presentation. The intricate cakes and sweets that line the counters of the fancy department store supermarkets, always located in the basement. I will miss the food, the fish markets, the ingredients so fresh you can eat just about anything raw. I will not miss the price of food, or the 15 layers of plastic everything is wrapped in.
I will miss the fashion, where it is okay to care what you look like here. There is no mom-jeans in Japan, and it's such a good thing. I am dreading the Puritanical condemnation of vanity that somehow translates to sloppiness back home, but I will not miss the infantilization of Japanese women with the ruffles and kawaii style. I will miss the old women with purple hair. That's just so, so cool.
I will miss the people who sweep the sidewalks clean each morning with brooms made of sticks tied together, doing what has been done for hundreds of years. I will not miss the calls of irishimase! as I walk into a store, or the hovering shopkeeper. I will miss the silver or leather trays where you put your money to pay. I will miss the two hands people use to take the money, or cards, or gifts, because it does make the giver feel attended to and appreciated.
Little things. Big things.
I will not miss my Japanese washing machine. I will miss my Japanese refrigerator. I will miss the hooks and baskets where you can set your purse so it doesn't touch the floor. I will miss the foyers and shoe closets, and I will most definitely not miss the Japanese style toilets, from which I see why the take-your-shoes-off-culture developed.
The shower room. I will miss the shower room.
I will not miss being different. I will miss being special. I will not miss people checking me out of the corner of their eye as I sit down. I will not miss any mistake I make being chalked up to the fact that I am gaijin.
I will miss my obasaan at they gym, the one who really likes me, even though we can't speak much. I will miss my fellow volunteers at the Nagoya International Center who send me emails on the Fourth of July saying “America is 237 years old, and I love the USA!” I will miss my dear yukata sensei who patiently taught me to sew and whose house was always open to me and my husband. I will miss our friends, scattering to South Africa, England, Argentina, Mexico, Canada, Ohio, and South Carolina. I will miss my Japanese teacher and my English students. I will miss the extra time life allotted Amos and I when we only had to manage one work schedule. I will not miss being a housewife. I will not miss the assumption that my marriage defines me, that my husband’s career is a feather in my cap. I will not miss how easy it is to spend ¥10,000. I will miss the the really, really good sake and the perfectly hardboiled eggs from 7-11 (word). I will miss the politeness and softness of interactions. The convenience and ease of life here. I will miss Japan.
I will really, really miss Japan.
*Arrested Development (You're welcome.)