one strikeout tag later
The temptation to name this thing 'Belated' was overwhelming. As it is, let's just call it 'Untitled'. I make no assurances whatsoever as to quality.
On my first evening in Japan,
I scraped my shin on a post while walking through
Narita. The bruise stayed with me, through next night's karaoke,
through my first stunted Japanese conversation, through taking the train
and hitting my head on every single door, and remained until the day
I left. It hurt less, though, as time went on.
The following weekend, our gaijin band went on
a trip to Kamakura, the ancient capital of Japan.
We awoke early, caught a red-eye train, and spent all day
climbing mountainside temples, sampling octopus balls, and swimming hrough
rivers of Japanese tourists. An almost-illegally-packed train
ride took us home to Tokyo, where we had dinner but, alas, no karaoke.
Next week, though, was midterms, so some of us slipped out to karaoke
in the midst of our controlled curricular insanity. Being tested on
grammar, vocabulary, and kanji (the latter usually learned on the train
to school) was suicidal--but why else did we come to Japan?
"Not to take two and a half weeks to go halfway through
the entire textbook", I thought, but my grades let me live to see another day.
Kyoto was the next stop on the Carnival of Chaos, a three-day trip
across the country for historic castles, gargantuan Buddhas, and yes--more karaoke.
Sleep-deprived, I couldn't appreciate the millenium-old temples we walked through
to their extent, but moments like seeing "Moss The Interrupter" on
a garden's sign kept me going, as we plowed uninterrupted through Japan
as fast as our ride home on the shinkansen, or bullet train.
The fifth week was the calm before the typhoon, so I decided to take the train
to as many places as I could in Tokyo on one weekend day.
I visited a copy of the Statue of Liberty, inexplicably in the middle of Japan,
took photos of the Imperial Palace, Ginza, Shibuya, saw a karaoke
bar shaped like a castle, trekked to the Tokyo Tower at night, and so on.
Getting all this gone in one day inspired me, a burst of energy I would need to crash through
Finals. It couldn't be, that yesterday wasn't the first time I walked through
Shin-Matsudo Station, but six weeks really had gone by. It was too soon to miss the subway,
my host family, yakiniku, but now I took my last ride on
the Keiyo Line, my last language club meeting, my last meal, my last day.
The day after our last exam, our crew gathered for one last karaoke
mangling, as if to forever associate our terrible singing with Japan.
Postscript: Narita Airport, through Terminal 1, Saturday
evening. In conversation, we train ourselves to remember the karaoke,
an imperfect reminder of Japan as our lives go on.