Thirteen Days

I spent thirteen days in Japan last summer. I went with a group of students from the other high school in my town, all of us students who had completed at least first year Japanese. At the time, I had just finished my third year. I've had to drop it since, but that's a story for another day. It was the first time I'd ever been on a plane, much less out of the country.


I spent four days with a host family in Miyoshi. The first night, I sobbed. I missed my home, my family, my friends back home, and I wasn't going to see the friends that had come with me for over two days. I was in a strange country where I only barely spoke the language. But over the next four days, I became incredibly attached to my host family - my host mother, Yumi, and my seven-year-old host sister, Kana, especially.


I had one of my favorite moments in Japan with my host family. They took me to Satsuki and Mei's house - if you've seen the Miyazaki film My Neighbor Totoro, it's an exact replica of that house. I got to go inside and...oh, I swear, my heart still soars thinking of the moment when I opened the attic door and looked up the steps, seeing the little acorn trail all the way up, or looking through the rusty bucket, or under the house where more acorns were hidden, or sitting on the Cat Bus stop. I grew up on Totoro - I've watched it countless times since I was very small. My host family also took me to Seto, where we made pottery, and went to a museum. It was fantastic.


On the last day with our host family, all of my friends (many of them crying, having become just as attached as I had) said good-bye to their host mothers before we got on the bus to go to the middle schools and the firestation, except for me, because my host mother was going to be translating. She was so nervous, but she was brilliant. And when she had to leave, she said, "Reichan, I am the luckiest mother, because I got to spend more time with you than the others." I couldn't help it, I started sobbing. I'm tearing up thinking about it now. She sends me letters, still, telling me how much Kana misses me, that she hopes I'm well, and she loves me.


The rest of my time was spent on a tour of Japan. We went first to Osaka - staying the night in a hotel and then seeing only Osaka Castle. I hated that we didn't get to eat there. Then it was off to Kyoto. Most of my memories in Kyoto are in the hotel that I shared with two of my favorite people on the trip - Becca and Chelsea. We spent so much time talking and laughing that we barely slept at all, and in our two nights there, we even customized our hotel room a little. Becca had fought with one of the other girls on the trip, and to cheer her up, I took her on a little shopping spree in a 100 yen store, and we found this adorable little tofu plushies. At first we thought they were toasters, and to this day, we will insist that they are, in fact, toasters - despite the fact that is says "tofu" in hirigana right on the back of them. We bought eight - two of each color - and lined them up in our hotel window.


From Kyoto, we went to Hakone, I believe. Here I become a little mixed up - we went to both Hakone and another town whose name I can't remember. This is going to bother me greatly - it's where we saw the Great Image of Buddha. Hakone I remember the best, because we took a cable car up to see Mt. Fuji, though it was too misty to see. That's also where I spent $130 in one store on Miyazaki merchandise. Each of us went to Japan wanting something - Becca wanted a yukata, Richard wanted a guitar, Jacob wanted a katana. I wanted a Totoro plushie. I got four, plus many other little Miyazaki things.


My favorite was Tokyo, if only for the Meiji Shrine. I have never felt so spiritually alive as I did praying at that shrine, and hanging up my board around the tree. It was such a beautiful place, and if I could return to only one location in Japan, it would be the Meiji Shrine. Also in Tokyo, we went to Harajuku - also very fun - and Asakusa. We spent I believe...four or five hours at the rain. And, of course, it was the one day that I did not have my umbrella, and I was running out of money. Still, it was amazing. A few others, though not myself, got to go to Nara (back when we were in Kyoto) and to Akibahara and Tokyo Tower.


I cannot possibly being to share all of my memories of Japan. The food, the inside jokes, the travel, the hundreds of vending machines that Becca and I counted on one side of the street alone as we traveled, the panic attacks and the moments of absolute awe. I long to return to Japan with my friends, and I'm rather determined to honeymoon there once I find the right person and get married. It was the most amazing experience of my life to date.

Starcrossed Starcrossed
18-21, F
1 Response Mar 3, 2009

Really enjoyed reading your story ..<BR><BR>I also love the film Totoro<BR><BR><BR>I have been to Japan too .. Tokyo<BR><BR>But only a day in the airport!!