My last few days in Japan
, as I expected, were nothing short of bizarre. It all started when my dad flew over. My stepmom, who was working at the Admirals Club
back then, had accumulated enough free standby first class
passes to fly the Los Angeles Lakers
and back, so Dad and I decided to fly back together and fill our four alloted suitcases with all of my stuff.
I went to the airport with one of my friends. It was a pretty long train trip from Osaka, and I wanted to give him half a bottle of Finlandia that was left over from our bus trip to Mount Fuji. So we rode the rapid service across the bridge to Kanku, transferred the booze in the men's room, and then settled down in the arrivals hall and waited.
My dad came out of immigration a long while later with two empty suitcases and some significant inebriation going on, and then the three of us rode the train back to Umeda, connected to Hankyu, and arrived at my host family's front door in Itami. Despite the fact that my host family didn't speak English and my father didn't speak Japanese, they seemed to communicate quite well as I packed up the last two bags.
Then it was a $100 taxi ride to Kyoto, where our hotel room was booked for two nights.
The next day, we went to Den-Den Town in Nippombashi to look at some electronic goodies. I wanted to buy a Japanese PDA, and I ended up haggling with a salesman over a monochrome Zaurus, which was my best friend for the next year.
We were on the platform at Awaji, waiting for the express train back to Kawaramachi, when the culture shock finally hit my father. "My God," he said, "everything is so organized." He was right: everyone was lined up quietly at the little yellow notches on the platform, so that they would be in a perfect position to get through the doors as soon as the train arrived.
Then it was off to Kyoto Station for an okonomiyaki dinner...
We took the train back to Kansai, which meant that we had to hustle through the bowels of Kyoto Station that morning carrying a hundred pounds of luggage. When we finally got to the platform where the Haruka was boarding, I left the bags behind to check out the newspapers at a kiosk.
"I want to keep an eye on those bags," he said.
"Why?" I said.
When we finally got to the airport and checked in, we found some seats overlooking the departures concourse, and waited. Some of my friends arrived to say goodbye, and as the final hour drew closer, more people began showing up.
We went through security and handed in our passports, and then we were out in the concourse. I looked up, and there were all those people, faces pressed against the glass wall, waving goodbye, a chapter of my life flying away behind my back as we crossed the threshold into the pier.
Once Japan had disappeared from beneath the 777, I began listening to the minidisc my friends had given me. Many tears later, I listened to it again.
I gave them my customs form in Dallas, and then stepped out into a different world: a bold, simple, high-powered world, the world I had once taken for granted.
And you know what I did? I got a Dr Pepper.
< what came before - what came later >