Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Final Countdown

What a whirlwind couple of months it has been! As I write this, I am set to leave Japan in for good in just 12 days. On July 30th, I will have been in Japan for 3 years. Unbelievable. Honestly, I can't even remember the person that I was before I set out of this adventure of mine.

I had origianlly signed a 1-year contract to come out to Japan, but the year went by so fast that I decided to stay on for another. By the end of my second year, I was feeling pretty comfortable in Japan but I still didn't feel like going home. Now that I have been here 3 whole years, I have mixed emotions about leaving. Yes, I am ready to move on and explore new places. Yes, I want to go home and see my family and friends. Yes, I feel like I have completed my experience here. But on the other hand, I have been here long enough that I have developed relationships with people that are going to be very difficult to give up. My girlfriend is here. My best Japanese mate is here. My band is here. My JAPAN is here.

Yes, it will be hard to leave, but now I know that I really do have a second home here in Japan. This country has taken me in and protected me over the past 3 years. It has helped me grow tremendously as a person. It has been a jumping off point for travel in other areas. It has been a non-stop cultural experience. It has given me the chance to become friends not only with Japanese people, but with people from dozens of countries. It has been great.

The reason that I have not posted in such a long time is that I have been busy doing all of the things that I want to do in Japan before I leave. Just look at this list of things that I have done in the past month or so:

- Joined the "Kanda Matsuri" festival, one of the largest festivals in the world, held in central Tokyo. A simply staggering number of people, music, shrines, and food. It was quite amazing.

- Went up to Fukushima prefecture with Natsumi to the "Hawaiians" super resort and water park. It was our 1-year anniversary, so we went up there for a couple of days. We had fun on the waterslides and pools, but my favorite was the "Guiness World Record" biggest outdoor onsen, complete with shanmisen music and Japanese dance. Unforgettable.

- Went to a sand onsen. Along with a fellow teacher, we went to an onsen in Kuki city where you are buried in heated sand up to your neck. The goal is to stay submerged for about 20 minutes and get a good sweat. After that we are able to relax in the regualr onsens as well. A strangely interesting experience.

- Sold my scooter. Yes, I finally had to say goodbye to my sweet little 50cc scooter. It served me better than I could have wanted here in Japan and opened up a lot of local sights that I would not have otherwise seen. RIP.

- Went to Disneyland with Natsumi! Well, Disney Sea to be exact. I had never been to Disneyland in any country up until now. I have kind of grown out of the cutesy aspect of Disneyland, but in Tokyo the also have another theme park next to it called Disney Sea, which is more geard toward couples or adults. The rides were actually quite good, especially the Tower of Terror. We saw shows, rode rides, ate good food, and met many Disney characters. It was great!

- Went to Kamakura. This small city south of Yokohama had always been on my list of places to go, and we finally made it there. We saw the famous Big Buddha, saw many of the beautiful temples of the area, and even went the (somewhat lackluster) beach called Enoshima. Definetely a highlight of Japan.

- Had a traveling party/ryokan trip with friends. About 10 of us (Western and Japanese people) headed up to Tochigi prefecture to the Nasu hot springs area where we chilled for a couple of days in a ryokan. The small tourist town of Shiobara actually turned out to be a pleasant place. We visitied the world's largest "foot onsen", ate a lot, drank even more, and took onsen at the ryokan. Kasukabe-gumi represent!

- Had a farewell concert with the Peacemakers. We took an opportunity to reserve a spot in our favorite live house (Live Abbey Road) and had a farewell performance with our international band, The Peacemakers. Although a couple of the members couldn't join us, other musical friends of ours stepped in and performed beautifully. I invited a bunch of friends from kasukabe, and there were also some Japanese customers there to watch our show as well. It was a great send-off for me, and I felt very lucky to get the chance to perform one more time with Nori, one of my favorite people in the world. It's another experience that I will never forget.

Phew! Crazy eh?! I still have an even crazier schedule in the next 12 days! I have various farewell parties to attend, I have to empty out my apartment, do all of the last paperwork that needs to be done, continue hitting the gym, and get my head straight before I get home. It's gonna be madness! Anyway, I am going to give it my all. I have been working hard for the past 3 years at bettering myself, so I am not about to slack off now when I am on the homestretch!

Keep on givin'er eh!