So I’m leaving Japan in about 9 hours.  And I’ve been here for a little over 8 months.  It’s unbelievable; it feels like I’ve been here forever, and at the same time, like I’ve been here for a few weeks.  Time is crazy like that.  I’m going to miss Japan so much, I absolutely love being here.  Then again I’m ready to go back to the States.

Monday the 16th I left on a night bus for Fukuoka.  Steph and Matt saw me off (what nice friends!) and the bus ride itself was really long (15 hours) and uneventful.  The seat wasn’t that uncomfortable, I could lean it back quite a bit and there was a lever for the footrest.  I slept for most of the ride waking up every three hours when we stopped for 20-minute breaks.  We arrived at about noon on Tuesday but I couldn’t check into the hostel until 3 so I spent that time exploring the area a bit.  I checked into the hostel, took a shower, had dinner and went to bed early.  The next day I headed out to do some more exploring.  The area my grandmother lived in was pretty close so I hopped on the train and got there in about 30 minutes.  I was exploring the area when I came to a shrine that had a trail going off into the trees (I like to think of it as a forest, that’s what it felt like).  As I walked down the trail, I thought I heard the sound of the ocean and sure enough the trees suddenly disappeared and I came to a very nice beach.  The water and sand were gorgeous and I was the only one there (probably because it had been raining all day up to that point).

Shigeko had told me that her friend from high school had a 22-year-old daughter, Chizuru, that I could connect with while in Fukuoka.  She gave me Chizuru’s contact information and on Tuesday I e-mailed her.  She asked me if I could meet up with her “at 19.”  I thought it meant the hour but she meant the date.  After exploring Nata I went to meet Chizuru not realizing she was expecting me the next day.  But after all the confusion was sorted out we finally met up and her mother picked us up at the station.  Chizuru was able to get off of work earlier than usual and we went back to their house.  I met her 24-year-old brother, Shunsuke, her non-English speaking grandmother and her father.  I ended up spending three nights at their house (which I was not expecting at all…I had to wear the same clothes four days in a row) and they took great care of me.  Not only did they feed me, but since Shunsuke doesn’t have a job he was able to drive me and Chizuru to Beppu, where my grandpa’s side of the family is from.  I hadn’t planned on going since it was so expensive by train but we had a great time visiting a very touristy area of Beppu.  And that night while Chizuru worked, Shunsuke’s two friends came over and we played the card game “Uno” for over an hour.  None of the family really spoke much English so it was quite an adventure trying to communicate.  But I was so thankful for their hospitality.  They even drove me to the train station on Saturday and gave me parting gifts.  It made me wonder how many people would do that in the States.

I went back to the beach in Nata before the bus left for Tokyo at 3:30 pm on Saturday.  The ride was also uneventful but this time I sat in the very front and for the first 6 hours of the trip I was able to see out the front window.  After that they pulled a curtain across so that we could sleep (which I did for the rest of the drive).  I arrived back in Tokyo at about 6:30 am and went straight to my host family’s house.  We went with Ayumi’s friends to a baseball game which I didn’t see any of because so many people were blocking our view.  It was okay though because it was free and we were there for the atmosphere, not the game.  The last two days I spent time with Ayumi and the girls.  While the girls were at school yesterday Ayumi and I went back to a shrine we had gone to during one of my previous visits.  The wisteria had started to bloom from the 200-year-old tree that resides there.  This weekend there is a festival especially for the wisteria and though I’m obviously going to miss it, I’m really glad we were able to enjoy them anyway.

Ayumi drove me to the station and I said goodbye to the girls.  They kept saying thank you and talking about how cute/kind/funny I was.  I think they understood that I’m not going to see them for a long time.  Right before I went through the ticket gate, I noticed that Ayumi had tears in her eyes and I almost lost it right there.  I made it without breaking down though and today Ayumi is going to meet me at the airport.  I leave on a bus at 11:20 and will arrive at the airport around 1 pm.  My flight leaves at 5:55pm and I will get to SFO at 12:15 pm on Wednesday (4 am on Thursday in Japan).  As I said before I’m really going to miss Japan and all the people I’ve met, but I’m ready to come home.


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