Dec 152005

I have officially purchased a plane ticket back to America. I’ve officially notified my real estate agent that I’ll be vacating my Kyoto apartment. February 15th is the day.

I’m so filled with emotions both positive and negative that I’m really not sure which is the dominant.

One half of me is overjoyed to see my family and friends again, to return to the place where I grew up, to regain access to real hamburgers and pizzas, and to be able to once again afford DVD’s right off the shelf. But the other half is nowhere near ready for this Japan portion of my life to end.

Before I came here, I sort of assumed that the novelty of living abroad would eventually wear off. It hasn’t. But I guess I can’t go on being a student forever, and who knows, maybe I’ll end up right back here working for some high-tech firm in Tokyo. We’ll just have to wait and see what the cards have in store for me.

But for now, I’m taking a week off of homework and responsibilities to spend the week riding bikes around Kyoto with my mom! Unfortunately she’s a bit on the sick side having just spent several weeks in China (studying traditional Chinese medicine, no less) so the pace had to be slowed to a bit below the norm. Not to worry. We still covered an excellent amount of ground.

Plus we were lucky enough to happen upon not one but two light-ups during her short four-day stay. The first was at Kiyomizu Dera (aka “big-famous-Kyoto-Temple #2,527). While riding our bikes around Gion, I just happened to catch a glimpse of a poster – saying that today would be the last day of this fall’s light-up. I didn’t have my tripod and thus wasn’t able to get any non-blurry pictures, but for an idea of what Kiyomizu looks like during such an event check out a shot from April’s cherry-blossom festival.

The second, and far more spectacular light-up, was Arashiyama. This could just be because I’ve already been to three light-ups at Kiyomizu. But more likely it really was just a lot more awesome.

Why? Sure, it had the same illuminated trees and spotlights as Kiyomizu. But it had so much more. The entire bridge, the entire mountain, endless lanterns of endless types, and bamboo forests – all illuminated and color-coordinated to create a dream-like atmosphere. Even though I was just there, the pictures are still pretty hard to believe.

Leave it to the Japanese to take a place already as beautiful as Arashiyama and make it even more incredible.

Other than the light-ups I took my mom to all the usual places – Gion, Fushimi Inari, Heian Jingu, etc, etc, etc. We even hit up a few areas new to me as well – including a ride on the Arashiyama “romantic steam train” which follows the Katsura river through a winding gorge and across Kyoto’s surrounding mountains to the part of Japan I like to call “rice-field country.”

But alas, my short break from real-life must soon come to an end…as the shuttle arrives 12:20 tomorrow morning to take her back to Kansai Airport and then to Los Angeles. I will remain here to begin my large essay that I’ve been putting off for the past three weeks…and to await Kyoto’s next change of scenery: snowy rooftops!

  8 Responses to “Mother Dearest”

  1. Yo Justin,

    I dunno how, but I stumbled across your site. I must say, it’s pretty nice. I havent talked to you in forever, but I’d love to catch up when we get the chance. I just finished my MS in September and have been working for a start-up company in SD. If you make it down here, we should definitely meet up. Peace buddy…


  2. It was a pleasure getting to meet you in Kyoto. I wish you all the best in the future. I hope you do get back to Japan.

  3. Cool pictures……sounds like a blast.

    Sorry you have to end your fantasy life. I leave China in 2 weeks to head back to the states for New Year’s and I am VERY bummed/excited like you. Luckily I get to come right back to China 🙂


    PS: What up Drew!

  4. Justin, I feel your pain. You’re describing all of the emotions that the group of us felt a few months before it was time to go back to America. And you saw how that ended up! Suffice to say, Shahin is right: cram every last thing into your remaining time as possible. Pictures are nice, but your memories and friendships are what will carry you through.

    Speaking of friendships, you should meet up with us in NYC in March for YHM Karaoke-fest ’06!

  5. Whoa, what’s up Drew! Good to hear from you after so long – I was actually just wondering what you’ve been up to lately. I’ll definately hit you up when I get back to the US and we’ll catch up on the past…2 years…!

    To everyone else, thank you for your kind words..I know that more than anything else, it’ll be all of your welcomes that makes my re-adjustment to “real life” back in the US tolerable…

  6. Justin,

    It’s so great that you’re getting to spend time with your Mom in your adopted homeland. I hope you’re having lots of fun and please tell her I said hello.

    I can’t believe you’ll be back in the States in 2 months. On one hand I’m excited to have you back and be able to crush your ribcage with my mighty hugs, and on the other I empathize with your situation. Although not as long, I remember when we were at the end of our Europe trip and we were both excited and sad to go home.

    However, the teachings of Zen Buddhism say much of a person’s suffering is caused by holding on too tightly or dwelling too much on the future. Take notice of both but live in the present. So get out there, program a toliet seat warming robot, eat some octopus brains, and do whatever other weird Japo-things there are to do. And I’ll look forward to your next time back in Japan coming complete with a goateed Persian in tow.

    Hit me up on the backside, westside, and water slide you Jello Elephant Walrus Balloon Official Yeoman (J.E.W.B.O.Y.– your new monkier!)


  7. Hey dude, I can’t believe you’re leaving in february already! No way, too soon! I guess I’ll have to come back and visit you before that…. What are you doing for shougatsu? I think I’ll be in Nagoya.

    Anyway, I went through a whole rollercoaster when i went through what you will go through on 2-15. I’d say it took me at least 6 months to start feeling like I was getting back to normal. Reverse culture shock is real. So if you ever need to talk, you know I’m here. What are sempais (who just happen to be younger than you ;]) for, right? Hmmm… actually if you’re interested there’s something you might want to read that I wrote about just the feelings you’re starting to have. I’ll email it to you. It might not be easy to adjust, but at leave you’ll have people who understand what you’ll be going through.

    I really do wanna come back and visit before you leave. When’s a good time? I’ll put that in the email too. Ja ne, take care!

  8. At least when you come back, we can plan HAWAII

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