I chose my February 15th return date to the US for two reasons. First, it’s exactly halfway through the month, meaning that I’d be able to pay a prorated 50% rent for my Kyoto apartment in February. Second, it would leave me three weeks from the completion ceremony at Ritsumeikan University during which I planned to sell my furniture, pack everything I own, move out of my apartment, and say goodbye to my friends, Kyoto, and Japan.
But along came opportunities to travel to Korea and Kyushu, so before long I found myself sitting in a fully furnished apartment on February 12th wondering how in the world I was going to handle everything in three days. And what did I do about my little problem?
I went over to my good buddy Yano’s house for a sukiyaki dinner!
Yano is my longest friend in Japan who I somehow completely neglected to mention in this blog up until now. We met in February of 2005 (when I still lived at my first Kyoto residence, Robins Nishikoji) via a community webboard under the “language exchange” section. He’s a Japanese salaryman in his late 20’s who was hoping to work on his English conversation skills once a week after work.
Our meetings started off simple enough – we’d sit at a table on the 3rd floor of the Mc Donald’s on the south side of Shijo Dori near Kawaramachi and talk for an hour and a half. Little by little we started to become closer friends, never interacting outside of our weekly meetings but always looking forward to those brief hour and a half chats. When we first met he had a girlfriend, but before I knew it he was getting married and I was helping him plan his honeymoon in Rome. We tried many times to arrange a nomikai (“drinking party”) together, but it kept getting put off for one reason or another, and before we knew it we were looking at his calendar and realizing that today would be our last Wednesday together.
One of the things that made our meetings so much fun, even though they were essentially nothing more than language lessons, was the content. We’d teach each other as many dirty phrases, cultural oddities, or past wrongdoings as we could think of. His wife, who had as offbeat a sense of humor as myself and Yano, used to love hearing about what he learned after he returned from each “lesson.” And he always said that she wanted to meet me, so on February 12th they invited me over to their apartment for dinner.
I think it’s safe to say that we all had a great time – my sides certainly hurt from laughing by the time I had to jump on the train back to Kyoto (incidentally, that would be the last local train I’d ride in Japan). It was also interesting to interact with Yano entirely in Japanese for the first time ever – when we first met I couldn’t even put together one competent sentence, so I got the sense that he was a bit surprised to see me able to function for so long without using any English at all. We were both a bit sad when we said goodbye, realizing that if I couldn’t make it back to Kansai for work we may in fact never see each other again, but he promised to keep studying his English and to get in touch if a business trip ever brought him out to the US. I hope to someday be able to surprise him with an unexpected knock on his apartment door in Takatsuki City.
Two days left.