So guess where I am right now? I’m sitting on a plane, flying over Alaska at the moment I believe. I’m headed to JAPAN! My friends, in just less that 6 hours (I’ve already been on the plane foreeeeeever) are coming to pick me up at Narita airport in Tokyo! The last time I was there, it was such a sad occasion.. I was traveling back from Japan in my sailor school uniform with way too much heavy luggage, and a broken heart.
This trip will be amazing – I’m staying in Japan for three weeks. For the first week, starting very very soon, I will be in Tokyo! A great bunch of kids from a university in Tokyo came to my University in first semester to study. They were so wonderful, but sadly they had to leave in December. I’m glad I got to meet them and become really good friends with them, and it was at the perfect timing too. Hanging out with them in Canada definitely made me feel better about not being in Japan. Anyway, I’m so excited! After Tokyo, I’m headed back to my beloved town of Kanazawa! Well, the city of Kanazawa. I’ve already e-mailed all my friends and one of my teachers printed out a letter from me to them saying how I would be there in a few short weeks. I have so many plans! I have so many people to see and so many things to do! Not to mention a ton of Japanese food to eat! I will post all about my trip, and I’m thinking of making a “flikr” account to host all of my photos from Japan. I will let you know!
Anyway, I wanted to finish off my blog. Like, I wanted to write about all the last things I did in Japan since that other post from July down there. My last two weeks in Japan was the busiest time of my life! So many goodbyes…
I hung out with my friends everyday afterschool. I went out for dinner and chatted with so many people. It’s amazing to think that when I got to Japan a year ago, I couldn’t understand if they were asking me my name or if they were asking me do I like to eat rice. I’m going to be honest, I think it’s so cool how I got to know people so well, that I never would have met or had the chance to know if I didn’t learn Japanese and have the amazing opportunity from Rotary.
But yeah, so in the last few weeks of being in Japan, do you know much purikura I took? I spent way too much money on that, that’s for sure! But that’s Japanese schoolgirl culture for you, and I don’t regret how much I spent on the silly little sticker pictures. I made good memories.
I went to karaoke with my exchange student friends, and I went to say goodbye to my calligraphy teacher. I didn’t know how much I really liked her until it was time to say goodbye! I’ve planned to meet up with her when I’m in Kanazawa next week.
My final host family was really helpful in the process of getting ready to leave Japan. My host mom helped me send packages and she drove me to school when I was sick – because I wasn’t sleeping enough because I was so busy. I kind of regret not being able to become super close with this family, but I barely had time in the last month for anything at all! I ate so many matcha green tea donuts in July you wouldn’t believe. They only come out in the summer – so I’m not going to be able to have any on this trip either. But that’s okay, I definitely still have them lurking around in my fat cells ahahaha.
The last days of school were really sad. Sometimes my friends would just look at me and break out crying, it broke my heart. I hated seeing them cry, and it made me cry. I took so many pictures over the last few days and I made all of my best friends huge cards with nice long letters I wrote myself in Japanese. One of the English teachers, Hirata Sensei, made everyone write a letter to me in English during one of the classes. As I’ve told you before, they can’t speak English. I didn’t read the letters until I was on the plane ride. I’m glad I read them then, they made me laugh.
I stayed over at my friends’ house one time before I went home, and I also saw “toy story 3” with one of my other best friends. We had been planning to see it forever, and it was the saddest movie I’ve ever seen – probably because it really applied to my life at that time. Going off to university, and leaving people and loved ones behind. Let’s just say the whole theatre was silent but you could hear us bawling our eyes out loud and clear. For my birthday last month, that friend actually sent me a copy of Toy Story 3 in Japanese! She’s the greatest.
My rotary goodbye party was where it hit me. Rotary had it for me about a week before I was set to get on a plane and head back to Canada. Seeing all of my host families in one room and listening to them all make a speech about our time together was so hard to hear. I really loved my host families; I was truly blessed for the chance of meeting them all, and becoming that close with all of them. I think about them often.
My school principal made everyone chant 頑張れ頑張れアシュリー (ganbare ganbare Ashleigh) at the party. It basically means “fight” or “do your best”. There’s really no English translation, but I learned the meaning of it over the year I was in Japan, and I often say it to myself for inspiration. Honestly, Yugakkan, my highschool was the best highschool in the world. Its sometime difficult to explain, and I didn’t really realize until after I left, but I learned a lot from that school and everyone there.
My last day of school was actually the worst day of my life. My host mom drove me to school and I walked in completely somber. As I entered my classroom my friends just took pictures with me, but none of us were really smiling. I had to do a speech in front of the whole school that day, but that’s no problem. I’m glad I was able to, one of my friends from another school actually never got to do a speech. It was nerve wracking standing alone in front of a thousand kids with straight black hair. I read my speech kind of off of a paper, but that’s okay. I was almost crying by the end of it. When I did end, my class actually yelled something incredible, 『アシュリー、ありがとう！』Which means “Ashleigh, thank you!” I just felt to loved at that moment, and I left the stage almost in tears. What brought me to tears was talking to my homeroom teacher outside the gymnasium, just the same way we had done a year prior – the only difference was that it was in English a year ago and now it was only in Japanese. My teacher was the best teacher in the world, she helped me with everything. When we were standing outside talking waiting for the assembly to end, she told me that the class needed a few minutes to prepare something for me in the classroom. She told me to just wait in the teachers lounge until someone came to get me. I waited about 15 minutes there, all the teachers walking by me and saying goodbye. It was really hard to do.. Then my best friend Mirai came down, and she just grabbed my hand and we ran through the hallways to our classroom where I found my class lined up infront of the chalkboard with beautiful writing all over it. And then, they sang. They sang my favourite song, the only song I knew when I first got to Japan. The song is called “Gift” and the lyrics tell a beautiful tale of how precious the gifts in life are, and how you could never ever ever forget the precious memories made – there couldn’t have been a song more applicable to me at that time. Needless to say, I dropped to the floor crying – ive never felt my heart break in half before and I hope I never have to feel that again. As they were singing this song, they were all crying too, it was the saddest thing to experience, but I’ll never forget it. They made me a scrap book, everyone made one page by themselves. It was filled with pictures and letters and my best friend Mirai even got all of the teachers to write out little letters too. It was the greatest gift I have ever received.
After all this, obviously I was crying my eyes out – and so were 99% of the people in my class. I’ve never been so sad…… We took a bunch of pictures and exchanged goodbyes. It was the worst day of my entire life……
That evening, my friend Gami who’s family owns a traditional kimono store, invited me to her house with our other good friend Risa. Her mother dressed us in beautiful Yukata’s and we went to the riverside of the old Geisha district and had a fireworks festival of out own. I will never get to do that again, and it was the coolest experience – such a Japanese tradition. Gami and I had many fights over the year, she didn’t understand my culture and I didn’t understand hers for a very long time either. But all and all, because we had so many fights, we became really good friends.
The next day was d-day. The day I was going to Canada. I headed to the airport with my family, wearing my school uniform and carrying bags that were doomed to be too heavy. Well, they were like 20lbs overweight in each of them but I feel that the combination of me being a Japanese speaking crying foreigner wearing a school uniform allowed me to pay zero cents extra, so that was nice. A ton of my friends showed up at the airport, and even my school dance teachers! I wasn’t expecting them! It was such a good surprise! Some of my host families, some of my best friends and even some of the Rotarians whom I had spent a lot of time with.
I yelled “行ってきます！”as I was leaving, and I get to say ただ〜いま today! (for all of you non Japanese speakers, that basically translates to “I’m leaving!” and “I’m back!”
As my plane flew up and over the airport, I saw my friends on the top of the viewing area waving my Canadian flag I gave them. I couldn’t stop crying until I reached Canada almost two days later……
So, there you have it. It’s something I don’t want to admit but, my exchange is over. A year seemed like such a long time before I went away, but now I see that a year is such a short time, and it certainly wasn't enough time. I think of my exchange, Japan, my friends and families everyday and the whole experience changed me forever. I have a very good life.
I will tell you all about this trip as soon as I can. I also plan on taking pictures of EVERYTHING! Especially everything I eat!
Thanks again for reading,