So, for longer than I can admit without sounding insane, I have admired Japanese culture. It’s been my dream to go to Japan one day, and recently that dream came true.
I wrote a rather idealized version of what my time would be like and added a smattering of angst to create a short story I affectionately named “Fuk-u-oka.” If you didn’t get the pun, I went to Fukuoka, Japan.
I know what you’re thinking, Ghibli, Pokemon, and Maid Cafes. I didn’t go to Studio Ghibli (despite being obsessed), I didn’t go to the Pokemon Village or Harajuku. Instead I stayed in the humble Fukuoka prefecture, which is located in the Kyushu.
For a person seasoned in knowledge of the major cities like Kyoto, Tokyo, or Osaka, it is essentially in the middle of nowhere. It is closer to Seoul, Korea than Tokyo, and it takes an hour and 40 minutes by plane to get to Tokyo. I know. That’s how I got there. I won’t complain though, I had a fantastic time and it was something of a miracle. I could have never afforded the trip on my own. Thanks to a few lucky breaks, it was practically free.
Going off the beaten path gave me a unique vision into what “real” Japan looks like, what real students and people see, what it’s like without a huge tourist twist. Not saying that Fukuoka doesn’t have it’s tourism, the main city Tenjin was quite a treasure trove, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Let’s start here.
I arrive in Japan on July 6th 2014. It’s raining like crazy. Turns out we arrived at the tail end of the rainy season.
“It’s going to rain like everyday.”
I turn to the side and look at Ayumi, the girl who had been trapped at the airport, waiting for my arrival. They planned to make one trip to drop us off at the dorm, and one trip only. Ayumi is from Australia. Her hair is long and red-tipped. I can tell she’s got a wild-streak, no pun intended.
“I don’t think it’ll rain everyday,” I say/hope.
She shrugs and we sit in the back of the car. Did I mention my airline left my luggage in Paris?
“Are we the last to arrive?”
“I think so,” she says, stifling a yawn. “They want to take us out to dinner. You going?”
“Yeah, probably. After I rest a little.”
Twenty-six hour flight? No sweat.
I become incredibly aware of the fact that I only have two pairs of underwear an an extra shirt in my carry-on. Well, it sucks to be you doesn’t it sweetheart?
The driver is in front of me on my right, which as an America is flat out terrifying. Every time he makes a right turn I think we’re about to die. The driver is relatively zen, a calm round man with glasses, who is completely silent. It’s not because he can’t speak English though. He spoke to us before.
“How is your Japanese?”
I turn to Ayumi, her sharp eyes looking at me curiously.
“It’s alright,” I say. “I’m still a beginner so I only know the basics.”
She lets out a curse. “Well I don’t know any. That girl, Analese, she’s like fluent or something.”
I recount her texting us in Hiragana and nod. I had spent considerable time consulting my textbook and Google Translate before my patience wore thin, and I resigned myself to not knowing what she’d said.
We let out a sigh and I look out the window. The rain trickles down the box-shaped car. I stare out at a red, blue, and yellow sign, branding it into my memory. It’s written in Katakana and I can make out a few sounds. An “oo” and a “ka.”
I’m in Japan. I’m actually in Japan.
I don’t care about the rain, nor do I mind the gray sky and the fact that I don’t have clothes. For now.
For now, all is right with the world.
And for now, this world is all mine. ^_^
-End of Part 1