Sunday, May 07, 2006


Wednesday was the beginning of a 3 day holiday here: 'Constitution Day' May 3rd, 'Children's Day' May 5th, and "As long as Wednesday and Friday are holidays, wouldn't it be nice to declare Thursday a holiday, too?" May 4th (this is actually mandated by national law; you gotta love Japan). Traditionally, this is the absolute busiest travel time for the Japanese, as everyone takes advantage of the extended vacation to push their way through rib-crushingly jam-packed tourist attractions and historical sites. Not wanting to miss out on the fun, I decided to travel back to my Japanese hometown in Okayama Prefecture.

Truthfully, I was rather terrified about going back. Sometimes to be in Japan is to be in some strange limbo, in-between past and present, with memory and certainty running together in a way that is not always comfortable. The 3 hour bus ride to Tsuyama from the Osaka Station is one I had done many times when I was living here before, and it was always an emotional time for me: returning from dropping someone off at the airport, coming back myself from a trip to see my family in Guam, and -- particularly memorably -- boarding for the reverse course, watching Tsuyama grow smaller and smaller, and sobbing uncontrollably as I left that old life 'forever'. To return felt so strange and disconnected from anything I'm doing now. Travelling through the countryside at dusk, memories started coming back to me -- slowly at first, then faster and more vividly, till I felt as if I was being battered. Suddenly I was 21 again, then back to 27, now 23, shuttling back and forth in an uneasy arc across time. I wanted to ask the driver to pull over and let me off, so I could run and hide my face somewhere until the forcefulness of it passed. Instead, I plugged in my iPod, and willed myself to calm down.

In Japanese, there are two words for 'to return': modoru, which is a more generic verb for 'to go back', and kaeru, which means specifically 'to return to one's place of origin'. When I walked back into my Japanese parents' sushi bar, they smiled and said,

"Ah, Katie. Kaettekita."

"Ah, Katie. You've come home."


Anonymous said...

I'm so happy you made it back. I hope you told them hello from us!


Mrs. Wrye said...

Yay I'm thrilled you visited Taisho! That must have been wonderful to see them : )