Going to Japan was like going home for me ever since I could remember. The feeling of excitement that rushed over me whenever I stepped foot into the airport was like no other. My parents are both from Japan and I grew up going there on annual trips to see my relatives. To me, while I wasn't born or never even grew up there, I consider Japan a second home.
Japan may be known for the shining gold roof of Kinkaku-ji,the grand, red gates of Asakusa, or the neon lights and glimmering buildings in Shibuya, but Japan to me is that, but also so much more.
To me, Japan is...
Waking up early from jet lag and going to the supermarket bakery with my mom.
Watching TV on the heated carpet while feeling the cold air come in while my grandma does her laundry on the balcony.
The spread of breakfast my grandparents make. Toast,sausages, yogurt, black sesame jam, eggs, and fruits.
The smell of incense and the grassy smell of the tatami underneath my fingers, as I mindlessly trace the smooth grooves.
Riding the trains, being rocked softly, watching the changing city pass by.
Seeing my friends who've moved back to Japan and have a day out, as if I live there.
Going to The Loft and Mujirushi, buying cute stationery and knick knacks for back home. Stopping by the depachika, to buy things for dinner that night.
It's where my grandma had kept a mug cup for me, despite only visiting once a year or so. A pink one, with bunnies.
But I know my "home" is not permanent. As much as I think or want to think this will be the same years to come as I visit Japan, I know that it's due to the rare privilege of having grandparents who have opened up their homes for my parents and me. I know that one day this will all change. I always knew that, even as a child, that one day my grandparents would pass. I tried not to think about it.
I was forced to though, when my mom travelled to Tokyo for a business trip and I tagged along. My dad (Tokyo is his hometown) wasn't with us so we stayed in a hotel. While I enjoyed the fancy-ness of the room, the hightech mirrors they had (they had a section of it that doesn't fog up!), and the convenience of it being right smack dab of Shibuya, I felt like I got a glimpse of my future. It's not really just about the cost-free stays or home cooked meals. It was the feeling of home I missed. Watching TV while peeling tangerines with my grandma, sleeping in a futon, knowing where things are in the house, the distinct smell of their homes, are the things that fancy rooms and polite hotel staff can't replace.
I’m not sure what my future in Japan will look like. My maternal grandma recently moved out of her home into a care home. That's one home I lost. I didn't get to say goodbye to anything at her place. My pink bunny mug cup, her towels that she kept for me, the little dolls underneath her cabinet in her TV. The pictures of my grandpa and my great grandparents. I try to ignore the thoughts but the reality is that in ten years, twenty years, maybe even five years from now, my future visits to Japan will be drastically different than when I visited as a child.
These are unanswered thoughts that no one can tell me the answers to. But for now, whenever I can go back I try to soak in the happiness of being back home. Tadaima!
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