It’s taken me two years to return to Japan and not as a student this past summer but as a language assistant. The nostalgia of having been in Tokyo runs deeply, yet there are still so many places, so many things I wasn’t able to finish the first time around. Although I’m not a city girl, Tokyo was my first real home away from home. I suspect it’ll always hold a special place in my heart if only for that reason alone.
Let me say that night bus is not a method that I recommend, unless you’re quite strapped for cash. Guilty as charged. An eight hour drive isn’t too bad of it is just continuous driving. However, eight hours of continuous stops, people boarding and getting off… Well, it takes a toll on your sleep cycle. By the time we finally arrived at the West Shinjuku Bus Terminal, it was 6:30am and checkin at the hostel didn’t start until 4:00pm. What’s a girl to do in a city where she no longer has a home?
Well ,you could do the honorable thing, wait for Starbucks to open, and pay up the yen for overpriced coffee and an old fashioned doughnut in order to use the free WiFi…
…or you could hang out at the alma mater and haunt the empty floors like a pro. Because, you know, that’s not creepy at all.
Retracing the old university paths of two – now swiftly going on three – years ago, the whole experience felt slightly surreal. Everyone was competing for attention, handing fliers for their clubs, and generally exuding the excitement that all undergrads feel about club week and starting university for the first time. I felt so out of place, not young enough to be an undergrad and yet only just recently matriculated…
Shakaijin. It’s Japanese for an employed adult working full time hours. And that was me. Sigh. I looked into the mirror in one of the bathrooms while I attempted to freshen up for a meeting with a former professor who would be retiring from the university soon. There were dark circles beneath my eyes, some wrinkles, and extra weight gained… I definitely did not feel 23 in that moment. I felt like an obasan stuck in a nostalgic cycle, in denial of her own age and life choices. Now a week later with a couple of full nights’ sleep in, I realize that I looked exactly how I should have looked: like a woman who had slept on a bus for 8 hours. The movies lie!!!
Lunch was, of course, at the one and only: Tariya Curry. Located a couple steps away from the SILS building, this restaurant packs a punch for its low student prices. This was the place where I tried curry for the first time and I made it my good-bye breakfast three years ago. Also it was my welcome dinner when I arrived in Tokyo for JET. I suspect Tariya will be my good-bye dinner when I leave Japan again. Some traditions, they’re just unbreakable and delicious. They have two new sets: Basil Nan and Gorgonzola Cheese Nan… Why are you so far away Tariya?! T.T
And what’s a reunion party without karaoke? 😉
Anyhow that concluded our first day back in Tokyo. The next couple of days were intense and we hit the ground running early but those are stories for another day.