Two Shikoku Trips // Farewell Presentation // Vegan Party in Osaka // Display Change // Last day!
Thursday was my last day at Kiseki no Hoshi, and I’m flying to the USA today. I can’t believe it! I’m sure that I only just got here. Didn’t I? Luckily the last few weeks have been very busy so I haven’t had time to feel too miserable about leaving Japan, only medium-level miserable. I DON’T WANT TO GO!
When I arrived back from my holiday with A two weeks ago, the new Japanese Triad Fellows had started and so we’ve made a merry foursome for the last fortnight, on two trips to Shikoku and during the show change at KnH. It’s been great getting to know them (and to have some English-speaking people to chat to at work 🙂 ) Last week I was busy preparing for my leaving presentation to the staff & students at ALPHA, which was last Friday, and I also managed to fit in a lovely weekend in Osaka with A and friends. Of course, this week I’ve spent all my free time packing, cleaning and learning American.
I feel very sad to be leaving Kiseki no Hoshi but I was really glad to be there for one last display change- although I won’t get to see it in its completed state. All this week we were removing the Spring display to put in the Rose Show. The new main showspace display is inspired by Alexander the Great, so has a mediterranean-ish feel and is generally very pretty with lots of pastels and of course- roses! Rose is 薔薇 “bara” in Japanese: another in the line of Japanese words which have the same sound as a word in another language but a different meaning. Like 今 “yma”, which means now in Japanese, and I still translate it as here, every time. Dammit!
On our final day we had a lovely leaving tea party in the afternoon with all the staff. It felt very strange to be saying goodbye, when really I’ve only just figured out what’s going on! I shall definitely miss everyone at Kiseki no Hoshi and all the work there. Thank you very much for having me & I hope that I’ll see you again soon 🙂
Now I could write a long finishing passage, summarising all the things I’ve learnt in Japan and demonstrating that it’s been the best learning experience of my life; but actually, I think you probably already know that I’ve learnt more than I could tell you- and you don’t want to read 10,000 words of my opinions about horticulture. AND it would take ages and I have to clear out the fridge and clean the bathroom. Instead, because I’m feeling inclined to dwell in my leaving sorrows, here is a list of all the things that I’m going to miss about Japan….
Obviously. I ❤ Japanese food. Made from such fresh, seasonal ingredients and so many exciting things that we don’t have (like louts root and konnyaku, my favourites). I love udon (particularly bukkake) and soba and sushi and hojicha tea and I’ve even become rather partial to matcha. And MANJU! No more Japanese sweets for me 😦 I’m just going to have to learn how to make mochi.
There are some birds and animals common to Japan and the UK- like pigeons- but there are also so many different ones. Awaji is packed with wildlife, including wild boar (which I almost hit with the car once) and some amazing birds of prey that in my ornithological ignorance I can only describe as F***ING MASSIVE eagles. A & I also saw a tanuki in Miya Jima: super cute!
Every morning that I’m in ALPHA I wake to a chorus of tweets and bird song, my favourite of which is the ho-kokekyu. I’m going to miss that sound! The bird is actually called uguisu // ウグイス // Japanse Bush Warbler according to wikipedia, but I can’t remember that so I call it ho-kokekyu, which is the sound that Japanese people make when they do an impression of the bird’s song- you know, like we say ‘coo coo’ for a pigeon. It is impressively accurate (see clip, below), very pleasing to do and hilarious to hear other people doing it. Have a go!
All the Square Cars
So many tiny square cars in Japan. They are both practical and amusing: what’s not to love?
The Landscape & Vegetation
I’m going to miss the distinctive textures of bamboo forests, in a thousand shades of green. And steep, sharp, blue mountains covered in conifers, and the sea dotted with hundreds of islands, and panoramic views over cities and mountains and the sea all at once. And rice paddies and citrus farms and vegetable fields and flower fields. And azaleas and cherries and magnolias just growing on the hillside. Just growing there, like they do. I don’t want to get onto a plane, I want to go hiking.
Japan wins at Autumn, Winter & Spring. Reports indicate that it fails at Summer (SO HOT SO HUMID) but I think 3/4 is pretty good. Cold, crisp, dry, clear, sunny winter days are probably worth dealing with the summer heat for. I think I got rained on once in the first two months I was in Japan. ONCE. And now, in Spring, it is basically like a really really good summer in the UK. Except hotter and sunnier.
Lifestyle & Attitude
I love onsen (sitting down to wash whilst having a chat with your friends = height of civilisation), I love eating really good food in restaurants and not paying very much for it, I love litter & dog poo free streets, I love cafes and bakeries and mooching around 100s of independent shops selling funny little things, I love clean, efficient and cheap (apart from shinkansen) public transport, I love massage chairs, I love people that are respectful and don’t talk loudly on their mobile phones, I love vendos, I love ALL the shops that are always open until 21.00 or 22.00, I appreciate clean people who dress well- even if I don’t- and I love the fashion, I love the design and the products, I love the textiles & traditional crafts, I love visiting shrines and temples, I even love sleeping & sitting on tatami floor and I LOVE bean pillows. [Pillows are traditionally stuffed with beans, not feathers. A bit funny at first and then: sooo comfy!]
Conbini & Supermarkets
I could have just stuck this above but really I am going to miss convenience stores so much that they deserve a separate category. They’re SO CONVENIENT. They’re everywhere and can provide you with anything you need. And you can get actually reasonably nice ready-made bento, for cheap, almost everywhere. 7/11, Family Mart et al. make the flaccid lettuce and sweaty cheese standards from Tesco look particularly pathetic. And the supermarkets. Going to the supermarket has never been so confusing or fun.
Gardens! And Garden Work.
I may have fitted in 65 (or 66?) garden visits in my time here but there are so many more to see. And museums and galleries and castles and everything. And working in the gardens with new and interesting tools and new techniques and fun people. I love it. *Sigh*
OK- enough! There are many more things I could list but I shall stop before I start sobbing into my cha. The only thing left to say is don’t cry for me, Japan… I’LL BE BACK!