Japan: Final Farewell Thoughts

“No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow.” – Lin Yutang

Sitting at my desk, on my last day of school, I can’t help but recall all the major ‘lasts’ from my life; Uganda, Placement Year, University, and how recent, yet distant; big but now small they all seemed.

It’s been a quiet end to my time in Japan, what with my last Monday and Tuesday having no classes since 1. 3rd graders finished school last week, and 2. most of my classes being on Wednesday/Thursday/Friday. The teachers not being in the room as I write this probably adds to the calmness.

The quietness, the stillness, and acceptance of moving on is quite unnerving! After the rush of Sunday, of clearing out, packing, cleaning, Gas, Electricity and Rental people all coming round to have these 2 days of not doing much but blogging and looking up things for back at home is a gift and a curse.

It’s been great to finally clear out all the crap from my desk and apartment, I wish I had done it sooner! Far too many possessions in my life, even now as I try and get my suitcase under 20 kilos!

It’s been quite cathartic to write farewell letters to the teachers, give out presents. It feels like it’s time to move on, much like finishing VIth form, or the last few days of Uni before moving out. There’s a sadness, an ache, a sense of nostalgia for things not done, for things that must end now.

Did I achieve what I hoped to do in Japan?

Largely, I learnt the language, enough to get by, or throw together an impromptu speech, solve the problems I encountered, but not the mastery I desired, but neither did I put in the effort that required for that.

I travelled, and saw many beautiful things, experienced some crazy moments and had adventures with friends, and new ones I made on the way.

I made new friends, not as many Japanese friends as I hoped, but some, and saw past the techno-chic everybody imagines of Japan, and probably saw a more ‘normal’ side to Japan than I ever experience in the UK.

No doubt, as with any major trip undertaken, the true repercussions, the true lessons learnt and changes to oneself can’t be realised until one is away from their source for a great length of time. Away from the people whom also are growing and being shaped by similar experiences, one can really see the impressions left behind, and shudder at how they might now be had they never taken off on their foray into distant lands, and become themselves the foreigner.

Kyoto – Gion

I think, without doubt, how I will come to view visitors to my country has been immensely shifted, and as such I shall be fair kinder, more receptive and encouraging. Whilst Uganda taught me about myself, Japan has taught me about how it feels to be a foreigner, in a foreign land.

I quote myself, who at London Pre-Orientation quoted Mark Twain,

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness”

– Mark Twain

Will I return to Japan? Maybe someday. I have thoroughly loved the place, the people and everything I have done here. It’s attitudes, beliefs and design are all unique and fascinating, opening the doors to so many ‘why’ questions, so many of which are unanswered. It is a fascinating place, and I encourage all those that wander and wonder, who wish to be lost to really explore it outside of the major cities and to immerse yourself in a place that to the casual visitor is impenetrable.

But at the same time, the other-worldly strangeness, of being surrounding by indecipherable symbols, of unusual customs and palatable sense of adventure, that I remember from my arrival and journeys through Asia as a teenager, as been lost, I think summed up by Paul Fussel.

“All the pathos and irony of leaving one’s youth behind is thus implicit in every joyous moment of travel: one knows that the first joy can never be recovered, and the wise traveler learns not to repeat successes but tries new places all the time.”

– Paul Fussel

The trying to recapture something that can never be fully recovered is something that keeps me from returning to Uganda, to be in the same place, at a different time, and have those 2 moments compete and create lack, almost tainting each other, would be my main reason for not returning, despite how much I would love to see those I leave behind again.

And just like in the song Moon River, “there’s such a lot of world to see”.

The Final Countdown

Farewell Dinner
MIE48/TKT48 Farewell Dinner at Yumeya Curry

Yesterday we celebrated my farewell with curry in my favourite restaurant in Miemachi, with today’s dinner being a massive carb load ready for tomorrow’s チャレンジロード – Challenge Road.

Ah yes, tomorrow I run 30km with the male students through the Mie countryside – well I hope it’s the countryside and not a circular route!

I’m excited to have the experience and opportunity to see the countryside one last time, but soooo nervous for the distance – the Oita Half marathon was a challenge enough and that was 21km! Hopefully loads of carbs and a slower pace will right the wrongs of that day!

The flight home could be another story though :/

This morning I gave my farewell speech to the teachers – a 20 second improvised Japanese piece for the win – and received a farewell お餞別!

Farewell present from the teachers of Mie Sogo

On top my final paycheck – I hope the rate falls even more in my favour by the end of the week!

Then wednesday see my farewell dinner with my Oita friends, conveniently backing onto a National Holiday on Thursdays so that we can have a lil party at PEI afterwards.

Thursday sees a slow start to get to Oita airport, to fly to Tokyo, with a 7 hour layover so that I can kick the shit one last time with Tay-chan before hitting the 25 hour trip home – I hope the films are good!

Then I kick-stage my new life at Comp-A-Tent with founder Amanda’s 24th birthday party, and have a Bro-Valentine’s watching Deadpool, before starting at Comp-A-Tent on Monday morning!

After all,

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all”

– Helen Keller


By J.Molkenthin

James Molkenthin is an enthusiastic and energetic British Designer, with a background in Graphics, Website and Product Design.