Day 324 – I’m a bit further than a thousand kilometers away

I brought with me an iPad and a phone and that’s it. I mean, it’s equivalent to what I came to Japan with the first time but this time it’s deliberate. For the next two weeks this blog will be raw, irregular and inconsistent. But it’ll be an account of my thoughts with a lot of my pride set apart. Because even if I try to be this really cool person with no feelings, I actually do have feelings and I’m not going to try to make it sound awesome like I did carefully for an entire year during my exchange. Same goes for the pictures, they won’t be touched in any way because an iPad can only do so much and because I decided to go with the raw vibe. If the horizon is not straightened, I’ll have to deal with it. Sad, I know. Please enjoy.

November, 18th, 2015.

In the train to Schiphol at 6:30
I’m leaving and I’m parted between the ‘what the fuck am I doing’ part and the ‘stay proud and untouchable’ part. I didn’t tell anyone, but it ended being known a little bit. I’m leaving two weeks to Japan, officially for a wedding but I know that there’s more to that than just a wedding. It feels like an escape. A temporary one but an escape I forgo to tell anyone about.

I don’t know if I’ll find what I’m looking for, not even being sure I’m about anything.

I’m excited, I’m like a toddler missing school.

I’m trying to stay cool though.

I think I started grasping the limits of my positivism regarding the situation in Europe. I am still thinking that we should start getting used to this state of insecurity and that the security we took for granted is gone. And I used to think it was ok. Now I realise that it can also mean more than that. What about the opportunities that will be crush because of that? If there’s a war, it means they’ll need people and the whole economy/society is going to be affected by it. It won’t just be there and we won’t be able to live normally like before. We would like to, and it’d be possible to a certain extent but when it will start presenting limits to present opportunities, that’s when it will start being tough. I have the chance to have choice and I may have taken that for granted. What if tomorrow France gets out of Europe? I’ll have to come back and I’ll be stuck. I think I’m free to go where I want and I have this Liberty but this is whole very fragile. I think our bubble is starting to crack slowly. The west is getting a taste of their own medicine.

I’m in the plane and I starting to realise what’s going on. We haven’t departed but I’m starting to get this familiar feeling of actually going somewhere. I’m a bit afraid too.

We flew over the extreme north of Russia and while some bases could clearly be seen lit, we have now entered the dead cold rock territory of Siberia and no lights can be seen, except the faint ones in the sky. No aurora either.

Eating ice cream over Siberia.


November, 19th, 2015.

How weird. I’m there. It literally smells like Japan. It’s weird how easy this whole thing has been. I’m happy to be back.

The sun is warm, the train quiet with some Japanese chuckles. It’s so peaceful. I think I’m back in this “Japan phase” when one arrives, everything seems to go together.

C’est comme si j’étais jamais partie, c’est comme si l’année et demie passée aux Pays-bas n’existait pas.

Never mind, just saw a windmill with a Dutch flag attached on it. The Netherlands are following me even in Chiba Ken.

I’ve been in Japan for one hour, someone is already falling asleep on my shoulder in the train. (Plus he looks like a yakuza)

An old lady in front of me just gave two origamies to New Zealanders sitting next to her. This is really cute.

She just gave me one. She said it takes two minutes to make and then she left.

It’s so hot there is fresh air in the train. In November. I’m not complaining, I like the sun.

I have literally the time to make three steps outside and I see Chisato. Then I see some teachers of the kindergarten and we talk. It’s a small town.

Going quickly to Tokorozawa’s shrine, the only rotary monk of the city is there of course.

Also saw Marina at the Daeiei.

It feels like nothing changed, I’m back 2 years later  but with a better Japanese and hopefully a less douchy attitude.

I can’t really feel happy for Chinatsu because this is an arranged marriage. Same is going to happen to Chizuru and she’ll be the one to take the lead of the kindergarten.

I know I’m looking that from my western point of view and I’m biased. I also know I’m closing the eyes on the fact that perhaps all that will make them happy while I’ll still be sad and alone. But I cannot stress enough how I would rather have the choice eventually anyway. (I’m going to mention the exact same thing later in the post, just so you know)


November 20th, 2015.

The Olympus OM20 failed on me miserably, at a bad time. Went to the camera shop I noticed two years ago and this adorable Ojiisan took the time to go through every option and I went out of his shop with an Olympus OM1, a bunch of filters, new cases and some films. He gave me lots of stuff for free and he was kind enough to listen patiently to my broken Japanese. He was so kind. He had pictures of Chichibu and Hokkaido on the wall, I happily recognised them before he confirmed. I made a mistake on staircases rice plantations. I said China and in fact they are in Kyushu. I know what I’ll go check out next year!

I admire Japanese perseverance. Now it is certain, Chinatsu’s marriage is arranged and so will be Chizuru’s. Chizuru already knows she’ll take over the kindergarten.

I can’t be fully happy knowing that, but I cannot ignore that I have my western point of view and it doesn’t mean I’m right. But I admire their perseverance through life, doing things that will have an impact during a lifetime and putting up with it.

Saw a policeman run next to an exceptional convoi of a very slow truck or something. He had to run next to it all the way through and he kept his motivation, with almost a smile. I’m admiring this.


I am sure there’s a great story behind this but for now I’m left wondering why the fuck is there a lemon (yuzu) cut in slices on the ground.

I’m in front of Tokorozawa, pretending to write on my phone because I’m waiting for Marina and Mana and they’re taking ages. I think one girl recognised me but it’s too awkward if I raise my head so I don’t know what to do. Just keep writing. I was like “act like you belong” but it obviously didn’t work. Aaarg, someone help me, Marina show your face or Mana, please!

What should I do? More people I know are walking towards me, it’s so awkward. Damn damn, what should I do? Rah, damnit. What a bad idea.

I’m keeping my head down and filling my notes, that’s so useless. Feeling it at minus twenty percent. At least minus twenty percent.

Well it felt like it was something I had to do, go at Tokorozawa high school and show my face.

On a lighter note, I finally emailed Baba and I’m having dinner with the Touma on Monday. She sounded so excited and I could hear her voice when reading her email. She’s so caring and sweet. She asked me what I wanted to eat, told me to come whenever I wanted because it was “my house” and how my room was still there and my fingerprints still in the house security system. I’ll definitely bring flowers Monday, I remember she loves them.

It was surprisingly really nice, no blank times. Mana and Marina are sweet girls, and my Japanese is not too rusty. It is but not as much as to slow down a conversation. Like Okaa-San, they’re not put off when I don’t come up with the good vocabulary right away and always helps me. By the way, now Mana wants to go to Florida. Marina is going to a design school (architecture style?) in Tokyo and Mana doesn’t know and is still unsure she’ll pass the entrance examens in February. I really cross my fingers for her.

Marina was telling me I was going in with so many things and this morning Otousan told the journalist that interviewed me two years ago, really proudly that I was working at ESA and went to the oldest university in the world. (To be honest I think it’s of Europe but ok) and that I was going to Nagasaki University (which is apparently a good national university)

I take all of these things for granted and don’t even think about it. I was taken aback when he said that. He cared or at least noticed. (It looks mean when I say that but I thought they didn’t really care)

I don’t know, it’s good for my self estim and I can’t be happy enough to have supportive people around me. Yesterday Okaasan asked me if my mother didn’t oppose my project to go to Japan while class was happening but I have to say, no, she didn’t oppose to it. In fact, she’s been incredibly supportive about it and I can’t stress how lucky I am to have supportive parents in my life, that encourage me to follow my plans and projects. It is so rewarding.

So far, so good. Coming back to Japan feels good.

I need to prepare a few words to say for Chinatsu’s wedding by the way. Her friend Ayami told me they’d call me there, so I need to think of something. It needs to be not too long, nor too short. I hope it’ll be ok.

Oh I spent way too much money today. Okaasan, Otousan, Obaachan and Ojiichan gave me money and I saw this red skirt. This will be my third. this is not wise.

I’m in the bath, my second one since I’m there. The bath salts I put in it made it green, with a scent of onsen. I’m trying to enjoy it as much as I can because I don’t have that back in the Netherlands. I understand why Japanese love baths so much. It is a peaceful time for yourself, with nothing to distract you. Except if you bring a cellphone like me and type some of your thoughts.

Just a recap of whats been up:
18th left from Amsterdam, met my dad for 10mn at the airport on his way to New York. 15 hours later, arrived in Japan the 19th.
19th took the train from Narita airport to Tokorozawa. Was picked up by both Otou-san and Okaa-san, they went back to the kindergarten (saw Chizuru and Ayamki, we talked for a while) and I decided to for a walk. 4 hours later and some kilometers afterwards, came home and helped Okaa-san to make some curry. Obaa-chan and Ojii-chan came say hi and it was with hugs that we reunited.
20th started the day with the festival of the kindergarten. Lots of work, smiles and efforts put into it. Wandered around to fix my camera problem in the heaven of analog cameras, then met up with some of my friends from high school. Had dinner with Otou-san and Okaa-san at the close ramen-ya san, we talked till late.


Story time by Otou-san:

He used to go drink with his friends in this narrow alley where there are a lot of bars. It used to be the place where the Americans went to drink (and whore) from 1945 to the 70s. For 30 years, there used to be a U.S military base at the old aerodrome (which doesn’t exist anymore). As a consequence, crime rates were higher in this area of Saitama than in other cities. Tokorozawa had therefore this nasty reputation and people from cities such as Kawagoe like Okaa-San were weary about going to Tokorozawa.


Things changed now, the Americans left, the shops closed and things got quiet.


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