Saitama in Spring: 2 Year Homecoming

Hi everyone!

I mentioned in my last post that I recently returned to Saitama to visit my host families and friends. When I studied abroad in my 3rd year of college, I lived in Fujimino and Kawagoe in Saitama Prefecture. I lived with 2 different host families, one for each semester, and I also got to spend time with friends whom I met while they studied at my home university in Salem, Oregon now that I was at their home university in Japan. While I do have both good and bad memories associated with my time I studied abroad, one of the best things that came out of that time was the relationships I formed or continued.

Although I was only able to spend a short time in Tokyo I was so happy that my host families made time in their schedules to meet with me. For my first host family, my host dad was unable to make it because he recently moved to a different section within his company and was busy with that, but I was able to meet with my host mom, host brother, and host sister. They are 2 years older but luckily they haven’t changed much. I was worried that because they were so young when I stayed there and the time was so short (4-5 months) they wouldn’t really care/remember me. I am also not the first and last host student they had so it would make sense if they didn’t really remember. I remember when I lived there my host dad would sometimes call me “Misa” which is the name of the student they hosted before me.

My other host family was just my host mom/aunty, but I was surprised to find out that not only did her daughter and son-in-law move from Tokyo into the house with her but that she has a child now! So I am happy to say that I now have a host nephew! A cute 2-month boy named Taishi.

While 2 years is a long time, I am grateful that it seemed like hardly any time had even passed. The kids were the same crazy and headstrong characters they were 2 years ago and my host families seem to love and care for me just the same even though time has passed and I am so appreciative.

I was also very happy to return home to the place where I spent 11 months from 2016-2017 in Fujimino and Kawagoe. The area where I stayed in Tokyo was also very familiar as I lived there for 3 months when I attended Japanese language school between semesters at university. While that memory in itself is very painful and I don’t like to remember it, it still felt really good to “come home” to Nippori and visit the places that had become so familiar to me when I lived there.

While I may not have been able to visit everyone who I wanted to see since I was only there for about 3 full days, I was able to visit my best friend who lives in Chiba and spend a day around and at Disney with her and also another friend who lives in Nippori but has now moved to Tochigi prefecture to start her new job after graduation. Coincidentally Tochigi is where I have relatives as well so hopefully if I go to visit them I can also go and visit my friend.

Some of the main things that I realized from this trip is that (1) Saitama is a special place for me and it is probably where I want to start my next life stage after my time with the JET Program is over. It is familiar, close to friends and family, and the place of many memories for me. It is also close to Tokyo and many major transportation options.

(2) is that I really am far away and isolated here in Kumamoto. Although my return flight was supposed to be on Wednesday, I got to the airport, checked-in, and got ready to go just to find out that my flight was cancelled and that I wouldn’t be able to return until the next day or two days after. Just the fact that it ended up taking about 2 complete days just to try and return home made me realize just how far away I am from everything that I want to be near to right now. While I do love my house and I have come to love Asagiri as a town, I can’t deny the fact that I am isolated and I do still feel a bit trapped in my placement.

(3) While I do sometimes get overwhelmed by feelings of being alone, I realize that I have people that love and care about me and that even if we do not keep in constant contact, if we meet it’s like nothing has changed. I found comfort in the fact that feelings don’t change so easily and that even if you can’t see it, you know that it’s there.

I realized that I really needed this trip back home to visit family and friends and that the timing was perfect to be able to revisit “home” and family in Saitama as well. So grateful that it was possible. Even though the traveling was stressful and expensive, it was more than worth it. I look forward to the next chance to be able to see everyone again in person but I know that even if we can’t meet for a while it’ll still be okay.

Thank you for reading!

❤ Kira

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