I LEFT MY HEART IN JAPAN

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I finally checked Japan off my bucket list!

The visit was not short of hiccups- I was pressed for time and could not get a visa. But luckily, the stars aligned, and I was able to find a guided tour for my parents and I. 

You know your love for a place is on a different level when your heart instantly explodes when you touch down. My dad observed, with a chuckle, that I was a little girl again. I may have skipped off the airplane. 

My first stop in Japan was a  convenience store inside my hotel. I was very much a kid in a candy store-I grabbed just about everything I thought looked good. The assortment of snacks and drinks made my heart sing. My parents watched in amusement (and maybe horror) as I ravaged each delicacy. My dad observed, quite accurately, that I was a hungry caveman on the loose. 

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The Girl from The Convenience Store

We were two hours away from Tokyo by train, but it didn't discourage our decision to have dinner there that night. With a confidence boost from Google map, we set off for Tokyo without understanding a single Japanese word. Still, we had limited time and I was nervous about the two transfers we had to make. I feared repeating my transportation mishap in Manhattan. Luckily, a Japanese girl who had helped me confirm my bus station location earlier came to my aid again. She could've simply pointed out the correct route and sent us on our way. Instead, she decided to lead us all the way to our second train. We talked during the entire trip and couldn't believe how much we clicked in just one train ride. Before she got off the train, she asked if I remembered her. I didn't! I was in shock and searched my brain for any hint of her in my short memory of Japan. 

"I was the cashier at the convenience store that you went to earlier!" She finally shared, "I remembered you because of your smile!" She smiled at me and said goodbye, but not before making me promise to visit her the next morning. 

What a wonderful surprise. It reminded me of a quote I recently read. "People may not remember who you are but they will remember how you made them feel." I couldn't believe a smile that came so naturally to me had caused her to show me such kindness.

The next morning, as promised, I went to the convenience in our hotel. I saw my new friend standing by the door as if she was anticipating someone. When she saw me, she broke into a dazzling smile, hugged me and handed over a bag full of snacks and bottles of water. She knew the way to this foodie's heart! I was floored and touched by her kindness. 

The day after we left Japan, she messaged me on Facebook to say that it was very difficult to say goodbye to me and she almost cried… Frankly, I felt the same. I admit that I pour my heart and soul out to everyone I meet. It may be a scary thing to do for others, but wearing my heart on my sleeve has been a blessing for me. Everyone that I've shared my heart with has reciprocated with the same genuine kindness. There are still good people in the world. They just want to help, without expecting anything in return, like the Japanese girl I had befriended. I truly believe in alway treating others how you want to be treated.

The Alleys

It has been a few months since I've returned from Japan, but I still cannot forget the surge of emotions I felt each time I took a stroll in the many alleys that decorated the country. It was an intense feeling of familiarity, like I had walked down those very paths in a dream. I savored each step, and tried my best to capture the serenity of each moment with my mind, because a camera would not do it justice.  As a result, I woke up extra early each morning (totally not a morning person) to leave my parents behind and walk around in solitude. I loved mornings in Japan. The roads were always quiet, yet I never felt alone or lonely. I watched people fly through the alleys on their  bicycles, adults and children on their way to work and school.  I smiled at the early birds jogging and running along the streets. I paused by lovely doors with unrecognizable Japanese characters. I gaped at the electric wires crossing and hanging on the utility poles. I admired the spotless, clean streets… I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed getting up early and walking alone so much.

Love at first sight

I have always wanted to visit Japan and knew I would love it, but I did not expect to fall in love the way that I did. Every little detail excited me: the countless vending machines at each corner, the small decorations on restaurant doors, the patterns of the tiles lining the streets, and the big smiles on every casher we ran into at convenience stores. I have never had such a strong feeling for a place besides California. I hope to one day spend a part of my life in this otherworldly country.This 6-day trip to Japan was a sweet dream. I don’t remember much of what I did, but I sure remember how it made me feel.