Friday, October 21, 2016. At last, the real final day. I was to fly back home to Jakarta that very evening. There was an understandable feeling of not wanting to go home yet. If I could, I would spend a little bit more time there. I was already so in tune with the flow of the city, it would be a shame to part with it again. However, because of how amazing the brief time had been up until that point, a part of me was also ready to come back to my daily life back home. I feel, in a short space of time, I had been healed from all the stress, frustration, and self-doubts, just by being a little part of Tokyo for that week. I feel refreshed and ready to take up new challenges. I thought to myself, “Let’s go back home, work hard, and soon come back here again, possibly for a longer period.”

That morning, I woke up later than my usual routine from the past three days. Because my flight was still in the evening, I had plenty of time to savour and cherish one last look of the city that I’ve grown so much used to. That day, I planned to just hang around Ikebukuro, taking my time slowly to reflect on my experiences.

After getting all of my stuffs ready, I went to check out of Kimi Ryokan. The staff in charge of the front desk changes everyday and up until that point I had met three different staff members. It just so happened that the staff that helped me check out that day was the same one that welcomed me when I first arrived. It felt kind of nice to be sent off by a slightly familiar face. I made sure to thank the staff member for taking care of me while I was there. My stay in Kimi Ryokan was really pleasant, but I only had one regret: not trying out the Japanese-style bathtub or ofuro. I actually tried to check if it was available after I saw 君の名は, but unfortunately I just missed it because another person had booked to use it. I think, in the future, when I come back to stay in Tokyo on a solo trip like this, I would definitely stay in this ryokan again and try that ofuro.

Anyway, while waiting on my Narita Express train to take me to the airport, I visited a few more nearby places. After buying my usual onigiri breakfast, I went to Ikebukuro Park to sit for a while and had breakfast. I sat there, facing the morning sun. I remember sighing multiple times. How miraculous had that week been for me! I could start feeling the exhaustion, but it was a good kind of exhaustion. My feet were sore from walking during all those days, but those feet felt better; they felt braver. After this experience, I feel like those feet are ready to go anywhere.

After that, I walked to Mitake Shrine to pray one final time–I made sure to whisper all of my gratitude–and to get omikuji (however, there was only omikuji written in Japanese in this shrine, so until now I’m still having trouble reading it–but from what I can understand so far, it thankfully sounds good). After the shrine, I proceeded to find a post office, because I needed to send a few more postcards. Because it was not lunchtime just yet, I decided to sit in a coffee shop to write a little bit on my journal. More than writing, though, I actually listened to one of the songs in my playlist–AKB48’s 「365日の紙飛行機」. I’ve always loved this song ever since I discovered it from watching Asa ga Kita, but I never looked up the lyric translation, even though I’ve pretty much had the song memorized already. That day, I finally read the translation and understood what it meant, and because of the time and the place, the song really hit me emotionally. After slightly crying in public because of an AKB48’s song, I settled in a small restaurant-slash-bar to have lunch. I ate a lot that noon, because I know I wouldn’t be able to eat until I got on the plane.

Even though I really tried to take my time, I actually got to the train platform one-and-a-half-hour early. I ended up sitting there with all of my stuffs, waiting for my train, watching people go by, and studying my Japanese grammar book every once in a while (Trivia: The very next day I actually had a mid-term test for my Japanese class, so I had to study!). If I had to wait that long anywhere else in the world, I would probably be so bored and mad at everything. But of course, since this is Tokyo that we’re talking about (and by that time, my bias level was flying high), I wasn’t. I was thankful for that waiting time. Even if it was only from one of the chairs on the train platform of Ikebukuro Station, I got a chance to look around me again and felt grateful that I had been there.

The view from the train.

While planning this trip, I’ve always wanted to do one silly thing: listen to a GReeeeN song during a train ride, while looking out of the window longingly. That afternoon, I did exactly that during my Narita Express journey. I especially chose the song 「遥か」for that moment, and as the song kept playing in my ears, I couldn’t get my eyes away from the scenery outside. I remember seeing the changes of scenery from the center of Tokyo, to the edge, then to the countryside towards Narita, which is technically in Chiba. I remember my first time in Japan and the day I had to leave–I was crying, but that was because of the people I met during the program I was in. This time, my inside ached because I was parting with the place, with the city, with the air. As I sang along to a few lyrics of that GReeeeN song, I made a promise to myself, “I will come back! I have to come back!” More than ever now, this place has become a home to me. And I have gained new dreams about this new home. The end of this trip was just the beginning of a new mission: to realize these new dreams of coming back there.


「遥か」-  GReeeeN

I truly, honestly fell in love with Tokyo that week. It felt rather strange, because I thought, its sheer bigness and loudness would be too much for someone like me who appreciates a silent peace every once in a while. However, perhaps at this very moment of my life, Tokyo has the right kind of pace that I was looking to implement in my life. Not to put it in a pedestal, for I realize if I were to really live there, there would be stressful situations, too, but the kind of craziness that I imagine Tokyo provides for its people is the kind that I’m willing to put up with.

Looking back, one of my favorite things about experiencing Tokyo was its underground world of subway trains and stations. Since I used Metro the most while I was there, I spent a considerable amount of time exploring the Tokyo underground. It was my first time learning to use subway trains, since we don’t have it here. You see, the Tokyo underground, those train lines and those stations, feels like a whole set of town on its own. It’s like, you have the usual, street-level Tokyo with its lights, people, noises, billboards, and cars, but then you also have the underground Tokyo, filled with trains, stations, shops, bakeries, vending machines, lockers, and whatnot. But the one thing that stands out the most there was the people, who are going to and from wherever they want or wherever they’ve been. When I was there among these people, I feel like being part of a movement. A big, collective movement. It seemed to me, these people in underground Tokyo always move with a certain purpose. I feel like they are a big part of why the whole city is so alive, even when they’re covered underground. I feel like they are a kind of backbone of the city. And there I was, in what was supposed to be a strange and foreign place. But once I got to the underground world, I felt a sort of mysterious camraderie with all those strangers. We were all there because we had somewhere to be. It was our path to get there. In my solitude, I felt a kind of fascinating togetherness.

Left: 2013 - Right: 2016
Left: 2013 – Right: 2016

It was such a comfort to know that the city hasn’t changed much in three years. I remember, on my first full day, I stood on one of the ends of the Shibuya crossing, exactly on the spot where I stood three years earlier. Seeing that view of buildings, billboards, and people–this time during the daytime–was quite emotional. I had come full circle since three years ago when I came without having the slightest clue about everything there. Back then, I was overwhelmed. And this time, it felt like coming home. “Ah, there you go. Crowded as ever,” I thought to myself. There I stood, feeling that perhaps I really belong in this place, in this world. Not necessarily in “Shibuya” as a limited space, but Shibuya makes me aware that I indeed belong in this world that I live in; that we live in.

Smiley face on the cup (with Nino as bonus).

My flight home was another comfortable one. But more than that, it was an especially “Japanese” one. When I got on the plane, I thought it was me leaving the Japanese soil and its charms, but as it turned out… not quite just yet. It was such a small matter, but to me, as the person who had gotten really fond of the Japanese life, when I got offered miso soup during the meal on the plane, I was so happy. Mentally, I was preparing myself to come back to Jakarta, and yet this little Japanese thing was still being kindly offered to me as I was leaving the country. I also remember being given a cheese bread, just before landing, and its taste was very Japanese–I’m not sure how to explain this, but it just reminded me of all of my experiences in Japan. However, the warmest thing that happened to me during that flight home was when I asked the flight attendant to bring me some water. It was late, all of the other passengers were mostly asleep. The flight attendant came back with a plastic cup of water with a smiley face drawn on it. I squealed at the level of cuteness from that really kind gesture. What a great way to end this whole thing!

I took that smiley face as a sign from Japan saying, “See you soon! You’re welcome here again anytime! We’re really looking forward to it!” And it reminded me of the intro to an Arashi song:


「台風ジェネレーション」-  Arashi

What a perfect way to sum up my feelings. That wasn’t a goodbye. Because we’ll definitely meet again!

(…to be continued in Part 7/7)