My last week in Japan! Despite all of the moments of mental misery, these two months have gone by quickly. I am flying out of Narita on Friday afternoon and will arrive at RDU sometime that evening, after having crossed enough date lines to make my mind spin. But I don't mind. At this point, I'd swim home. Still, I survived and I learned so much--not just about the Japanese language, but about God, silence, the Japanese people and their way of life, and myself, essentially. And these are lessons that I wouldn't trade, not even for a long summer at home in my own bed. Perseverance, character; and character, hope, and all that sort of thing, you know?
Diane and I had a marvelous time in Nikko this weekend. Even though it was our compromise for not being able to go to Kyoto, I think Nikko may have been the better place to go. Our hostel was right across the street from the biggest lake in Japan and it was pristine, calm, utterly gorgeous. (You'll have to see the photos for proof; they're up on Flickr.) We hiked all day long (seriously. I think we walked a total of ten miles in a mere two days. We walked and climbed everywhere, because no matter how expensive the buses or trains are, your legs are always free. Up mountains, down mountains, around lakes. You name it; we walked there).
We basked in and around the glory of the lake (Chuzenjiko), trekked up rivers, saw waterfalls, rice fields, the beauty of the Japanese countryside, which is, in my opinion, far superior to the muscular, jarring roar of Tokyo. As Saul Bellow writes in the book I just finished (More Die of Heartbreak): "Tokyo and Osaka are villes fourmillantes, they swarm. Any door you pull releases hundreds of people. You can’t open a closet without finding somebody sitting in it. Lift a manhole cover and they come streaming out. " Nikko was, mercifully, nothing of the sort. We spent three hours trekking around the lake and, to our astonishment and delight, didn't see a soul.
We had no agenda, no places to be at any certain time, and most of all, no homework to finish and no grammar to memorize. It was precisely the rest that we needed and I am infinitely grateful for it. We dipped our feet in the lake at sunset, read books and ate lunch on rocks in a river, watched a child-eating crow carry away our garbage, survived sleeping in a room with five strange men (one who snored like a chainsaw at two in the morning), took photos, enjoyed the strange looks we received because of Diane's old man pants (a story which I'll probably recount in one of the photo captions).
Diane was patient with me, even when I got irritable and stubborn--("Look! We'll just go down this mountain and I'm sure the waterfall is on the other side!" "No. Diane. I am not walking. Any. Further. There is not a trail there and even if there was, the waterfall is not up this mountain. It's down there." She would just shrug and hop down from a ledge, quite nimbly considering the crotch of her pants was between her knees. But even though I was grumpy, I would still like to add that I was right...) I think traveling brings out one’s true personality; it uncovers what you have sitting in the bottom of your heart, both the ugly and the good. This has been an interesting (and occasionally frightening) thing to learn.
So Nikko was grand. I would go again and take you with me.
Yesterday I had fried octopus balls for lunch.
After two months in Japan, I think my English skills have deteriorated considerably, so forgive me if my writing isn't entirely coherent. I imagine I'll need some time back home to re-acquire the ability for creating clear English composition.
Haven't the words to describe my eagerness to see all of your beautiful faces. I am homeward bound!