I'll Miss You, Japan

Alex Nguyen
December 23, 2015

I knew this day would come from the very beginning. Those before me were right when they said three and a half months would pass almost instantly. It's been a wild ride, to say the least. I've learned so much, eaten so much, and  experienced so much. Japan has been so good to me and I don't think I'll ever have the words to say how much I appreciate her. From the people I've met to the unforgettable adventures had along the way, my time studying abroad in Japan has been nothing short of life-changing and extraordinary (cheesy, I know).

Thinking about my return to America is something I both dread and look forward to. It's bittersweet as I look forward to being back in my element in New York City, but I'll always cherish the times I had while studying abroad in Japan. I won't be too sad, though, because I know this will not be the last time I'll be in Japan-- that's for sure. Life in New York City and life in Tokyo are somewhat similar, but there are things that both places have that make them unique. Regardless, there will be some things about Japan that I will miss that I know I cannot have in New York or America in general. Here's to them!

To the railway system of Japan: thank you. Despite the fact that you're wicked expensive, I thank you. The price I paid for you was worth it, I must say. From your hyperclean interior to your astutely designed infrastructure, I will miss you in all your glory. Thank you for always always always being on time. Thank you for demarcating where to wait on platforms for both boarding and exiting trains. Thank you for moving bodies and populations miles and miles with precision, grace, and punctuality. Thank you for creating an environment in which people are quiet, where every seat is taken by only one person, and where general rudeness or unpleasantries do not really occur (I'm clocking you, MTA). Here's to your stations that have restaurants, clean restrooms, outlets, WiFi, and quite literally anything a human could possibly need all while commuting. When I see a rat scurry across someone's foot on the platform of a New York City subway station or find myself waiting an extra thirty minutes when the train was allegedly supposed to come twelve minutes ago, I'll think of you and smile while recounting a nicer time in life, railway systems of Japan. 

To the city of Tokyo: thank you. You showed me something I had no expectations of. You showed me what one of the busiest metropolises on this side of the planet looks like. You had everything I could think of and more. From your thousands of restaurants and little dives that I stuffed my face and stomach in on countless occasions to your izakayas and bars where a celebratory drink or two or seven were had, I'll leave you knowing I was never dissatisfied nor left hungry. Your frenetic heartbeat captivated me. Everything about you is beautiful. You're clean, bustling, full of life, bigger than I thought, and so culturally diverse and unique that I don't think I could ever replace you. Shout out to your unique neighborhoods, your food markets, your parks, your alleyways, and your architecture. Honestly, shout out to everything about you--your construction, your infrastructure, even your manholes. To a city with so much life and culture, thanks: I feel renewed after visiting you.

To the people of Japan: thank you. Coming from America, I could not have been more warmly welcomed culturally. I come from a chaotic nation with a downright deplorable sociopolitcal environment and a culture of mistrust for things outside ourselves (generally). Coming to Japan and realizing that you all are entirely different from the kind of people I'm used to, but in infinitely better ways, was such a relief. Obviously, I'm making cultural generalizations, but this is my story, so back off. Anyways, Japanese people, y'all are wonderful. Shout out to your culture of kindness and selflessness and your respect for boundaries. It may just be me, but from what I've seen, y'all really care for one another to some extent and conduct yourselves with an inherent respect and politeness that I clearly am not used to back home. Furthermore, I just wanna say thanks for being you. Living in an Asian country has been so refreshing--as if I've been reborn. It was so wonderful to live in a land where Asians are the majority. Though I'm not Japanese myself (some people told me I passed sometimes!), I just think it was nice to NOT have to deal with the racism of America for a while. Obviously, Japan has its own issues, but the point of this is to say thanks for allowing me to not be in constant anger. Also, bonus, but thanks for also being beautiful--y'all really showed me a different definition of beauty through your fashion and standards which I will definitely adapt for myself, but regardless, thanks for that.

To those who I've met and those who have cared for me along the way--the staff at IES Abroad Tokyo, the e-Pals, my fellow study abroad students, my host family--I don't think I'll ever be able to say it enough: thank you endlessly. Your unfettered kindness, willingness to take me in, Japanese language guidance, counseling, and so on have helped me in more ways than you might think. I have grown immensely since September and you all are a part of that wondrous maturation and process. I could not possibly recount all the occasions or the ways in which you all have supported me throughout this time even if I wanted to. Without you all, I would not be able to speak Japanese as I can now, I would not be able to talk about all the things I've done or the experiences I've had, and I would not be who I am now. Thank you for making these past months studying abroad some of the most nurturing, enjoyable, and comfortable months of my life. All of the laughs shared, stories told, meals had, and adventures had will forever be in my heart and mind. Thinking about returning to America is bittersweet for this very reason: my heart will always think of you. I know this will not be the last time, but it was the only time in which we could all exist together in this space and time we shared. I know the future only holds more beautiful experiences to be had, so I'm optimistic. For now, I just want to express my gratitude. Wherever our lives take us, I know we will always have each other in some capacity. Here's to that and here's to you-- cheers! Until next time.

Alex Nguyen

<p>Hi, I&#39;m Alex. I&#39;m a junior at Columbia University majoring in Urban Studies and dabbling in other areas of interest like race &amp; ethnicity studies. Outside of school, I like to eat, cook, take pictures, shop, have long conversations, and travel. Food, fashion, culture, literature, and music are all things I love. Black and gold are my favorite colors. Having lived in New York City for two years now, I feel quite at home. However, living in Japan is something I have wanted to do all my life, so I&#39;m quite excited to finally live out that dream. From the local culture to the food to the fashion, I&#39;m pumped to engage with it all during my semester abroad.</p>

Destination:
Term:
2015 Fall
Home university:
Columbia University - CC and SEAS
Major:
Urban Studies
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