Bring me back to where the sun shines

Excuse the melancholic title, I was trying to put together my feelings and what would sound like Japan (land of the rising sun, get it?)

Anyway, just three weeks ago, my ultimate dream was realized - I finally went to Japan. It was strange (yet, not really) because when I was in the nearly empty plane heading for Narita, I didn't feel a sense of nervousness, or excitement for that matter. I just felt exhausted, having just returned from nearly two weeks of intense travelling around parts of Europe, then flying off again the next night really worn me out. That said, I tried my best to catch some sleep during the flight of seven hours (it was a night flight).

I recall waking up when the sun came up and saw one of the passengers seated in the next row take some pictures of the stunning sunrise glaring through the tiny window. Being jakun, I also did the same thing.

well what do you know, it really is land of the rising sun!
Landing in Narita at 8 am still didn't tickle my excitement. I guess I really was too tired to even feel exited, or maybe its just me being aloof. Anyway, upon exiting the plane, the first thing that hit me was the heat and humidity. My first thought was, 'ah, feels exactly like home. Shouldn't be a problem'. Heh, to think I'd be wrong a couple of days later.

I went through immigration (and got my meat jerky taken away in the process by extremely nice officers T_T) which took about an hour in total because I had to fill up some forms, search for my luggage and go through customs. By the time I came out to the arrival hall, it was already around 9am. I was supposed to be met by two members of MIS (Multilateral Interaction with Students - a student-led organization) but, I couldn't find the red placard among the people dressed in mostly white and black in the immediate vicinity. I quickly sent a text to Genta, the person I was supposed to meet, and luckily he managed to find me. Miscommunication aside, we waited for another hour for Sean, a participant from the Philippines to arrive while I charged my phone at a charging station. I've got to admit, I did feel foreign at that point, and I was a bit nervous about communicating with Japanese people, even though the group that I'll be with do speak English. To get things started, I began a conversation with Genta and Ryouichi, asking about the usual things: university course, which year and age, etc.) Later on, I found out that all the MIS organizing members are in fact, younger than I am. This made me realize how old I've become (T_T).

At around 11am, we went back to the departure hall to pick up Sean then headed our way towards Tokyo. I was given a suica card (suica actually means watermelon lol) with money already loaded in it, which surprised me as I had not expected to have those costs covered as well, which then made me extremely happy. The ride to Tokyo was long and before I knew it, I had knocked out in the bus. I guess sleeping on a moving vehicle is more comfortable than on a flying plane - at least the rocking reassures me that I won't plunge into the sea from thousands of feet in mid-air.

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When I said it was hot and humid like home when I stepped out of the plane, obviously I was underestimating the weather because once I got out of the bus, man the heat was intense! I can't really remember now how bad the heat was but it was definitely worse than Malaysian weather. So, Malaysians, quit complaining about the weather. You've got it good.

I'm not going to go on in detail about what happened during the entire 10 day program as obviously it would get too long and bore you till kingdom come (touch wood!), so I'll just talk about my experience and how I feel about the whole thing. One sentence: I want to go back.
I seriously, seriously do. Remember when I said I didn't feel any excitement upon landing in Narita? Well my feelings decided to hit me all at once when I arrived back home. Suddenly I wanted to just get back on the plane and fly back to where my new friends were. I contemplated on why I felt that way, and why there was a delay in the emotions felt. Perhaps I was living in the moment too much to fully appreciate what was going on? I did appreciate the friendships forged among all of us, no doubt, but I suppose I didn't think I'd feel this strongly upon leaving. Even though it's been 3 weeks and most of us have moved on to more important things in our lives, I still think about everything we've been through together - the laughter shared, the stories exchanged with each other on drink nights and the secrets whispered among new buddies. In short, we grew very close in a short period of time, though I'd think 10 days isn't exactly short at all.
I miss the karaoke sessions, the long walks under the scorching sun, the homemade meals eaten together, the fireworks, the deafening sounds of locusts/cicadas, the long train rides, the communal showers.. I miss everything.

Of course, I didn't attend this program and not get anything out of it. In fact, I feel like my view on the world has changed. In a way, I've voluntarily moved out of my comfort zone. If it wasn't for my friend Koichi who introduced this program to me just roughly 2 weeks before its deadline, I would still be this pampered child spending her Summer days playing computer games in her room like a hikikomori (引き籠り). This program gave me a new purpose and the people I've met gave me inspiration to be a better person. All this time, I couldn't find this zest for life, this aim for a future, this.. purpose. I've always lived life in the moment, and this resulted me in following the flow and see where it takes me, thus never really planning ahead. Now that I've had a glimpse, I am actually considering social and humanitarian work. I've never thought about doing it before. When I considered jobs in other lines such as game development (I love gaming, didn't I mention that?), or music, or something else, there was always this sort of dissatisfaction at the back of my mind. I always think, 'what then?' it doesn't seem to give me fulfillment. And now that I've visited some NPOs (Non-profit organizations) and listened to their words of experience, seen the problem first-hand and talked to the people involved, I want to contribute. It is a risk to take, especially when the economy is just as shitty as our rubbish problem here, I'd like to think that human lives matter more than money, right? Of course that's idealistic to say - organizations still need financial funding to actually do anything, but I'd like to redirect the aim for earning money for one's own pleasure, to actually making a difference with one's earnings.

I guess it's truly different when one is visiting a country or a place not as a tourist, because I believe we see things in a different light when we're not constantly thinking about shopping and enjoying every single paid experience we can spend our money on. And also, you can tell when someone is genuinely passionate in helping society, and being on this program and meeting the people involved has shown me that.

Well looks like I talked more about my feelings than my experience in Japan haha! But, thank you, everyone who had made the entire program very enjoyable and memorable for me. We will definitely meet again in the near future, and I hope we will have more stories to share!

*pictures are taken from everyone, by everyone.

As a plus, here's a video made by Kana about our time together :) (I apparently can't upload it because it's too big)

Thank you,
Tatsuya, Genta, Shiko, Kana, Sean, Haruka, Shara, Mai, Aki, Kazuki, Hiroshi, Ken, Miori, Kaniz

and to those I didn't really have the chance to really talk with,
Chisato, Momo, Seira, Hayato

Your presence and contribution to the program has made a difference!

With much love,


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