I woke up a few hours ago (4 a.m. Eastern Time) with a sore throat. I was in my soft, comfy bed, not realizing how good it would feel after sleeping on a futon for 11 months. I took some ibuprofen and then woke up again around 1 p.m. to eat.
My flight home didn’t feel so long. It was an evening flight, 11 hours to Minneapolis/St. Paul and then about 2 hours to Baltimore. I slept and listened to classical music on the first flight, which I must say was a great idea because classical music is so soothing.
Once I got to Minneapolis, I remembered two things I hated about the United States. One was from looking at the rip-off soda and snack machines. At Narita Airport in Japan, everything is just about the same price. The other thing was that I had forgotten to exchange my money before I left. Currently $1 is about 96 or 97 yen, which is a good thing coming back from Japan. When I find the foreign exchange service in the U.S. airport, I see the rates and I couldn’t believe it. They buy at 108 yen. So if I exchanged 30,000 yen, I’d only be getting about $276. If I exchanged in Japan, I’d have gotten around $310. See that huge difference? U.S. services are rip-offs…
So what did I do? I kept my precious yen. It’s going in a safe place for when I return to Japan, whenever that will be. What an efficient way of saving money, seeing that I can’t use it here. I went to an ATM and pulled out $40 just in case I needed it.
I guess I’m going to keep this blog, and I’m not going to change the name of it. ‘Gaijin,’ if you remember, means ‘outsider’ in Japanese. Even though I’m a U.S. citizen, right now I still feel like a gaijin. For the past 11 months I was surrounded by Japanese people, hearing the Japanese language, using Japanese services, and so on. I got so used to it. Tokyo became my home. Now everything has changed. I feel strange speaking English to people I don’t know, and seeing Americans everywhere. There are no schoolgirls and school boys in uniforms, no Japanese salarymen, old women and men on the train. My yen is completely useless and I have to get used to using American money now. My Japanese cellphone is useless here, and I have to go back to my Nokia, with a battery that can’t even last that long without charging it once a day. Last bus going home from New Carrollton is at 7:15 p.m., and if I miss it, I can’t go to a manga cafe or all-night karaoke, because there are none here. My next two semesters will be about going to school and coming home, just the way it was before I went to Japan.
No host clubs. Even if there were host clubs here, they wouldn’t be filled with Japanese people anyway.
If I’m hungry and want to go to a ‘convenience store’, I’d have to go to the nearby CVS instead, because American convenience stores aren’t nearly as convenient in location as they are in Japan. What’s more, I can’t buy my tuna mayo onigiri, because there are none here.
I feel like a gaijin in my own country. I’ll just have to get used to it. My friends can try and help me, I suppose. I can’t say I ‘miss’ Japan, because right now I don’t know how to feel. I just feel strange. I feel like this past year was just a long dream. But it wasn’t. I have all of the clothes I bought in Harajuku. I have the collection of CDs I bought from BOOK-OFF. I have a stack of business cards from the hosts I met. It all really happened.
Tokyo is my second home now. One day I’ll go back.