I mentioned a couple times before that I was moving back to the U.S. after being in Japan for over five years. So yeah, that happened.
A lot has happened since I last wrote, and I have way too much for one entry, so I’ll try to remember the important thoughts I’ve had and spread it out over a few posts. First, let me tell you about my last day in Japan. If you read to the end, I promise it does have to do with health and being “genki.”
It was a Tuesday morning that started with waking up in a beautiful hotel room overlooking Okayama Station. My mom and I enjoyed a morning jog along a nearby river, the Nishigawa, under the cherry blossoms.
Our jogging path
This was followed by a healthy breakfast at a Japanese restaurant in the hotel featuring a buffet of typical Japanese dishes - lots of veggies, fish, and great stuff like that. So the day started with me feeling great - healthy and happy.
My mom and I went in to Kurashiki, where I had to pick up my final paycheck at City Hall. We enjoyed the rest of the morning walking around the city and visiting the main shrine, Achi-jinja. Kurashiki is beautiful in the spring, especially the Bikan Historical District.
View from Achi Shrine, overlooking the Bikan Historical District
After a quick light lunch, it was time for getting stuff done. In addition to picking up my last paycheck, there were a lot of other loose ends I had to tie up before flying out the next morning.
I went to cancel my bank account, only to discover that my branch was closed and being torn down! Thankfully I was able to read the signs directing me to the temporary location and got that done. Then it was time to cancel my cell phone contract. They canceled it and ended my service right away, happily enough, and I quickly no longer had a working phone. But I still owed them for my usage since the last bill, plus a cancellation fee. I was ready to pay it all, right then and there, but was told I couldn’t. Huh? The lady tried to explain to me why, but my Japanese knowledge doesn’t cover the vocabulary she was using. So then I explained to her that I was leaving the country the next morning, had no more bank account for them to automatically withdrawal from, and no address to send the bill to. She still seemed reluctant, but said she would call and make a request to see if I could pay that day. So I waited. And waited. She told me that whoever she was trying to contact (I didn’t understand, but maybe headquarters or something) was very busy, and she had not be able to get through yet. So I waited some more.
By this point my mom and I were exhausted from being out and about all day, and when we were informed that we might have to wait another hour on top of the hour we had already waited, we were ready to bail. Since our hotel was back in Okayama, and we were currently at a shop in Kurashiki, I asked the lady if I could go to a different shop later in the day and finish paying there. She said that was fine, and looked a bit relieved to be done with us.
So, we got back to the hotel and I was feeling grumpy and getting a headache. I still had things to get done, but I did my best to put them out of my mind while I did some yoga in an attempt to feel better before going back out. It didn’t really help. All I wanted to do was just be DONE with everything, but I wasn’t yet and my brain wouldn’t stop nagging me.
I set out to finish my to-do list, and stopped at the post office first to send my last box of stuff home. I had already filled out the customs form and everything, and thought it would be a quick drop off. But the guy working there wanted me to translate everything I had written on the form that was in the box. Ok, sometimes I’m asked to do this, no problem. Then, for each thing I translated, he wanted to actually look in the box and see it to make sure that’s what it really was. What?!? I’ve never before had someone at the post office want to look through my box. But whatever it takes to be done with my errands as soon as possible. Then he became concerned about one of my items - a kitchen knife. So I had to wait forever while he called and talked to the Japanese customs office. He then informed me that it was ok with them, but he did not know about the U.S. regulations, and so he thought the box could get stopped in customs on that side. So he wanted me to talk to the person I was shipping the box to, and have them contact the U.S. customs office to confirm that it was legal. I explained that I was shipping it to myself because I was moving the next morning, and that yes, it is fine with U.S. customs. But I guess he didn’t believe that I actually knew that, and would not ship the box with the knife in it. By this point I had been in the post office for over half an hour, and this guy was making me MAD. So I snatched up my knife (all bubbled wrapped and safe, don’t worry) and shoved it in my purse, filled out a new customs form that didn’t include it, and finally sent my box.
I stormed out of the post office with my headphones blasting some loud yelling music with a knife in my purse, and headed to the mall where the cell phone shop was. I got all pumped up walking there, like YEAH I’M GETTING THINGS DONE AND YOU CAN’T STOP ME!
And then I hit another road block when I had to go through the whole song and dance about my cell phone all over again. The guy told twice that I couldn’t pay that day, and I kept telling them I had no other option. Seriously, you’d think they would want my money. I was getting ready to just leave, because it wasn’t my problem and I was happy enough to keep my money. But he asked me to wait while he contacted whoever it was to get the authority and the exact price to collect my last bill. So I waited. And waited. And waited. And the guy wouldn’t even make eye contact with me while I was waiting. Then FINALLY he handed me a bill, I paid, he didn’t even say thank you or any of the customary phrases Japanese store clerks use to excel in customer service, and I left.
Right as I was leaving and getting ready to go back to the hotel, I got an email from my mom, who was waiting back in our room. Even though my cell service had been canceled, I could use wifi while I was in the mall, so I tried to read her email. But it was ridiculously slow and wouldn’t load. I walked around the mall trying to get a better signal, but it still wouldn’t load. I kept trying everything to load my email thinking maybe she was asking me to buy something while at the mall, but after half an hour I had finished at the supermarket, was ready to leave, and gave up on email. By that point I was so angry, if I were a cartoon character I would have been bright red with smoke coming out of my ears.
While storming back to the hotel, I saw a familiar figure riding his bicycle down the sidewalk toward me. It was my good friend, and he stopped to say hi and how’s it going.
We've been through so much together. Like front and center for Muse.
I looked up at him and said, “I’m having a really bad day,” and burst out crying. That was how bad my mental and emotional state had gotten. So we stood there, in the middle of the sidewalk in the middle of Okayama, while I cried on his shoulder for a few minutes. I finally pulled myself together because I did still need to get back to my mom waiting in the hotel room, find out why she had emailed me, and then figure out what we were doing for dinner.
So now, finally, we get to the point of this whole story. And yes, I feel it was necessary to tell that entire store so that you fully grasp what had brought me to this point.
It was time to decide what to eat for dinner. I was completely wiped out. My body was tired, my brain gone to pudding, and my emotional state teetering on the verge of collapse. This is a dangerous time, when it’s tempting to throw all the rules out the window and do whatever you feel like, because you couldn’t give a flying f- anymore.
We were trying to decide what to have for dinner, and all my body was telling me was to eat donuts and deep fried cheese and have a shot of tequila. Pretty much as bad as you can get and guaranteed to make me very sick, because we know my body doesn’t handle any of that well. The only thing that stopped me was imagining what it would be like to have an upset stomach on an overseas flight the next day. No one enjoys a ten hour flight, and I knew I had to do everything possible to make it as non-stressful and uncomfortable as possible.
We finally decided on Thai food. For anyone in Okayama, let me recommend Rocket Kitchen in AEON Mall! Especially the green papaya salad. It is so spicy and so delicious, and it made me feel completely better. That’s the great thing about spicy food, it releases endorphins that make you happier, and it’s totally healthy. So even though I felt like I could breath fire, and was having a hard time finishing up the last of it because it just burned, my mood had done a complete 180 and I felt amazing. It burned so good!
The lesson from this is, next time overwhelming cravings for sugar, carbs, alcohol, and other terrible foods hit, instead go for hot. Bring me the fire, baby!