The very last day in Japan! Tomorrow, sitting at the airport doesn’t count as being in Japan anyway. I wanted to make the best of today, and so, I took a bus pass to roam around the city. After a very brief visit to Yodobashi (family stuff, you know – shopping never ends literally!), I got into a random bus. And I did not get off it! I could see that I was going the same route over and over, but it felt nice to relax and watch the city move around me. I don’t remember how long I traveled in the bus, but it definitely didn’t feel as long. The one last meal in Japan was again in an Indian restaurant – Maharaja. I know, it does sound stupid, but if there’s one thing I don’t trust Japan with, that’d be distinguishing vegetarian and non-vegetarian food! Took a stroll around Kamo river, walked through random alleys, saw couple of geishas and meikos – what more can you ask for in Kyoto! And finally, to end a great day at with hot cup of coffee, I sat down at the Starbucks by the riverside. As I enjoyed my last evening in Japan, it began to drizzle outside. The day was cloudy, but I hoped to be in train before it poured. Winding up the day, I reached the station only to know that all trains to Minami Kusatsu have been cancelled! Apparently it rained heavily, and the rail tracks were blocked. Panic mode was up and running, and then I thought of Divya roaming around in Kyoto. Called her up, figured out alternatives and went full-on crazy and scared about missing the flight tomorrow. After a while, we mustered courage to talk to the busy station staff who were dealing with the chaos without a pause. To my greatest surprise, the staff at the office kept aside his urgent tasks at hand, and patiently explained to me about our options to get back home. He even took out a paper, and drew the entire map on it, just in case we didn’t get his broken English. We had no words for him, awestruck and grateful; we thanked him and rushed through the platform to catch our alternative train. Mostly likely because of our loud discussions about the rail lines and switching of trains, an old man at the platform offered to help us out. Used to the pleasant nature of Japanese, we weren’t surprised by the offer. He talked through the journey, got off at the intermediate station with us, walked till our platform and ensured we’d be fine on the way since JR line was restarted by that time. My last memory of interacting with Japanese people would probably that old man at that platform, who waved at us continuously, till our train was out of sight. The picture of that man who then walked away to his platform is a frame that wouldn’t fade in my memory. I am glad I could give him the only ‘kachcha mango‘ I had then.
Japan, I am proud to have visited you, and humbled by your humility! I have never been surrounded by such goodness and peace, like when I was here.
A very emotional day – that was today in a nutshell. I got the stamp – trust engraved – it felt very fulfilling to have trust embodied into something like that. Me and Divya went to Kiyomizu-dera, a buddhist temple in the heart of Kyoto. I would have something very special had I not gone there, at least now. The concept of walking through a pitch dark cave and coming out from the other side was considered a holy rebirth. The cave is revered as the womb of Bodhisattva – the divine essence of Buddhism. As you walk through the pitch dark cave, holding onto the railing made of Buddhist meditation beads, it is a very spiritual moment as you see the holy stone. You pray to the stone, and come out reborn. I am glad this is my last destination of the my Kyoto pilgrimage. We had to get back to the campus before 5, since we had to finally return the ID card. Somehow, I felt very emotional about that too. There’s no more swiping through the stairs, and walking across the hill. Well, everything comes to an end eventually. As though enough memories weren’t made yet, I got a souvenir tee-shirt with Ritsumeikan printed on it, and Divya got a hoodie, before we walked through the hill, climbed the hundred steps up, and the hundred steps down, for one last time.
One never gets enough sulk-days in life, if you ask me. Holidays are different – they are for you to go out and have fun and be exhausted – like yesterday. But a sulk-day is a relaxing concept – when all you do is sulk and sulk again. Well, today was pretty much a sulk-day for me, thank god! Well that, and I packed my bags to go home! Just 2 more days!
I don’t know if it’s me, or the foreign trip, or just normal – souvenir shopping just never ends! I have hardly 2-3 days to go home and I am still looking for stuff for relatives. Set out to Kyoto in the morning itself – a solitary trip. Besides some shopping in Yodobashi, and the routine Shijo-Teramachi stretch, I had a selfish agenda for today. I placed order for my most precious souvenir – all for myself! I am getting a hanko – a personalised Japanese style stamp – with ‘trust’ engraved in Kanji – ”. I am so excited, maybe even more than the iPad! Kyoto has been so familiar for us now that we set up random rendezvous to meet up. Met Divya at Wendy’s in Teramachi, and got back home after her shopping spree.
Reaching at Minami Kusatsu, we had some time until the bus came. We bought some bread for breakfast, and got onto the first bus that came by. It seems quite ridiculous to get into the wrong bus after 3 months of staying at a place, but anyway, we did just that. Technically, it was not a wrong bus; it just took a slight detour from the stop immediately before ours. We got down at a completely new part of the street, and walked all the way back to I-House. But then, I would say that wrong bus did the best thing for us. If not for the bus, we’d have never gone to that part of Matsugaoka – vast expanse of green farmlands and curvy roads. It was a very beautiful sight for a great morning. The night bus and the unanticipated long morning walk made sure we spent the rest of the day indoors only. Exhausted!
Either we had had too much of Tokyo already, or we were just too tired. We were more than glad to go back to Kyoto. I was even kinda looking forward for the night bus, almost from the beginning of the day. That said, we made our visits to Asakusa, did some souvenir shopping, wondered what’s so great about Tokyo Sky Tree without climbing all the way up (too expensive for no apparent reason!), and walked around the streets of Tokyo. We had had enough of Tokyo, except for one – my iPad. We met Shruti enroute, and went to buy it finally. I was too excited and confused at the same time, I couldn’t make up my mind on the colour or focus on the billing. I somehow paid the amount, and literally ran out of the building with a brand new iPad and an Apple Pencil. It now felt like a completed trip, and I just wanted to be back at I-House. Nothing else mattered anymore, that I point blank rejected the idea of eating from Subway (my only hope for a decent vegetarian meal in Japan!). Soon enough, we bid bye to Shruti and settled down in the bus back to Minami Kusatsu. Bye bye, Tokyo!
The two of them left early in the morning for Fuji, and soon after I left to explore the city of Tokyo. Rushing through the crowd, figuring out the roads, I got carried away by the vibes of the city. My destination was pretty clear though – Akihabara! The shopping hub of electronics and anime, manga and a lot more – it was so amazing that I spent almost my entire day in those streets only. Walking past maid cafes and anime characters, the feeling of being alone in a foreign city was very enthralling, and not at all scary. I spent most of the day in Yodobashi and Bic Camera, fidgeting with all variants of iPads, testing and evaluating their price, performance and my budget. The Apple Pencil was so amazing that I wrote long essays in Malayalam with it, and spent hours playing with it. I am not sure if I need it yet. But I really really want it.
Unwillingly, I ventured out of Akihabara, towards Ginza, the richer and grander side of the city, in search of an Indian restaurant, ‘Dhaba India’. I walked in expecting the same old huge naan and flavourless sabzi, which I had learnt to adjust with. But what awaited me was awesome ‘masala dosa’ and piping hot coffee! The vigor with which the Tamil server went to the center of the hall and ceremoniously poured my coffee from the cup to the another bowl, and transferred it back to the cup. That was usual, for a local tea stall in India, but why here? I got the response soon enough, as the guests applauded and looked at the guy in awe. It struck me only then, that I am in a foreign country, sitting in a restaurant that would be foreign to the majority of the guests dining there! Soon enough, I met Divya at Shinjuku bus station, and we headed back to Grapehouse Koenji.