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Month: June 2018

JaDa – Day 83

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.

JaDa – Day 82

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.

JaDa – Day 81

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!

JaDa – Day 80

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 – ‘頼’. 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.

JaDa – Day 79

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!

JaDa – Day 78

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!

JaDa – Day 77

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.

JaDa – Day 76

The sight of that white majestic beauty rushing towards me is something that would stay in my eyes for a long time. Having heard about the ‘bullet trains’ for a really long time of my life, it was a dream to travel in one – the Shinkansen. Divya and me rushed to the Shinkansen platform at Kyoto, since we already got the tickets from Minami Kusatsu itself. Once we boarded the train, it was a bit disappointing to see that the interiors felt no different than a Haruka. And once the train started to move, even the pace of the ‘bullet’ wasn’t felt sitting within it. (Well, that’s exactly what they highlight about the train – you don’t feel the jerks!) For an excited a tourist who’s keen to experience the speed and the pace, one has to wait till you reach the Mt. Fuji area. As the train moves around the mountain, you finally experience that the train is flying at mind-numbing pace. The vastness of the mountain was a sight to behold. Well, that is the story of how I went to Fuji!

Upon reaching Tokyo, the first thing that struck was the size of the station! When we asked for directions at the enquiry, we were given a ‘map’ of the station! Somehow, we figured the platform, got to Nakano from Tokyo, and thereafter Koenji to our accomodation – The Grapehouse Koenji! The place seemed like the best thing that could happen to us in Tokyo – an amazing dorm for women. With cosy bunk beds and a calm ambience, the place was completely worth the money, thanks to Airbnb. Freshened up, we started out to meet the only people we knew in Tokyo – fellow interns from college back home. Waiting for them at Shibuya near the iconic Hachiko statue, the crowd of Tokyo finally started settling in. And it was not as amusing as it was annoying. From the calmness of Kyoto, Tokyo felt very noisy and unsettling. I yearned to go back to Kyoto. Walking past the famous Shibuya crossing, we walked through the streets of Tokyo to the Meiji Shrine. It was beautiful, but Kyoto felt more majestic in all terms. The long queues at Serendipity for pizza and their famous ice cream, the strolls through Harajuku and finally getting back to Koenji, I grew more nostalgic about Kyoto than India. Close to our stay, we stopped at an Indian restaurant for dinner, where only I ate, as usual! Divya has better things to explore in Japanese food, after all. Tomorrow, Divya and Shruti are going to FujiQ Highland. And I have the entire day to myself to explore Tokyo! Somewhere along, an idea of getting iPad has gotten into my head. Too many reasons to be excited for tomorrow, suddenly!

JaDa – Day 75

Ritsumeikan had a trip in line, for its foreign students. We set out for the trip to Yanmar Musuem in the morning, along with a bunch of students from other countries and the coordinator. The Japanese engine/machine manufacturing forerunner had a dedicated museum for tourists and students about the history of the company and their historic accomplishments. It was a well arranged tour, where we could experience the flawless engineering of those times, in person. The highlight was the souvenir that made ourselves, in their badge making facility. That would be a very special memory of Yanmar! After the half day tour, we were dropped off at the campus by lunch time. But our day hadn’t ended yet. We rushed back to the room, excited for tomorrow – Tokyo finally! Rest of the day went in the planning and packing for the trip.

JaDa – Day 74

Though my lab days were done, I was yet to bid bye to them officially. It was very heartwarming to see them all struggle to talk to me beyond the language barrier, for one last time. I hadn’t talked to many of them for the very same reason, but it felt like a lot of unsaid words were communicated. One of the labmates went out of his way and came out for a warm goodbye hug. It seemed to be one of the most genuine moments I shared with all of them – in the university – in Japan. Posing for a couple of photos, making memories, I stepped out of the lab with my completion certificate. The stay in Japan is now officially complete and fulfilled. Bidding bye to the professor, I left the floor I would possibly never return to. It is was pretty emotional for me. How do you say bye to people whom you are pretty sure you would never again meet? You always part ways, and say you hope to meet again.

At the end of the day, there was a brief session with the Japanese students who were travelling to Symbiosis as part of the exchange programme. We were to interact and prep them for their impending foreign trip. They had a lot of questions, at the end of our presentation about India and Symbiosis, and we did our best to make them feel comfortable. Towards the end, one of them asked what is ‘yes’ and what is ‘no’ in India. He was referring to the nodding sideways and nodding up and down practice of us Indians, instead of saying yes or no. Funnily enough, we the group of 7 Indians had different understandings of nodding!