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.
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!
It feels like Japan is done. Enough and more has been done in the three months. Like, it’s time to go home and nothing left to do here. Complete sulk mode on!
Went to Kyoto anyway. And for a change, went via Kusatsu. More expensive, but just happened to be so, getting into the wrong bus. But it was good, getting to see the station, and the shops around there. Shopping spree seems to never end in Kyoto, and at this point it feels like a compulsion to buy something for everyone.
My bed shook again. And I knew it today. But I was too tired to bother. It’s OK, just an earth quake after all! I slept through the shake, praying it doesn’t happen again! The rest of the day went by, as we stayed in the I-house itself, in the fear of another tremor. Why does this have to happen now, when we finally had the time to go to Osaka!
I woke up to a jolt. Or was it to the alert on the phone? I think it was the phone that woke me, for I hardly felt the earth quaking in my deep sleep! I plainly dismissed the warning on the phone and went back to sleep.
Later in the morning, it was confirmed. There was a major earth quake in Osaka, with 4 reported fatalities. The tremor was felt in Kyoto too, just that I did not know it because, you know, I was sleeping. The spoon that was on the top of the shelf, now lying on the floor made sense then. We soon received a mail from university, checking upon us and confirming the schedule for the Panasonic meeting. Quickly our concern was shifted to the presentation and we forgot about the quake. For the record, I hadn’t felt it yet. Going over to Panasonic, passing through their security, and wearing their visitor’s tag, we started feeling very important suddenly. After a brief tour of their wide product portfolio, we sat down with some of their officials for the presentation. The first impact of the earth quake was felt when they wrapped up the whole thing sooner than planned, because the railway network, their major transportation system, was affected due to the earth quake. Not all of us got to present, but more importantly, we started sensing the gravity of the disaster.
Back at I-house, me and Divya went crazy assessing the situation through news and Twitter. We tried our best not to panic and went on with our evenings. I was sitting at the table, watching a movie in dark, when I felt the chair shaking. Before I could respond, there was a knock on the door. Next ten seconds, me and Divya were in the ground floor of the building, hoping to meet the rest of the residents there. Instead, what we saw was one other foreign girl climbing down the stairs, as scared as us, and the warden in his room, lousily watching TV. Perhaps, we should have taken clue from the Japanese guy in the second floor kitchen, who was cooking peacefully. Apparently, nobody was bothered, except the three of us freaking out. We lingered around for a while more, and then prepared ourselves to go back and sleep.
I am not sure if I am excited about this entire experience or scared for my life! Is earth quake so casual, that you wouldn’t budge from your cooking or miss your TV show?
Reminiscing yesterday, the day went by peaceful and content. Big day tomorrow, perhaps? We are visiting the Panasonic Office, next to the campus. Apparently, the visit and presentation is a part of the internship, every year. The rest of the day went by preparing the presentation on the research done so far. Slightly nervous? Maybe.
Biwako Valley – Omi Takashima – Shirahige Jinja Shrine – my perfect one day! A solitary trip was a much needed break for me, just to be on my own. Japan was an amazement primarily because it meant I would be all by myself in a new country. But here, with Divya and Saikat, people from the University and the I-house, it was never really a lone adventure. I loved that I am not alone, but also missed the feeling of being by oneself.
Getting off at Yamashina, and then boarding the train to Shiga, I had my entire day planned out. Traveling in Japan is never a hassle, because the system is amazing. Train timings, bus schedules and the connected network makes any trip smooth. The train to Shiga felt new – the green coaches running on the Kosei line – unlike the frequented JR line. As I was approaching Shiga, I could see the Biwako rope-way and that’s when the reality sunk in, that I am finally all by myself, away from family and everything close to me, miles apart, separated by the seas. It was an extravagant trip, up and down the rope-way, but I wanted it so badly. Getting down at Shiga, I hopped into a bus to Biwako Valley, and was eagerly peering out of the window to see the view that was getting closer. After a fun ride, I reached the top of the rope-way to a mesmerizing view of Biwa. I have read online, heard from people, and knew it in my brain that Biwa is a lake and not an ocean. But the sight was defying them all – a never-ending blue expanse surrounding me – Biwako (Biwa, the river). Equally surprising was the crowd at the Biwako Terrace. I haven’t so many people together in a long time. There were people everywhere, clicking photos, taking in the view. I joined the crowd, and got lost in the hustle. I missed India’s hustle and bustle, once again. A family wanted a photo of theirs clicked with Biwa in the background. I offered to help and what I got in return was a heartwarming Namaste and a photo of myself, with Biwa. That said, maybe I was being a creepy when I took a photo of a couple without asking them, purely because it was a beautiful frame, and then taking the liberty to show it off to them! Their blank faces is a fresh memory still. The bell and the heart-shaped view point, the xylophones, the fun games through the way up to Cafe 360, and the numerous people I met on the way as I climbed the steep hill made the best of my memories here so far. The Japanese duo I met at the swing surprised me by how they couldn’t say India apart from Indonesia. But thanks to them, I got a video of mine swinging onto the brim of the valley. All that said, coffee was still stupid with the same old cream mix, and no milk. The mini rope-ways up the Terrace and the games and activities were made for people in groups, and it was pretty awkward roaming about by myself. But again, this trip was more than just about petty feelings like that!
Grabbing a plate of Pinecone French fries, I relished my last couple of minutes in Biwako Terrace. I was running short of time to catch the train to Omi Takashima. I was constantly in a dilemma as to why was I actually doing it, sitting in the train to Omi Takashima. It was a relatively empty train, and trip felt lonely suddenly. I was unsure if it’d be worth it – the lone Tori Gate in the middle of Biwa – really?! But all through the Japan days, I have been wanting to see it, except these moments when I was actually traveling towards it. I felt like being alone in the middle of nowhere. But after a 2 km walk from the station, the moment I saw the Tori from a distance – every doubt melted at that moment of perfect bliss! The location of the view point was a huge advantage – it was in the middle of nowhere, not easily approachable – which meant there were too few people. And the ones who made it till there, were the ones who really wanted that moment of peace – staring at the other side of the world, through the Tori Gate. It is considered to be the gateway to heaven. Ironically, what made my day more than the view at the Tori was somewhere in the 2 km walk towards it. As I was walking through the empty road towards the Tori, I came across a tunnel beneath a bridge. Since there was nobody to ask if that’s the route to take, I ventured into it anyway – the best decision of the day. What lay ahead was a sight that would never go away from eyes – tranquil and endless Biwa – no less than an ocean, with only a tiny little stone fence between us – hardly a feet away from me. Being there, with nobody else in the vicinity, the expanse of water was liberating and strangely fulfilling. The lake made small waves, and it felt like a beach as they rose and fell, hitting the stone line along the shore. It felt like a divine intervention to make my wish true of going to a beach in a Japan. I had given up on the plan since there was none nearby, for a one-day trip. But there I was, lost in the waves of a lake that could have easily been passed off as an ocean in itself!
Heading back to I-house, I had a lot to tell Divya and a lot to write about, and a lot more to cherish for the rest of my life!
Festivals are entirely about food, for me. The savouries mom makes, the sweets that make me drool, it has always been and will always be about food! Today’s Eid. People at I-house are celebrating it with a variety of dishes. And here I am, drooling again!
Something that balances food yearning is travel. So glad my solitary trip is planned. Exploring Shiga, Biwa, and a lot more for tomorrow!
I was almost going to lab. But again, it made more sense to sit back with Divya and do something fruitful together. Making a checklist of things to do in the research front, submission deadlines, places to visit and the number of days to go home, it was a day we’ll-spent! The clock is ticking.
All of a sudden, it feels like a lot has been done by now. And a budding aspiration for more things ahead. A quiet day by oneself makes you feel such silly things!