Countdown (Not Beyonce)

“Come home.” – my mom

As the countdown to the end of my time in Japan becomes almost palpable, I’m taking some time to escape the chaos of the move back to the states by writing this month’s post. Graduation by Vitamin C has been synced onto my iPod and will be played when the time is right, but for now you are safe.

June has been another good one. It started off with an American festival that tested the foundation of my patriotism, then led me up a few mountains, and concluded with a final weekend in Kyoto with Hip Hop. There were a lot of moments that made me realize what I am actually leaving when I get on the plane in a month. Those have been coming a bit more frequently.

American Festival

Apparently, Americans like to flash mob once an hour. I was skeptical about this until Sensei confirmed it by jumping from whatever chair he was sitting in at the moment and dashing madly to the front of the stage to do a number of incorrect steps besides a group dancing startlingly in unison. It wouldn’t be the American festival without the most American guy there ruining the flash mob.

The Tochigi International Party came together and pulled off a really good time. It was fantastic to see the interpretation of America in the eyes of my Japanese friends. I like their America. It was fun and welcoming and there were even really good chili dogs. There were a lot less illegal fireworks and overly competitive volleyball matches than in my America, which was an interesting change.

Some of my favorite folks at the festival

Some of my favorite folks at the festival

I volunteered at the beer tent, which as everyone knows is the single best place to volunteer at any event. Sensei and Zu worked alongside Hip Hop and myself, although it was documented that Sensei did not pour one beer for anyone that day. He was too busy practicing his flash mobbing and leaping over tables to get to flash mobs. He wore an America cape and it was really bizarre. There were murmurs throughout the crowd of comparisons between myself and Tom Cruise in Cocktail. I could see it. We’re both really good bartenders and we both love mojitos. I’ve never seen cocktail. It turns out the murmurs were actually comparing me and Tintin from The Adventures of Tintin. My world slowly came crashing down upon me.

Once I was finally fired for drinking all of the imported Budweiser, I hit the dance floor. Sensei was already there, flash mobbing alone. Everyone quickly joined in as the DJ let some great American hits rip and that’s when I felt it. It was America, jolting through my body like lightning. Feeling loose after Tom Cruise served you one too many plastic cups filled with beer and one too many winks and so you had to toss your limbs around with the rest of the arrhythmic dancers swiveling about you: that is my America.

Nantai-san and Oze

Nantai-san is considered to be a sacred mountain, so naturally Dale wore Skechers to hike it, which is probably the most sacrilegious thing you can do.  Everyone knows Skechers are for lighting up movie theater aisles during power outages and giving Demi Lovato endorsement deals. Dale didn’t get the memo.

We kicked 500 yen to the god of the mountain—it was supposed to be 200 but Dale told everyone the wrong price, which I ended up being okay with because I was nervous about offending the mountain with the Skechers—and then we were on our way. What a fantastic mountain. It was challenging, steep, and really satisfying. The views of lake Chuzenji from the summit were incredible. We had lunch beside a temple at the top and looked down at the lake, Skechers dimly blinking, feeling the kind of small that only mountains have the power to instill in you.


A little sword in the stone action


The view from the summit

The next weekend it was Oze, a much easier hike but beautiful nonetheless. I went with one of my good friends. The night before we watched Jersey Boys and Frankie Vallie’s voice has been following me ever since. “Walk Like A Man” has been making me especially self-aware. We had a true alpine start, leaving at 1 am and hitting the trail at around 4:30 am. I was tired and a little groggy, but when we stepped out into the marsh I realized why we had gotten up so early…


I leave Him Alone for One Weekend…

This is a small tribute to a man that has become one of my best friends and most respected and trusted confidantes…just as long as he is not left to his own devices for more than twenty four hours. There is something that you all need to know about my friend, Sensei. This man will do anything in order to dance, and once he gets there, watch out, things will heat up quick. If I’m Kevin Bacon, then sensei is John Travolta. Take that in for a minute.

When I went hiking in Oze, I had to leave Sensei alone. It was one night, and I thought he would be okay under the care of Dale, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. I blame myself. Apparently, he went to the club in Tokyo and was turned away for wearing shorts. I think any normal human being would have gone to another club or, considering they are in one of the largest cities in the world, found a place to buy a cheap pair of jeans. Sensei stormed across the road to the convenient store and bought a pair of pantyhose to cover his legs as if modesty were the reason they had turned him away. While telling me this story, he expressed that he bought a pair of “hose.” I stopped him out of confusion and once he explained that he meant pantyhose I berated him for such a languid and irresponsible shortening of the word.


He’ll never be forgiven

Spoiler alert. The hose were too tight. So instead of giving up and saying, “Well this was actually a really stupid idea and I am an idiot,” Sensei purchased several plastic bags and a roll of masking tape and covered his legs and lower torso with plastic bags, again, as if modesty were the reason this fancy club had turned him away. Then he went to the club.

The Pants

The Pants

The Walk

The Walk

The Shamelessness

The Shamelessness

Spoiler alert. They said absolutely not, get the hell out of here, man. So he rented some pants, which to me seems like an option you choose before resorting to covering yourself in plastic bags if you’re that excited to get into the club in the first place. I’ll miss not living a train ride away from that man-child.

One Month Left

The month is flying by and everything is bittersweet. I’m looking back at the goals I have met and setting some new ones. Writing has been something that Japan has given me a lot of time and ammunition to get after, and so I think I will remember this most as a place where I finally started something I said I would start for years. It also goes without saying that the friendships I have made here are invaluable. I’m most concerned now about returning from the safest country in the world to the not so safest country in the world, comparatively. In Japan my guard is never up, so look out for a story about being robbed or beaten in the near future.

At the end of anything I think there is a sense of urgency that spawns a series of questions. Am I making the right decision? Did I accomplish everything I wanted to? How am I going to fit twelve Hello Kitty lunch boxes into my suitcase? I’ve already touched upon the nature of questions in a previous post, but I’ll just reiterate that I think they can be far more valuable than the answers. So that’s what I have now, more questions than when I started out in Japan. And that’s okay.

One day, I will be gone. On the eve of that day, I’d really like to look back (willing that I’m aware of my own impending departure) and say that I made the right choices. And I think the right choices are the ones that scare the hell out of you.

America—working my way back to you, babe.



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