After 18 weeks of two to three hour classes, daily trips to conbinis (convenience stores), and exciting weekend getaways, I have said goodbye to Osaka and have safely returned to my home in Portland, Oregon. Ignoring the major jet lag I have been feeling for the past few days, it has been nice to spend the week gaining the rest that I need, as well as meet up with friends and family. And yet, being in the environment that I am so familiar with, for the first time, has developed a sense of unfamiliarity since returning. This is, quite possibly, the very first time I have ever felt like this towards my hometown. I have lived in the same house since I was born, and I have been living at home while attending college. I’ve never really had the chance to live away from home for a long period of time. Of course, I still remember where most things are, I remember how to drive, everything has that feeling of familiarity—but it also does not. Perhaps I haven’t been able to remember every little detail of Portland or my home, or that I myself have grown too accustomed to my life in Japan, but my home and the people seem to feel different compared to before, despite existing here for about 21 years.
Just today, too, I thought back about what I was doing one week ago, which was taking my final exam. Almost suddenly, a wave of memories occurring between now and then had resurfaced: going with a friend downtown after our program’s graduation dinner party, having my last bowl of ramen in Japan with my housemate and friends, saying farewells and goodbyes to the friends I’ve made, reassuring each other that we’ll definitely keep in touch and meet again.
Even though a reunion is inevitable, I couldn’t help but feel homesick for Japan after returning to America. I knew that I would experience some sort of yearning to go back, sure, but I never thought it would be so strong. Since the start of May I remember clearly looking forward to coming home. I constantly had the mindset of “Yeah, I had my fun here, but I’m ready to return home.” I was excited to be back home and see loved ones, to taste the foods I’ve been craving, and to hear English around me again as well. I’m back to where I wanted to be, but I don’t feel quite happy with what’s here. There’s so many things in Japan that I already miss very much, even though I didn’t give them a second thought while I was staying there.
Throughout the duration of my program, a couple of people asked me if I was interested in coming back to Japan for work. Thinking about it, I initially thought no, and would rather settle in America. However, I think those thoughts have changed. Whether I live and work in Japan, or return there every few years or so, I know I will be coming back, and it will remain as a part of me. I now understand what people say when they have found a second home, particularly a country, because I feel the same way now with Japan. I feel that, no matter what circumstances, my desire and drive to be in Japan again will, without a doubt, bring me right back.