Saturday, 14 September 2013

Lonesome Road

As soon as Udon sees me off, I'm alone. From here on out, it's all strangers and solitude. I'm riding to Umeda, but instead of the excitement I would normally feel at a day or night of fun ahead, I just feel drained. Fuck it. Here we go. I really am leaving Japan. Well. Fuck.

I get hung up at Umeda because I fail to realise that I need to make my transfer at Oosaka, and spend over an hour wandering around like an idiot, but it's so hot and I am so goddamn tired, I just kind of go with it. Important point is, at no time do I feel nervous. Concerned, yes, but it's all purely intellectual. I've grown.

I'm riding the express but do not realise that there's an additional cost associated with this until a guy comes around to check my ticket. He addresses me in Japanese and does not bat an eye when I speak it back to him, I pay the difference and he gives me a ticket, and I slump back against the wall, not at all embarrassed about having made a mistake. The train pauses for a while for seemingly no reason; the old ladies near me speculate that it's either regular maintenance or a suicide. One of the two. I reach my station and disembark. I have to say, it has been my experience that carting luggage around the major transit centres is no big thing, but as you wind away into the local stations it becomes increasingly burdensome, in this case requiring a series of confused elevator rides just to reach the opposite platform.

Easily locating my hotel, I have a lengthy and detailed conversation with the guy at the front, and not once does he remark on the unprecedented multitasking of my speaking Japanese while being foreign. I appreciate the compliments, I really do – but from time to time it's nice to have my ability to communicate in the language of the country I live in not be pointed out like it's a fucking UFO sighting. I head to 7-11 to print off my electronic ticket, which seems to contradict the whole “electronic” idea, but I accomplish the deed while barely paying attention. I am so in control.

It's late and the train ride took hours. But I've arrived! At least now I can relax. Well, I've misplaced my fucking cell phone charger, but nothing I can do for the moment. Fortunately, Jugs is online, so my final sad, lonely evening doesn't devolve into a totally self-congratulatory emo wankfest. But then...

[5:56:13 AM] Rude Boy: OH WOULD YOU FUCK RIGHT OFF. the documents i printed at 7-11 i now cant fucking find
[5:56:46 AM] Rude Boy: WHAT
[5:56:47 AM] Rude Boy: THE FUCK
[5:57:57 AM] Jugs: :c
[5:58:29 AM] Rude Boy: im leaving japan
[5:58:34 AM] Rude Boy: im leaving a lot of things
[5:58:47 AM] Jugs: bb, i can' even imagine how hard this is for you
[5:58:53 AM] Rude Boy: i am so. incredibly. fucking. tired.
[5:59:07 AM] Jugs: but i can promise you lots of hugs in canada
[5:59:27 AM] Rude Boy: it is SO MOTHERUFCKING HOT JUST FUCK RIGHT THE FUCK OFF THREE MONTHS LAREADY SERIOUSLY FUCK. OFF. JUST FUCK. OFF. no more plz. no more of this fucking heat. i am so fucking tired
[5:59:46 AM] Rude Boy: i cant even
[5:59:48 AM] Rude Boy: i cant do this.
[5:59:57 AM] Rude Boy: i am actually just
[6:00:47 AM] Jugs: you totally can do this
[6:01:18 AM] Rude Boy: i actually am almost breaking down right now
[6:01:33 AM] Jugs: you not being able to do it isn't even an option in anyway
[6:02:05 AM] Rude Boy: it is so fucking hot
[6:02:07 AM] Rude Boy: where are my documents?
[6:02:11 AM] Rude Boy: where?
[6:02:13 AM] Rude Boy: where? :(
[6:02:17 AM] Rude Boy: where are my fucking documents? :(

So far I've concealed my emotions, but that one little thing has made me snap. Thankfully, Jugs is an awesome person and stays online to talk me through it even though it's already morning in Canada. And I do eventually find the fucking things, thank fuck. Unfortunately, I can't reply to the message that Udon has almost certainly sent. I feel pretty bad about that.

In the morning, I catch the shuttle to Kankuu. From this point forward, the idea that I might speak anything other than English does not occur to anyone for the rest of my life. At Immigration, an old man punches a hole through my gaijin card, but then he gives it back, an unexpected souvenir.

I'm staring down the barrel of 25 hours of continuous travel; a duo of pointlessly long stopovers have conspired to try and make me kill myself. More than anything else right now, I wish for a companion. Not even to help me work out my complicated transfers and baggage dickings-around; it's cool, I will do all of the thinking, I will make all of the decisions. I will be the grizzled world traveller. It's only that it's going to be fucking boring. I want someone to bullshit with. Seriously, I'll take almost anybody. I'd even take a particularly calm and astute child at this point. Well, maybe not Insufferable Dumbass. I'd leave him at home. It defeats the purpose to bring someone who will make the trip feel even longer.

At Incheon, I find that I'm actually remembering many of the areas I passed through the first time around. Is this what it's like to be a capable, experienced international plane person? I'm sorely tempted by the “Experience Korea” souvenirs, but decide that it's a little tacky to buy something from an airport gift shop without ever having actually seen the country. Maybe if Korea still sparkled...
An Indian guy about to begin studying in Canada gets cornered by one of the dumbest people I have ever heard words slough out of. He asks how long he's lived in Korea (five hours), and why he didn't go visit the ocean if he had so much time between flights (are you...really?). He then inquires as to why he didn't just take a flight directly from Mumbai to Vancouver, all at once demonstrating that he knows absolutely nothing about international travel, or geography, or humanity, or the laws of physics. I try to bury myself in the book that I started reading at YVR a year ago – The Sun Also Rises, turns out it's pretty great – but his exuberance bores itself straight into my brain. Oh hey! Looks like I did bring Insufferable Dumbass with me! I am finally saved when he convinces the Indian guy to go line up for the plane shortly after it arrives at the airport. Eventually I follow in their wake. Some guy has tried to take my window seat. Haha, no.

I watch Iron Man 3. It's bad.

Setting right my mistake of nearly a year ago, I order the bibimbap. The flight attendant asks if I've ever “tried” it before, which seems a little condescending, but how is she to know that I'm not a moron. Good luck I didn't pick JAL. I'd Kansai-ben their ears off and then we'd ALL feel awkward. Still though, you take everything they give you and mix it together, it's not fucking hard. The meal is quite tasty. In my experience, Asian food survives the transition to “airplane food” most intact out of any cuisine.

I watch a Chinese movie called “Finding Mr. Right.” It's surprisingly good! It's about a young Chinese woman who goes to America to have her sugar daddy's baby so that the government doesn't force her to abort it, but then she meets people there and plot ensues. You should watch it. Also the main girl is gorgeous.

All the Korean movies are action movies and supernatural thrillers. Why can't I just watch a silly romanticomedy? I want to learn “You had me at hello,” not “Make him an offer he can't refuse.” The only Japanese movie heavily involves dogs, so that's out, too. Luckily I'm tired. My strategy was to stay awake as long as possible in order to sleep as deeply as possible, because I know that once I fully wake I'll pretty much stay that way. Time to make out with the cabin!

I stir from my slumber and crack the window. Still dark outside the plane. The moon is reflected against the wing, and I crane my neck to peer up at it. This high in the atmosphere, there's little between us but space. Crazy.

When I wake again, the people beside me are eating breakfast. A small sign has been attached to the seat in front of me: “While you were resting, we were unable to serve you. Please let our service staff know your preference.” It earns points for saying “resting” rather than sleeping, but then immediately loses them all by making it sound like I'm causing problems for them. How about “It is our policy not to disturb passengers while they are resting. Our staff would be happy to serve you at your convenience.” See, I could totally be in marketing. A guy comes by and asks me for my choice, with an attitude suggesting that his job would be so much easier if it weren't for all these fucking people trying to fly to places. His pronunciation is frankly terrible and the only option I understand is “omelette” so I take that even though I know it will be an abomination. I can't finish it.

Then I'm in Canada again, somehow. White people everywhere. Negotiating yet another labyrinth of signage, and then Immigration – I don't like the bullpen style of YVR. Kansai and Incheon are a little clearer and more streamlined. They've installed a new “electronic border guard” system since I was last here. Did you guys know about this? You scan your passport and then your paperwork, greatly speeding up the process and, presumably, lowering the airport's overhead (no pun intended). An automated female voice even warns me that border services will have some questions for me.

A young, blonde woman frowns at my customs paperwork and, not unkindly, asks, “You have unaccompanied baggage with you?”

Well, no, ma'am. If I had it with me, it would be accompanied baggage.

Anyway, I end up getting a customs receipt so that I won't have to pay tax at the post office (as what I'm importing is within my exemption), so it turns out that it pays not to lie to the government. Very, very occasionally.

At Tim Horton's, I fumble with the coins, barely recognizing them.


  1. Sorry I haven't commented in a bit. Moving to another country is difficult, as you know.

    Leaving Japan -- shit. That must have been a hard one. When you choose a place, when you actually decide that this is going to be your country for however long, the actual leaving of it never really seems like it's going to be a hard thing. Until it shows up, and you realize that this is the place you've actually chosen, rather than been born in or moved to, the place you've actually decided as an adult to reside in for some time, and holy crap is it a wallop. What's next? Maybe I need to read earlier entries.

    Korea still Sparkles, occasionally. Is it still Visit Korea Year 2010-2013 or whatever?

    Are the electronic border guards any good? I skipped it last time because while they were troubleshooting and trying to convince us to use them, all the human border agents were completely bored and without lineups, so I ran to one and got waved through into Canada with barely any trouble.

    1. That's ok, I know you've been busy. Your continued readership is very much appreciated, believe me!

      It's a trip, eh? Currently I have no solid leads but am investigating various ways to get back to Japan as soon as possible. It is and will always be my adopted home. I'm trying to graduate this semester and then I'll be applying to companies. My hope is, hey, if I send out a thousand resumees, one will hit the desk of an old Japanese businessman who will say "Gurhurhurrrrm, I've rather taken a shine to this polite young Canadian lad, he seems to love our country and people and, also, having foreign employees makes us look more international and therefore lends us cachet. Bring him over here and I don't know, have him proofread English copy or something." It does happen.

      We all mocked, but clearly it was memorable. The current slogan is "Experience Korea," which is admittedly more professional and descriptive but also far more bland.

      Electronic border guards was the only option when I was there, the humans were dealing with specific concerns. The machines were easy to use and very fast.