I visited Japan for the first time when I participated in a 10 day exchange program in 2012. I stayed with a host family during those 10 days, and my host sister, Chika, came to live with me in my hometown for about a week. Chika and I spent every day of that exchange together and I came to think of her as my little sister. The day that we said goodbye, I promised her that we would see each other again.
Upon applying to JET, I chose Osaka prefecture specifically for Chika because I’d learned that her family had moved to Osaka a few years ago. But after getting accepted and placed in Osaka prefecture, I contacted Chika and learned that her family had moved back to their original hometown near Tokyo – about seven hours away from Osaka by train.
But then I remembered that orientation would be in Tokyo and knew that I’d have free time in the evenings. I contacted Chika to see if she was available the weekend of my orientation. And she was! And her university happened to be only about 10 minutes away from the hotel I was staying at by train.
We met each other on the night of my last day in Tokyo. We hadn’t seen each other for over five years, but I recognized her immediately! She still looked the same to me. Seeing her again was such a sweet, heartwarming experience! Five years passed, but it didn’t feel like we’d been apart for long. We got along as if we’d seen each other yesterday. She recommended Tavern for dinner, which happened to be a very “American” restaurant. We ordered a salad and bacon ratatouille (which neither of us was a huge fan of). We also ordered a cocktail each, which I thought was a little strange since the last time we saw each other, she was barely a teenager!
There was still quite a big language barrier between us, but her English and my Japanese has gotten a lot better over the past few years, so we were able to update each other about our families, the major events in our lives up until that point, and our plans for the future. I tried to explain in broken Japanese that I want to write stories and she tried to explain in broken English that she wants to help stimulate local economies in Japan. It’s exciting to see where life is going to take us and I can’t wait to hear about all of the incredible things she’s going to do.
During dinner, she handed me her gift to me. When I opened it and saw two bags of granola, I laughed. She’d remembered!
When I stayed with her family, I was obsessed with this granola cereal called Furugura – or Fruits Granola. I ate three bowls of it every morning and bought two bags to bring home to the states. I wasn’t able to find it in the U.S., so I hadn’t eaten the cereal after running out of the two bags. I’m not a big granola-eater anymore, but it was funny that she’d thought of my obsessive, unhealthy love for that cereal, even after all these years.
We walked around Shinjuku for a little while after dinner, talking, enjoying the feeling of being with each other again. But around 8:30, we had to head back to the station. She commutes from her hometown to her university in Tokyo everyday – about an hour train ride one way – so she had a long train ride ahead. We hugged each other in front of the station gates. It was hard saying goodbye again, but she’s coming to Minoh in September, so we’ll see each other at least once more while I’m in Japan.