The first day I moved into my new apartment, the postcards were the first decorations to go up. I unpacked my clothes, my toiletries, then the postcards. I rolled out a piece of twine and tied the ends to adhesive hooks, stuck the hooks on the wall above my bed. I had to re-stick the hooks three or four times before I managed to get them level. Once they were even, or even enough, I hung the postcards: the Monet, the landscape, the portrait of a woman in a pink dress, the painting of a girl and her cat, and the town by the water. (Which town, I don’t know. But I like not knowing.) They made the apartment feel warmer, a little friendlier. They made the apartment home.

Later on, I’d hang a framed sketch of a flower on the opposite wall. Then a calendar, then wall hangers with pockets to store paper clips and bobby pins, and then a wind chime above the hallway. These decorations I hung to fill space. The postcards, though, I hung for their stories. Sometimes I’d look at them before going to sleep. I’d trace the roofs of the buildings in the village by the sea. I’d stare into the little girl’s eyes, which are a deep, dark blue, and I’d wonder what her name was.

In April, I hung up two new postcards that I bought from a souvenir shop in Okinawa: one a sketch of two bitter melons – a father and son – and the other an illustration of Zamami Island at night. I looked at the melons a lot because they made me smile.

Today, July 17th, I took the postcards down from the wall. I stood before them, looked at each postcard one last time, sighed, and pulled the hooks off. I held the string in my hands. I unclipped the cards, filed them into a bag, and stuffed the bag in my suitcase. The wall above my bed is bare for the first time all year. And it looks whiter than ever. But I can still see the postcards there, hanging in my memory, where they will remain.



What I’ll miss about living in Japan

  • The people I’ve met
  • My tiny closet of an apartment
  • My church and church community
  • Being a train ride away from the city
  • Warm and friendly staff and strangers and people in general
  • Sending letters and Japanese snacks to my family
  • Summer festivals
  • 2 liter bottles of green tea
  • Listening to the frogs at night
  • Rice fields
  • The price of red wine
  • Convenience stores on every corner
  • Clean streets
  • Clean everything
  • Furin (Japanese wind chimes)
  • Tea ceremony club at school
  • Spring
  • All the pickled vegetables
  • Stumbling upon hidden coffee shops
  • Greeting my students good morning
  • Trinkets and handmade goods shops
  • Fish market stalls in the middle of busy streets
  • Warm drinks from vending machines in the winter
  • Castles
  • The path to the waterfall
  • Train station jingles
  • The crossing guard I pass on the way to work
  • Speaking (or at least attempting) Japanese
  • Noda fuji (wisteria) and Japanese buttercup
  • Writing about my experiences here
  • All of the green