One of my favourite emotions is nostalgia. I love to reminisce about the past and draw out the feelings I used to feel. Two years ago during my last days in Atsugi, the place I lived for 5 years, I did exactly that. I was leaving on a cycling trip, and while waiting for the right moment to depart I revisited all those things I knew I would miss. Then after the cycling trip, when I decided I would leave Japan, I returned to Atsugi again, feeling triumphant, yet different. I knew I had another chance to see all those things I liked (loved) about Japan, but somehow it felt different sleeping in a hotel bed instead of my own cozy little studio apartment. I dismissed it as a situational thing, and the years after I left I've been idolizing Japan in my head, looking forward to my eventual return (as a tourist). That time is now.
When the plane approached Japan I got my first rush of excitement. Seeing in birds-eye-view all those places that I used to know was just amazing. As I got out of the airport I got my first healthy dose of friendly Japanese people and realized that my language skills did not yet completely atrophy. Then I got on the bus to Atsugi, that very same bus that I took 7 years ago as a naive stranger who did not know what was going on around him, and then it really hit me. All the memories, smells, sounds, emotions, surged back to my brain and I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. In the end I settled on grinning like an idiot which must have scared the shit out of the other people in the bus.
Arriving in Atsugi I headed to my hotel, which is the same one I ended my cycling trip in, and it suddenly felt different again. I remembered how I felt right before I left, a stranger in someone else's town, and I haven't been able to shake that feeling since. It's like someone is constantly drilling a message in my head saying "You're just a guest now. Maybe you used to live here two years ago but now you've moved on. What are you even doing here?". I don't know have an answer to that (yet).
I'm amazed at how much my perspective changed after two years of London. While in London I've constantly compared it to Japan, saying that Japan is better in this, better in that etc. (annoying the hell out of my UK friends and girlfriend). Now that I'm back here I've had a great chance to do a double-check. I'd say that my findings are the same but I would like to rewrite the conclusion. If I had to make the comparison again I'd say that Japan is "not that much better". (This is of course an extremely personal opinion related to the current situation I am in right now and will not apply to anyone else unless said someone happens to be in exactly the same situation as me). I guess it's the advantage of not having anything to compare it with when I first came here, allowing my mind to base it's default state upon Japan and then using that as a base. I'm slowly unbasing myself. Or perhaps I should say rebasing since I will return to London after this trip to try and get something more permanent going. I guess the old saying holds true: you can never go home again.
This is Japan. It's the easy-mode country. You can travel anywhere and do anything you like without having to worry that something bad will happen to you. (*if you're familiar with the language, which helps a great deal in how people treat you). I've travelled by myself here a lot already so I feel comfortable going anywhere, which I guess is what I will do. I've got mixed feelings about staying in Atsugi. I still have tons of memories to revisit and old friends to have a drink with, but at the same time I've never before felt like such an outsider. I don't belong here right now, and I won't pretend that I do. Instead, once my business here is finished, I'll travel around. I'm not sure where yet, but I'm sure I can concoct something nice. It won't be as adventurous as my last trip here but I'll definitely find some new places.
I haven't quite found the peace yet. It's time I bought a bicycle.