I LOVE ATSUGI! I just thought that was worth mentioning. Not that I'll ever forget.
Today is my last day in Atsugi, and tonight was, without a doubt, brilliant. I had a great time meeting Katagiri and Harasono, and we jumped from a place that served sashimi and fried whale (which was excellent, by the way) to a superb JapanIndian curry place. It was great remembering old times, and also great to see how things are now.
After the meet I went back to the hotel to fetch my bicycle, which I had promised to return to the bicycle shop. In return for returning it, they gave me a 1000 yen discount. I was under no real obligation to return it but felt I should since otherwise they'll think all foreigners are criminals.
Anyway, I couldn't really return it without doing a final run around the block. So I went. To every place in Atsugi that I have memories of. I don't know why but this place just makes me feel so incredibly nostalgic. It's the only place that can really make my heart hurt for remembering it. I went all the way south, first to say goodbye to the youth heim, then to the place my Chinese buddies used to live, and a bit further than that even to the riverside place where I used to reminisce about the month's events. Then I cycled back along the riverside alongside the Sony building, another one of my favourite quiet spots. The sound the summer insects make along that road is just beautiful. Then a bit further still, and I've arrived at the train bridge. From there on I turned back onto the main road and made my way to the bicycle shop. I left a 'thank you' note in the basket and started walking back towards the station.
But what's that? IT'S OTSU!!! Imagine the chance of that. Of the very few people I know that are still living in Atsugi I happen to meet the one guy I didn't have time to meet yet, right before I have to leave Japan. Awesome! He was just on his way home from Tokyo. We had a brief catching-up and then I was on my way again. How could this ever happen anywhere else than in Atsugi? I was smiling to myself as I walked on.
I walked through the 'high street' (ichibangai as they call it here, 'first street') and stopped to buy a cheeseburger at McDonalds. As I was eating it I noticed the typical crowd there: an old lady sleeping there, possibly homeless (people sleep in McD all the time in Japan), a salaryman kind of guy wearing headphones and a severly drunk hipster-kind-of-girl. Then I left and walked all the way to the end of the street and sat down in the park for a while, staring at pretty much exactly the same distribution of people as there were in McDonalds. Then I felt it was time to go, and went back to the hotel.
What a month it's been. I've experienced so many great moments here, so many good times. Pretty much all of them were because I used to live here. That gave me the memories and the confidence I needed to enjoy this place the most. I still love it here, and I don't think that feeling will ever change. Although I'm terrified of that feeling growing weaker, because it's the best (sustainable) feeling I've ever known. But all good things must come to an end, and I am not at all sad about leaving. I know I can't stay here and need to get on with my life. It really is exactly the same as liking the town you experienced your childhood in: you only remember the good things, but you know you must move on to somewhere else to have a future. That's how I feel right now. But I also know that Atsugi will always be there for me, and I can go back any time I feel like it.