Chapter 21:

Nagano: Chapter 17

The Kimochi Warui Diary

The long train ride to Osaka was full of mountain and dark green forests. At each stop, I tried to imagine the rural life of the residents from the limited view of the train window. Bookmark here

Every stop brought floods of students and working adults. This part of the commute was just a daily routine for them—they paid us no mind. Bookmark here

Adults sat patiently in their seats, reading a book or checking their phones. The children were prone to standing in their seats and chatting a bit more loudly. Bookmark here

Regardless, it was all done within their personal space. Jotaro and I were invisible to them.Bookmark here

I realized my phone was on the verge of dying. My phone battery was draining more quickly after I’d gotten the SIM card. It was likely the phone wouldn’t make it—I wrote down our next train stops in a blank page of my journal.Bookmark here

It seemed useless to conserve battery at this point, so I studied Japanese flash cards on my phone, trying to get myself to memorize more kanji. Bookmark here

It was said that one of the best ways to learn Japanese words was through repeatedly seeing them within the context of a sentence. The image it always gave me was of this cumulative effect, where all the hours spent learning would sort of flood into the very bottom of your language-learning consciousness. It wouldn’t be overnight, of course, but—one day—you’d suddenly realize you were understanding much more Japanese than you could before. The process would be so gradual that you’d barely even realize it had happened.Bookmark here

When my phone finally did die, I resigned myself to watching the scenery pass us by outside the window. During the more mountainous parts of the track, the train would slow down, allowing us a better look at the passing landscapes. Bookmark here

Then, when it got too dark to look out the window, I watched the people. Bookmark here

I’ve never felt bad about watching people. Maybe it’s a selfish point of view, but I’ve always thought of myself as invisible in some way. I never saw the harm in watching people—never thought of how it might make them feel uncomfortable—found it was even easier to do here. Bookmark here

For all the selfish watching I partook in, I rarely received any glance in retaliation—as if looking back was a low they would never stoop to.Bookmark here

Even in the more English-friendly parts of Japan, the citizens here seemed to fulfill and validate my feelings that I was invisible. Or rather, that I was in a first-person video game, and all the people around me were just NPCs that wouldn’t react unless I were to do something that their programming could respond to. Bookmark here

Somehow, this feeling had felt familiar. It felt comfortable at the moment, but ultimately, it was too hollow—a feeling I wouldn’t be able to handle for an extended period of days or weeks.Bookmark here

My mental ramblings came to a halt at Nagatsuka. Bookmark here

The train had stopped. The digital marquee displaying the names of the train stations was now pointing back in the direction we had come.Bookmark here

Jotaro was already at the door. “This thing’s gonna take us backwards!”Bookmark here

I fumbled with my notebook, trying to find the page I’d written the train stops on. The words “Nagatsuka” were scrawled in the list. I gave Jotaro the OK, and he hopped out of the train.Bookmark here

I threw my backpack around my shoulder and ran to the door, but it closed just before I made it out.Bookmark here

I saw two buttons next to the door. I began mashing the one for 閉める, but the door wouldn’t budge. I turned now to see that everyone in the car was looking in my direction—they’d been paying attention all along.Bookmark here

“The last thing you want to do in Japan,” the Professor said, “Is to appear like some idiot foreigner.” Bookmark here

A train conductor from the back of the car came over and pushed the other button: 開けるBookmark here

The doors slid open without resistance.Bookmark here

Of course, I knew both of those words… “Close” and “open.” How the hell did I mix them up? They were even color-coded red and green! Bookmark here

Once outside the train, I caught up to Jotaro. The train gradually pulled away and back in the direction it had come from. Bookmark here

In its place, a new scene unfolded before us:Bookmark here

The dark, jagged outline of a forest surrounding us on all sides.Bookmark here

A lake, only visible due to the shimmering reflection of a half moon.Bookmark here

The pitch-black cut-out of a cabin—some unknown distance behind the lake—with a single illuminated window.Bookmark here

The only other lights in the area were from the very train platform we stood on.Bookmark here

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