Chapter 1:

Six Months in Aichi

Six Months in Aichi

Rain always seemed to come at the most appropriate of times. It pattered against the shallow wood of the bus stop, free to show its dominance without another person in sight.

Originally there were supposed to be two people huddled under this sorry shelter. Now? It was beating the odds by having me.

I could still remember my first day here in Japan. As the flight touched down they made a show of booting us off for the next set of passengers to enter the narrow two hundred foot tube of isolation to ship off who knows where. It was a modern-day miracle I managed to maneuver through customs and border security before making it out to see the night sky.

Now, Tokyo wasn’t the most light friendly of places. Most of the stars of my little college town were lost in the splendor of izakaya and clothing stores. Yet, there was still that little ounce of familiarity.

It wasn’t long before my new university hustled my lazy ass onto a shinkansen destined for my final resting place, Nagoya Japan.

Back when I had focused the majority of my free time hustled over a computer comparing my options, there was something so alluring about Nagoya, the bustling city streets, the picturesque Japanese city feel without the tourism of somewhere like Tokyo of Kyoto

What I had neglected to notice was my new university for the spring was a thirty minute bus ride from the nearest subway line.

And now here I sat six months later, waiting for the bus to sweep me off my feet, with two fifty-pound suitcases in tow. They say all good things must come to an end, and apparently today my good thing was next on the chopping block.

A single car sputtered past, dull red and the size of an American truck’s tire at best.

Water splashed against my soaked pant leg. At this point there was more water than denim in them, what was a bit more moisture? More the merrier as they say.

Time flew by as they onboarded us, a jetlagged group of college students from more countries than there were stars in the Tokyo sky. Sign this, stamp that, choose A or B right here. Eventually, the words started to all mix together in some kind of alphabet soup.

That's not even to mention the sudden life-altering decisions they threw at you. Do you want to sign up for the pension service? Better decide in the next five minutes. Surely this couldn't go wrong.

Yet finally after a week passed, class began.

To help the immersion factor, the school put in local students to help guide us clueless foreigners on Japanese.

That was the first day my world changed.

Just before class began a single girl made her way into the classroom. Her black hair was unremarkable, yet stunning in all the right ways. Wherever she walked you could see faces brighten and the atmosphere lift.

And she happened to sit at the desk right next to mine!

We spent most of class discussing the basics. The schedule, what material belonged to which unit, how to avoid failing–something I should have paid much closer attention to– and whatever else happened to come to mind.

It didn’t take long for me to discover Japan’s passion for lectures.

As class ended, I decided on the spot to ask for her socials. The rash decision of rash decisions. But, as I walked back towards my dorm room, my follower count had ticked up by one.

                                                                                   * * *

I checked my watch, four on the dot. Two more hours until my fateful carriage arrived. My ever trustworthy weather app made it clear this rain wasn't going away anytime soon. So much for a quick walk.

A creak emanated from the shelter’s back wall. Knowing this country, people had been ducking under here for at least a few decades.

During my first few weeks here, realizations like that turned from a startling realization to the norm. Between the bright sushi joints and endless pachinko parlors was a treasure trove of curiosities. It took an hour for me and a few friends to run into our first shrine, and less time than that to anger every orb weaver within a half mile.

There is something almost mystical about the small shrines. I would wander into a small patch of forest tucked away in a concrete jungle of townhouses and apartments, only to get completely immersed in another world.

It was at one of these small shrines where I met her again.

Within a five minute walk of our dorms was a small children's playground with a simple shrine tucked away near the back end. There wasn't much to it, a set of swings, some slides, monkey bars. In other words, the perfect place for a bunch of early twenty-somethings to drink once the lights went out.

It didn’t take long to make this a pretty common activity.

Fujigaoka was a two hour walk, and Sakae? Forget it. Have fun walking home in the dead of night without another soul around.

So the park it was. No bar could beat the wondrous prices of our local combini anyway. Getting drunk on 700 yen’s worth of soju feels like some sort of crime to this day.

We had tucked ourselves away from the nearby sidewalk. Shadows covered our drinks and drunken stumbling, but it could only do so much for the talking aspect, something we hadn't connected the dots on until halfway through the semester.

She was there that night, invited by a friend of a friend. Her long skirt fluttered about in the night air. I couldn't help but admire how the street light sparkled against her bright brown eyes, covering a simple t-shirt of the same shade. Unremarkable, yet absolutely stunning in every way imaginable, as always.

I can still feel the whisps of her cool breath against my shoulder.

We talked until the sun rose, about life, Japan, and what we wanted to do with our lives. Anything two college students could discuss was uttered that night.

The next month swirled around with a blissful tranquility. In between the constant hustle of classes, homework, and whatever else life decided to throw we got to talking more and more. What started as simple chats quickly dissolved into conversations lasting hours on end, both through our phones and face-to-face.

Even with Japan’s tremendous transportation system, our contact was still limited by simple geography. Every morning, she would wake up at five on the dot, trudging out of the house by six to catch the train two hours away.

From what she’d told me, my uni back home alone had more than twice the population of her hometown.

But they say that humanity knows no bounds. Whenever the situation allowed she’d hop right on that train. We would spin each other round and round within the trenches of Sakae, stumbling into random capsule hotels whenever the alcohol took hold.

                                                                        * * *

A shuttle bus blundered across the road, splashing water across the entire shelter. And apparently, my eyes were a fine target to aim for.

Against the horizon, any hint of the sun was waving its final farewells for the night, giving up its reign to the storm clouds that refused to go away. The odds were pretty solid that these clouds would be the last remnant I’d see of the Japanese sky; For this trip at least.

A fitting end.

Thirty minutes now. Thirty minutes until I would be forced to leave this paradise behind. Home had its own beauty, but there was an exotic atmosphere here that didn't go away.

The day everything fell apart had a similar vibe. Rain was always on the mark, prophetic in its fall.

Our university had several excursions throughout the semester, with one big overnight trip a whole three hours away by bus, and every student and their mother decided to go.

Naturally, that included both of us

They split us up four to a room–traditional in style with wooden floors and pull-out futons in the old-timey onsen.

You would think a sudden breath of fresh air like this would help in the spring air. The Sakura trees were on the edge of blooming, classes were falling into a familiar flow, and our excitement was at its max. Maybe it was this mix that made everything blow up.

There had always been an invisible wall between us; the distance, culture, and simply time itself between our classes and homework. For a brief few days, those barriers disappeared.

They should have stayed up looking back on it.

I remember hearing about a pair of newlyweds who got married before they ever had the chance to live together. There's so much about a person you can only truly learn by spending your every day in life with them, and for us, those things only lead to argument after argument.

By the time our trip ended, my follower count had gone down by one.

The next month was a blur. Between finals approaching and heading out with friends to explore every last remnant of whatever bits of Japan I could reach, free time became a valuable resource. Long gone were the days of getting fast food delivered to the common room while we went hard on smash. Instead, we went hard on the greatest of entertainment, Genki: An Integrated Course in Elementary Japanese II (English and Japanese Edition).

Truly getting the Japanese student experience.

Yet, despite the textbooks and stress, those precious few days with her never left my mind.

A week ago, I finally got the will to message her, with a bit of liquid courage. Ok, a lot of liquid courage, like a lot a lot of liquid courage.

I may have a problem.

We talked for a bit, not even comparable to our chats of old. You would think simple communication like this would have been obvious, the very first thing you would do. Maybe we’ve both watched too many romance anime.

And now here I sat, in a shelter more shaky than our relationship.

A shuttle bus started to toddle up the winding road. Sure enough, it was here right on the dot, about what you’d expect from Japan.

I glanced back at the horizon. The storm clouds seemed thicker, rolling into thunder about Aichi in a few hours. Maybe I was leaving at a good time.

As the bus rolled up, its door slammed open and I grabbed my suitcase. I lugged my suitcase on and took a seat near the back. Luckily I was the only one here.

Yet, just as the bus’s door swung to a close, I could spot a single girl running towards the bus stop.

Unremakable, yet absolutely stunning in every way imaginable.

Taylor J
Steward McOy
Dhamas Tri (dmz)
Six Months in Aichi cover

Six Months in Aichi

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