Apart from that though, it's really hard to believe that the day is almost here. It's seriously less than a week away! The only thing left to do now is pack. And as the spirit of packing is abound I have decided to write a small post about thing that aren't quite essential... but I just can't possibly leave behind in America.
5. DS Lite (white) and 3DS (blue)
|They both serve their purposes|
They may come across as being particularly childish, especially in Japan, but the fact of the matter is: I love video games and they can be a great resource on a particularly long voyage (train/bus ride, etc.) when there is little else to do. I'm also able to buy and play Japanese games on the DS Lite since there is no region restriction on it meaning I could still get a bit of studying in whilst entertaining myself.
4. Bento Box and Gift Chopsticks
|Both were gifts really. . .|
This Bento was a present to myself after receiving a bit of birthday money from Mitsuko. We found it at a shop within the AEON in Matsue. I wanted to be really careful with my limited funds so I avoided buying anything that was less than practical. I found a scale model kit of an X-Wing from Star Wars! Man, I wanted that so bad. Like I said though, it wouldn't have been a very pragmatic purchase, and I wouldn't have wanted to build it while I was in Japan for fear of it breaking while going home. So when I came across this Bento, I knew it was perfect. Utilitarian and a lovely gift.
The chopsticks themselves (believe it or not) deserve their own story: The day I was flying home from Yonago Airpoirt (to Tokyo, then back to LA) I was dropped off by Mitsuko's landlord, Adachi-san and his wife. We were both feeling pretty sad about having to part. After giving Mitsuko a good-bye hug and a kiss I started walking towards the security gate leaving behind those who had brought me all this way. As I was walking through the metal detector, I heard my name being called. I turned around and there stood at the entrance to the checkpoint, Kageyama-Sensei, the BOE member who we had worked together with on all the kindergarten lessons. He waved a small wrapped gift in the air, beckoning me to come claim it. The airport security wouldn't let me backtrack through the gates though, so one of them retrieved it and handed it to me. I thank him from afar and waved a final goodbye to everyone. I didn't open the bag until I got home, because it felt like the right thing to do. Inside was a small hand towel, and the chopsticks you see above. Both of the items pictured will be my workplace utensils. It still amazes me that he came to send me off.
3. Mahjong Set (and playing mat)
|Seriously, learn this game now|
This one is also another gift. While I stayed with Mitsuko, I came to meet and befriend the lovely husband and wife couple who ran the medicine shop across the street. Keiko-san, and Jiro-san, were absolutely vital to our well being on more than one occasion and I owe them more favors that I could possibly list here. The same medicine shop is where I studied my Japanese and talked with Keiko-san about everything from relationships to astronauts. I fear I'll never be able to replicate those days or conversations and where that might make me sad, I shall instead choose to cherish that time. This mahjong set was a going away gift given to me by the both of them. Among the many things Mitsuko and I did with Keiko-san and Jiro-san, playing mahjong was one of the best. I remember way back in the first days of meeting them, when Jiro-san asked if I knew about mahjong. I naively said yes, and reminisced about the tile matching game that we so often think of when mahjong enters the brain. He laughed and dismissed that as not being mahjong. He taught us Riichi (or Reach) Mahjong, which is the Japanese variation of Chinese Mahjong. Rather than the tile matching variant, Riichi Mahjong is an extremely deep game that is insanely fun to play. It was a perfect going away gift to remind me of the nights we stayed up late hoping the next tile would be the one we needed.
2. AKG k701 Headphones
|An audio odyssey awaits you|
A graduation present and an amazing set of cans to boot, these ones don't require as much explanation as previous entries. Music will forever be eternally important to me. Along with these I will of course bring some thing to plug them into, my iPhone, and iPod touch (thank you Mitsuko!), and laptop naturally. Those last three might have been included as an item on the list, but they all seemed too obvious as being essential items to bring along, and this list is more like things that aren't so necessary that I really want to bring with me. What else can I say? If you've never experienced music with a higher end set of headphones, you are totally missing out. The only thing I need now is a good headphone amp to drive them. The quality is phenomenal but they are notorious for requiring a bit of power to get the most out of them. My precious headphones are almost as unnecessarily essential as the number one spot on this list.
1. Notebooks and Pens
|Get a fountain pen and write something|
The most important thing I did while I was in Japan for 6 months apart from all the volunteering, studying, shamisen learning, cooking new meals, traveling, and meeting new people was: writing it all down. 6 years ago I was in Japan on a study abroad trip to Fukuoka where I did equally many things in a 5 week span. And though it was the time of my life, only a fraction of that was captured with a photo and even less so was written down with the remaining splinters clung to the deepest reaches of my memory. I wish I had written more down while I was there and it still is my biggest regret that I never did. I promised myself when I went to Japan this last time that I would have a notebook handy and write more of my life down. Long ago I understood the value of reflection but it's taken many years to build a work ethic that would meet that understanding. I was incredibly proud of myself for sticking to it, and now I have an amazing journal of events that quite literally starts from LAX the day I flew out, and continues through nearly everything that happened to us in Japan, Korea, and then some. Adhered to the pages are also receipts, stubs, tickets, and other curios I picked up along the way to further cement memories within the pages of that mental desert. Fountain pens are something I also discovered in Japan. Of course, I knew about them before, but I never got into the idea until I was in Japan. I saw a display of them in a store called Miraiya-Shouten. I thought about how much writing I was already doing and felt that if I were going to be a writer I should do it properly and equip myself with a tool meant for the job. My first one was a blue Pilot Prera, one of my Christmas gifts from Mitsuko. It was the right call; having used them now I'm never going back. Currently, I have a brand new Rhodia Webnotebook (pictured) that I'm planning on using as my official JET journal. Along with that I have some other smaller notebooks that haven't been used, including a few that have. Some with various notes in them, one for book translating, one for recipes, and my Midori Traveler's notebook, which I plan to use as a planner.
NEXT UP: A list of things I wish I didn't have to leave behind...