Coming Home (Last Memories of Nagoya, Until the Day We Meet Again)

Though it has already been a month and a few days since I came home, writing this post from my very own bedroom still feels surreal.

I left Nagoya on March 30 and arrived in Bangkok on the same day. March was my last month in Japan before moving back to Thailand, so I knew it would be a very busy month, but it ended up more hectic than expected. Especially when comparing it to fun-filled February, with post-thesis defense indulgence like NCT 127 official cafe event along with my and Jaehyun’s birthday and Doyoung’s birthday; unforgettable day trips with friends and one last long solo trip before graduation, all of which I want to write full posts about one day; and the generally relaxing atmosphere. Not that March was 100% stressful. There were happy moments and heartfelt farewells too, but in the last few weeks, a lot of things just went wrong despite my efforts to finish the pre-departure procedures early on and these exhausted me. I wish I could have spent more time in March traveling and relaxing, but since everything already happened the way it did, I want to record personal reflections and some of the memorable moments (both the good and the bad) during my last week in Japan here.

I shared some photos and parts of the stories about the last week on my Instagram already, but due to word limit, I didn’t get to write everything I wanted. I also held myself back from talking about certain things because I don’t want to be too ranty or cringey there. As weird as this may sound, I am actually not comfortable sharing some thoughts and feelings with acquaintances and some friends who are following me on IG. It is easier to express myself more on this blog, where most readers are close friends and people I have never met.

With that, I am warning you that this is a long-winded post and some parts of this post are very ranty and cringey. Musings and photos from Nagoya to Bangkok aside, here go many stories, even the most ranty and random ones, that I want to immortalize in one place.

March 25, 2022: Graduation

After three years, I finally graduated from the Graduate School of International Development at Nagoya University (academic year 2021).

01NagoyaUniversity

I started my student life in Nagoya on April 2, 2019, as a research student. After working for three years and a half for three toxic companies (I did have some nice former colleagues though), it was a much needed break that also worked well for my growing interest in development studies. And as a fan of anime and manga since kindergarten and a frequent Japan visitor (Japan was my first overseas travel thanks to the 2008 AFS JENESYS program, my first solo backpacking in 2011, and many other solo trips after I finished undergrad studies in 2015), I had always been curious about living there. I had low confidence in myself about pursuing graduate studies though. I was stressed enough during undergrad and had very limited work experience and knowledge in the field of development. But these reasons were also what pushed me to take on this challenge.

During the Japanese Government (MEXT) Scholarship’s mandatory research student period, I wasn’t really required to take courses at my grad school and had time to adjust to life in Japan until January 2020. It was a healing year and I am glad I could have one normal year enjoying my hobbies without much worry (traveling and fangirling) before the pandemic changed our lives.

I went home in February 2020 during the spring break. Some of you have probably read this post that I was stranded in Bangkok because of border closures. My first Master’s semester at GSID started in April 2020 and due to increasing COVID-19 cases in Japan and some international students being stuck in their home countries as well, courses were offered completely online for everyone. There were limitations and challenges from online courses, but I could still learn a lot. Thankful for GSID professors and friends, we did our best during those difficult times.

Luckily, I could go back to Nagoya in September 2020. From then on, there were still many necessary changes and adaptations. From the 2020 fall semester until my last semester at GSID, classes were offline/online hybrid. I had to change my thesis topic too because travel restrictions made it difficult to fly to Thailand and conduct a field work, which was necessary for my old topic. Life was overall okay in Nagoya and Japan never really had domestic lockdowns, but there were periods with high number of cases too, so I have learned to assess the situations and went out or stayed in based on case number (as well as my stress level).

I wonder how things would have turned out without the pandemic. Years studying abroad like this could have been the best years full of freedom and new experience. Still, I am aware that I was privileged enough to have been there in Japan, which does have its flaws in how it deals with COVID-19, but at least allows some offline classes, provides some support, and doesn’t use draconian measures. While there were things I wish I could have done more or better, I have experienced and achieved some other things too. I could make many happy memories thanks to good friends and kind strangers in Japan. And I really appreciate my family and friends in Thailand and abroad for endless encouragement all these years.

In terms of learning, I wish I could conduct a research with actual field work and I am admittedly still disappointed that I wasn’t able to do my thesis the way I wanted and gain field work skills which I wanted to gain the most, but I will thank myself for having overcome some limitations and made some progress. I am overall satisfied with my performance at GSID. I have learned a lot from not only the professors and my very kind TA, but also my GSID friends and batchmates. I have done my best to share what I know about Thailand and the world too, in hopes that we can learn more about one another and support one another’s development in our increasingly complicated world. I am still lacking a lot and there remain many things I don’t know, but I hope I have become a little wiser and better, both in development issues and life skills, and I will continue learning and sharing.

I wrote this in the Acknowledge section of my thesis, but I also want to share this (cheesy) thought here. Though we may have regrets and feel frustrated that we aren’t able to do more, I hope we won’t blame ourselves or be too hard on ourselves. I hope we don’t forget to thank ourselves for still pulling through each day or achieving even small things in these trying times.

Onto the graduation day itself. In my life, I have experienced Thai and Japanese graduation ceremonies and to be honest, I enjoyed the Japanese one more. It felt both celebratory and solemn, yet wasn’t too strict and time-consuming. It also wasn’t expensive because we weren’t required to wear graduation gowns or kimono. A graduation gown costs more than 30,000 yen and since rental gowns weren’t available this year due to the pandemic, I chose to just dress formally. (Though let me put a disclaimer here: readers from some countries might beg to differ with my opinions. After all, things are different in each country and it depends on each person’s perception too. In fact, as some of you might have heard, some aspects of Japanese culture are considered excessively formal by foreigners as well as some Japanese people. I was satisfied with my Japanese graduation experience though due to what I have experienced in Thailand, which I will reflect on later.)

02NagoyaUniversity

In the morning, I got to enter Nagoya University’s symbolic building, Toyoda Auditorium, for the first time. The university-wide graduation ceremony is always held there (the orientation ceremony for new students too, but it was cancelled the year I entered GSID due to COVID-19). I am glad we were allowed to bring our personal belongings and take photos inside the auditorium as long as we were careful not to disturb anyone. During my graduation in Thailand, graduates weren’t allowed to bring anything inside the auditorium, not even phones and wallets, and we had to waste hours waiting, on top of having to attend 2-3 rehearsals before the graduation day. All these just to make sure we would bebave perfectly for self-important diploma givers, some of which are always at least one hour late to the ceremony. This superfluousness hasn’t changed and I agree with many people that for this reason, Thai graduation day doesn’t feel as celebratory for the graduates themselves.

After listening to speeches by the university president and the representative among outstanding PhD students, we exited the auditorium and enjoyed photo sessions with friends. Since foreigners aren’t allowed to enter Japan unless they have work visa or residence cards, my family couldn’t fly to Japan and go to my graduation ceremony. However, it was heartwarming to have met one of my Japanese friends’ mother again. I had visited my friend’s house before, so her mother came to congratulate our other GSID friends and me. We also took photos together.

03NagoyaUniversity

The afternoon was for the graduation ceremony at GSID. I was once again pleasantly surprised by how chill things were. No need to spend a long time rehearsing. We just entered GSID Auditorium, listened to some explanations about the procedures, and waited until our name was announced to receive our diploma from the Dean. After that, we should have all the free time to take photos with professors, TAs, and friends.

04NagoyaUniversity

I didn’t have unlimited time though. I had some time to take photos wearing the graduation gown that a friend kindly lent me and say last goodbyes, but then I had to be back at my apartment because the item disposal company staff was coming.

Some background and flashback: in Japan, reasonably-priced rooms mostly come unfurnished, so when moving out, all furniture and electrical appliances have to be sold, given away, or properly disposed. All items bigger than 30 cm can’t be haphazardly thrown away and I tried to sell and give them away before, but the people who reserved my desk and washing machine cancelled last minute, so I had to use disposal company’s service to get rid of these oversized items.

The first tip for people who stumble upon this post and will have to move out of Japan in the future: you should first visit established recycle shops/secondhand stores like Hard Off and 2nd Street and arrange house/apartment visit, so that you can try to sell your items to them. I made the wrong decision and contacted another recycle shop that claimed they could buy more items than other recycle shops, promised good prices, and let me contact them via LINE chat, which was convenient for non-Japanese speakers like me. The recycle shop agreed to visit my apartment, but after arriving, they refused to buy most items on the spot because some items exceeded three years old or weren’t manufactured by the brands they preferred. If this was the criteria, I wish they would have let me know early on in our LINE chat because I already sent them all the details and photos, including manufacture years and brands. If they had told me earlier about their conditions, I could have tried to ask Hard Off and 2nd Street (these shops can buy items up to seven and ten years old) and see if they could buy my items.

I had no time to visit other recycle shops and arrange apartment visits anymore, so I tried to sell and give away the furniture and electrical appliances by posting announcements in Facebook groups for international students and expats in Nagoya and Chubu region. Here comes my second tip: ask people who reserve your items to sign a contract. I wanted to do it too, but some people who reserved my items don’t live in Nagoya and my schedule and the potential buyers’ schedules didn’t work out for us to meet for contract signing either. I was unlucky to have to deal with people who suddenly cancelled even after I asked them not to.

So that was why I ended up having to contact disposal company. Instead of getting some money from selling items or losing nothing for giving them away, I had to pay 22,000 yen for disposing my washing machine and desk. Though the good thing is that it is hassle-free. The staff from disposal company will safely uninstall all items and carry them downstairs to their truck. You don’t have to do anything.

March 26, 2022: Moving preparations

That day was full of negativity and I didn’t take any photos because I was very busy. If you don’t want to read, feel free to skip to March 27.

According to the weather forecast, it would rain from morning till night and I woke up worried. It had been settled since weeks before that all buyers would come to take the furniture and electrical appliances from my apartment before 5pm, but with the rain, pick-up of big items would be difficult for buyers without cars. But I was to return the room key to my landlord on March 27, so I had reminded everyone to come prepared on the 26th anyway, so that I had enough time to clean my apartment and deal with problems in case something went wrong.

And it did.

Though I was to officially move out on the 27th, I had to move to hotel from the 26th until the night before I left Japan since all items, including essentials like bed, microwave oven, and fridge, would be gone on the 26th.

I was lucky to have moved all luggage I would be carrying by myself to my hotel in Fushimi and come back to my apartment before the rain fell down. Some of the people who reserved my furniture and electrical appliances also came to buy or take my items as promised.

However, there were a few people who gave me troubles and these people happened to reserve oversized items too. Sorry for the incoming rant, but I am writing about them here to remind myself that I have been through that bad day and I will be able to deal with more frustrating days in the future…

The first person reserved many items, including bed frame and mattress. He lived about five minutes away from my apartment on foot and said that he would ask a friend to help carry the big items. Turned out his friend didn’t pick up his phone call that day and he kept putting off coming to my apartment. I needed my items gone, so the moment the rain subsided for a while, I bit the bullet and told him I would help him carry everything, including the bed frame and mattress. Our apartments don’t have elevators and though I lived on the second floor and this buyer on the third floor, it was still really difficult to move the bed frame downstairs, put it onto a small cart that the buyer brought, push the cart to his apartment, and take it upstairs to his room. The rain suddenly poured down again when we were carrying the bed frame too.

As if I wasn’t unlucky enough, the person who reserved my microwave oven and foldable table, whom I wasn’t able to contact since morning that day, arrived at my apartment while I was taking the bed frame to the first buyer’s apartment. I wasn’t able to check my phone, so I didn’t know he arrived. When I could check my phone again, I saw the pissed off messages he left and judging from the time he told me he arrived and the time he left, he waited for about five minutes. It was partly my fault for not telling him that I had to help another buyer transport the items, but I was also upset that he didn’t reply to my previous messages at all when I asked him what time he would come and then he suddenly arrived, waited for less than five minutes, and left. That night, I had to find other people to take my microwave oven and foldable table.

The third buyer reserved my fridge. In the morning, I texted him and he said his friend suddenly borrowed his car. In the afternoon, the buyer was still silent and another person messaged me, saying he wanted to buy the fridge. So I asked the third buyer if he could still come and what time. He said he would come, without replying what time. I still respected his confirmation, so I told the person who just messaged that the fridge was still reserved. The person then started to (creepily) insisted that he really needed the fridge and asked me to cancel the third buyer’s reservation.

What…

After rejecting him and he still messaged me, I told him how unreasonable he was being and stopped replying. I have blocked him for good.

And this frustrating situation didn’t end there. After giving the third buyer a couple more hours, I asked him again if his friend had returned the car and what time he could come. It was almost 4pm, but I was willing to wait until 7pm. Guess what, he simply said his friend still didn’t return the car. He didn’t tell me what time he could come to take the fridge either.

The third buyer had been rude before and my impression of him got even worse, so I told him I had been patiently waiting all day, but since he didn’t give me any clear answer, I wanted to cancel the deal and find a more trustworthy buyer.

I then found a new buyer for my fridge from one of the Facebook groups. This buyer doesn’t speak much English and prefers Japanese. He prefers calling instead of texting too, so I had to call him with Messenger and tried to communicate with my limited Japanese and his limited English. Turned out he lives in another city, but he promised to drive to my apartment early next morning to pick up the fridge. He asked me to help him carry the fridge to his car though because no one else was free to help, but at least, he was polite about it and seemed honest and patient. I took that as a good sign that I wouldn’t be stood up, so I agreed to sell the fridge to him.

The last troublesome buyer reserved so many items, including the oversized ones. The day before, he promised that he and his friend would pick up everything from my apartment in the afternoon on March 26, but when March 26 came, he was completely silent, not even reading my messages. Late at night, he finally replied, saying that he was sick and it was too cold for him to go out in the rain. His friend also couldn’t help carrying the items anymore. He said he would go to the hospital next morning and then pick up the items from my apartment in the afternoon.

At that point, I was very tired after dealing with frustrating situations and people for the whole day and I wish he at least sent me a short text before, but I knew no one wanted to be sick, so I held it in and told him that I couldn’t wait until the next afternoon because I needed time for 1) cleaning my apartment and 2) handing the parcels I wanted to ship home to Japan Post staff who would come to my apartment in the afternoon. I also asked the buyer about his other symptoms because it sounded like he might have COVID-19. Then he told me that he did have sore throat and planned to get tested at the hospital.

As expected. I told him that I would be flying soon and couldn’t risk catching the virus, so he should ask another friend or someone else to pick up the items from me. It had to be someone who wasn’t his close contact too. He told me he could let me know next morning.

That was my last straw with this buyer. It was unfortunate that he was sick, but judging from how he had been interacting with me, almost everything was a maybe or wait and see. All my furniture and electrical appliances must be gone the next morning at the latest. It was risky to reserve so many items for someone who couldn’t confirm anything when my deadline for moving out was so near.

In the end, I tried offering all these items to the new fridge buyer since he has a car and seemed most reliable at that moment. Luckily, he agreed to take them all.

March 27, 2022: Big cleaning and moving out

I barely got a good rest because I had to deal with item sales and giveaways until late at night. Part of me was also worried if someone would suddenly cancel again and if I could finish cleaning my apartment before my landlord came to inspect my room. After all, with many big furniture and electrical appliances still left in my room and me being busy with contacting many people, I wasn’t able to get much cleaning done on March 26.

If worst comes to worst, my friends who would continue living in Japan offered that they would try to help find other people to take my items or dispose them. I was really touched by their kindness, but it would be best if I could get rid of everything before I left my apartment.

Thankfully, the three new people who reserved my items didn’t stand me up. Everyone came on time and everything went so smoothly compared to the day before (though I struggled with carrying the fridge down to the buyer’s car, he was patient, let me catch many breaks, and let me borrow his gloves for carrying heavy items too).

When every item was finally gone, I couldn’t help feeling relieved along with a sense of accomplishment. Then I spent the rest of the morning and afternoon cleaning as best as I could.

A postman from JP Post arrived when I finished most of the cleaning. I heard that when using JP Post pick-up service, we have to carry the heavy boxes to the postman’s car. However, the postman I met told me that he would carry them all himself and started taking the heavy boxes downstairs. In the end, I don’t know for sure if we have to help carry the packages or not, but I still appreciated his kindness and I helped carry the lighter boxes anyway. After we were done, he cheerfully wished me luck with moving back to my country. This kind of courtesy in Japan never failed to make me feel a bit happier, especially after a bad or exhausting day.

My landlord came to do room inspection around 5pm. I was very surprised when she said I cleaned so well and that I didn’t have to do this much. She kept thanking me for cleaning thoroughly. Wow… and I thought room inspection would have been stricter. I think I wasn’t able to clean the difficult-to-clean areas that well, but if my landlord was satisfied, then good for her and me.

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There is something sobering about standing in an empty room which was once filled with so much of myself.

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I moved out of university dorm and into this apartment on May 31, 2019. I returned to Bangkok on February 5, 2020 and left for Japan again on September 9, 2020, so I lived alone for about two years and three months.

I had always lived with my family before that. There were those times I worked and studied at Walt Disney World and in Germany, but those trips were less than three months. I had roommates too and didn’t really have to take care of stuff by myself thanks to the programs. So there was a lot to learn this time in Japan. Cooking and cleaning YouTube channels taught me a lot. Google answered my questions about documentation and rules and regulations in Japan. Google Translate saved me countless times when I had to talk to my landlord, shop staff, and officers. Sometimes the other person I was talking to didn’t have smartphone or didn’t use Google Translate and it was difficult, but I appreciate their patience because I didn’t always understand what they said the first time and both of us tried hard to communicate.

For me, living in an apartment in a country that I don’t speak its language wasn’t as comfortable as living at home, but I still had a great time overall and I will miss that life.

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Shadowfie in front of my apartment. This is the view I saw every time I left for the university. I like living in this neighborhood a lot. It is close to the university, but not too close. It was mostly quiet and felt private when I lived there too, but there are some convenience stores and great restaurants nearby. I took these photos, so I could remember my temporary home and mentally transport myself there.

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I left my apartment when the sun was about to set. After the rain from the day before and consecutive overcast weather that week, the beautiful last light of the day was a sight to behold.

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The cherry blossoms in my neighborhood were approaching their full bloom. I took these photos while on my way to dinner with my friends that day. (I will talk about the restaurant when I get to write about things to do and eat in my neighborhood/near Nagoya University one day.)

March 28, 2022: RT-PCR test and slow day

I finally got a good sleep the night before and with all moving out-related things done, I woke up more refreshed. My flight would leave in the morning of March 30, so I had to go take an RT-PCR test around 48 hours in advance.

After getting tested in the morning, I let myself slowly enjoy Nagoya before I had to leave.

I strolled along a sakura tree- and shop-lined street of Fushimi, visited a cozy cafe near my hotel, and enjoyed even more cherry blossoms and food at the morning market (which goes on until afternoon) of Higashi Betsuin Temple. I will dedicate a separate blog post to this wonderful experience someday.

I took a photo of this poster after my wholesome afternoon. Promoting an upcoming event where speakers would talk about Nagoya, the poster featured minimalistic but creative design that resembled shachihoko or Nagoya Castle’s iconic golden tiger-headed carps.

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That evening, my Fuji X-A3 camera couldn’t turn on anymore and after checking, it had nothing to do with battery problems. I never dropped the camera either, but it had been working hard for about four years, so maybe it was time. This became the last photo I took with my Fuji X-A3. The text on the poster made it a meaningful one at that.

I love Nagoya.

March 29, 2022: Unexpectedly troublesome day

Another day of exhaustion and negative feelings. You can skip to March 30 if you want.

Before my graduation day on March 25, I thought I would be spending March 29 traveling somewhere near Nagoya for the last time.

But as luck would have it, my graduate school office made a mistake with everyone’s transcripts, stating that we completed PhD instead of Master’s studies…

We spotted this mistake on March 25, but it was already Friday afternoon and our new transcripts would be available for pick-up only from March 29 onward.

So I gave up on traveling that day and went back to GSID on March 29 morning to pick up the corrected transcripts. One of my parcels happened to take unusually long to be delivered and I expected it to arrive on March 28 at the latest, so I had to go back to my neighborhood anyway.

After picking up my transcripts, I went to my apartment mailbox, which I left unsealed at the time, but it was empty.

I grew worried because I had to leave Japan next morning. I ordered a bunch of film stocks from a Japanese online camera shop that I had bought from before. They ship by regular mail, which can’t be tracked, but the delivery is always fast (normally, it should have arrived around my graduation day even). After contacting the shop, they told me that it was impossible to tell where the parcel was at the moment, but they could give me full refund if the films were returned to them. They suggested I waited and then I could also go to the post office and ask if the parcel had arrived.

I decided to wait for the package until around 4pm, killing time by visiting the university museum and the Nobel Prize Memorial Exhibition Hall, which I had wanted to visit but never got to until then (my experience and photos will be shown in a separate entry), and strolling around my neighborhood again. Still no delivery.

So I went to the post office and asked them if they could look for my parcel. They told me it was difficult to find parcels shipped by regular mail due to the lack of tracking number, so I asked them what I should do. They told me I could fill in a form to return all my future parcels to senders from now on, so I did.

I went back to my apartment one last time to check if the films I ordered somehow miraculously arrived, but there was nothing there. Then I sealed my mailbox, wrote a note to the postman just in case, and contacted the online camera shop again to refund me once the films were returned to them. (They were and I got full refund already.)

I had one last thing to do: cancelling my Japanese phone number and paying my last phone bill. I arrived at Bic Camera around 8pm to settle these. The store closes at 9pm, but when I arrived at the phone and sim card area, one of the staff said my service provider’s counter had been closed since 6pm and they would open at 10am the next day.

My flight would leave at 10.30am the next day. No way I could drop by Bic Camera before going to the airport.

I said sorry to the staff and asked if they could find anyone to help because I really had to leave Japan the next morning. They found a staff who knew how to access and use my service provider’s system. He told me cash payment was impossible after counter hours and asked if I had credit card. A few stressful minutes were spent trying to explain that I didn’t have the physical credit card with me and I only had card information. I know this sounds ridiculous, but my card was issued in Thailand, happened to expire a few months before, and the new card was shipped to my parents while I couldn’t go back to Bangkok and since I never needed to swipe my card before, I didn’t ask my parents to ship the new card to me. Then the staff told me he needed the physical card. He said it seemed impossible to cancel my phone number that day and was about the leave the counter…

My stress level rose, but I tried again to hold it in and asked the staff again if there really were no other ways. Was it not possible to use my cash card or to deduct the money from my bank account? Then he said deduction was possible and asked if my bank account was still open.

So the staff didn’t ask me about my bank account and didn’t expect that I could still pay by deduction because I was leaving permanently? I will never know. But yes, I left my bank account open following one of my professors’ suggestion. She is Thai too, has always been kind and helpful to all the students and me. I was actually going to close my Japanese bank account before leaving, but I decided to ask her if I could leave it open. She said I could and encouraged me to do so because no payment is required for bank account maintenance like in Thailand. I could solve the phone bill issue thanks to my professor’s suggestion.

And that was how I struggled to cancel my Japanese phone number and pay the phone bill after counter hours. I did want to go to Bic Camera earlier, but I had the parcel issue to sort out. Internet and phone service will immediately be cut off once we cancel our phone number, but I needed Google Translate and the internet to talk to post office staff, so I decided to settle the parcel issue before the phone. Only to find out some service providers’ counters close early.

Many lessons learned.

March 30, 2022: Departure

Everything went strangely smoothly again after a rough day. I left Japan from Chubu Centrair International Airport on the same flight with one Thai and one Malaysian GSID batchmates. They were also my MEXT batchmates and we arrived on the same day three years ago, so this felt nostalgic.

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Last look at the interior of Centrair Airport, which is decorated with symbols and specialties of Nagoya and Chubu region, like Yabaton misokatsu (Yabaton restaurant’s pig mascot and deep-fried pork cutlet with red miso sauce), Iga ninja, and shachihoko.

14ChubuCentrairInternationalAirport

After checking in, we had coffee and other delicious drinks at Komeda’s Coffee for the last time with two Japanese friends who kindly came to see us off. It was a nice thing to do before leaving because this famous Japanese coffee shop chain originated in Nagoya.

15ChubuCentrairInternationalAirport

I was at Centrair for the first time when I arrived in April 2019 and took other flights from/to the airport too. I can probably go back one day, but this was my last flight as a Nagoya resident. When the airport officer punched a hole in my residence card to invalidate it, it hit hard. The many missed opportunities surfaced in my mind and I couldn’t help feeling frustrated again that if I were allowed to stay in Japan for three more months, I would have been able to go to NCT 127’s first Japan Dome Tour, Kuroko no Basket and Kingdom Hearts anniversary events, Pokemon Fossil Museum, and the most recently announced first solo concert of my favorite SHINee member, Onew. There are upcoming Haikyuu!! events (full details not yet announced, but I know I want to go) and many other things I want to do in Japan too.

I do want to come back home eventually, but not when so many events are being held and will be held in Nagoya and other major cities in Japan like this. Then there is the reality that I have to go back to the corporate world and wonder again: if and when I will get good salary, boss, colleagues, work environment, and mental rewards (I am surely greedy for expecting all these, but can’t help it) in my home country where the corrupt leaders and system are still winning while the pandemic is still raging. This sounds pessimistic, but it is actually a sentiment shared by many of us from developing countries and I have to admit that I have got too used to student life in a country with its own problems but democracy seems to still function. Now it is time to re-familiarize myself with salarywoman life in my home country that I do love dearly but is suffering from a variety of problems due to dictatorship and cronyism.

My fangirl and future-related rant aside, I will say again that I love Nagoya. Apart from meeting kind people mostly, the city is very liveable and convenient. It is one of Japan’s biggest cities, so after Tokyo and Osaka, Nagoya is usually the next spot for major events, exhibitions, and stores. Great for fans of almost anything. That said, Nagoya never felt too crowded or busy to me, even when international tourism was still possible. From my perspective as a tourist, Nagoya might not be the most exciting place to visit, but there are definitely many interesting things to see, do, and eat. (As I have written here and plan to write more posts to show readers that Nagoya isn’t the most boring city in Japan as many believe.) A lot of neighborhoods, shopping streets, shrines, and temples have been developing and branding themselves very well in recent years and I found myself visiting some places again and again without getting bored. What’s more, the whole Chubu region has everything from mountains and sea to historic places and tech things. It is conveniently situated between Kanto region (Tokyo, Mt. Fuji, and more) and Kansai region (Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, and several other amazing destinations) as well. I see no reason to skip traveling in this central region of Japan.

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Last glimpse of Chubu.

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18Singapore

19Singapore

MEXT arranged a Singapore Airlines flight for us, so we had to transit in Singapore.

20Singapore

21Singapore

But it was okay. The transit time was appropriate and I had never been to Singapore (or other Southeast Asian countries) before, so it was fun to look at the views. Hope this changes later this year or early next year if I can I visit my friend there.

22Rayong

My first glimpse of Thailand’s sky. Rainbow clouds (?) over Rayong as the plane entered Thailand’s eastern region.

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The sun was setting as the plane reached Bangkok area. I had never been on an evening flight before and it was pretty magical.

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And this was it. The moment I felt it was really over.

After landing and finishing the airport procedures, I had to get another RT-PCR test and quarantine myself at the hotel for one night. When I received my negative test result the next morning, I was finally allowed to go home.

25Bangkok

And here is a photo of the first meal that my mom made for me. She prepared one of my most favorite dishes ever, crispy pork belly. So delicious as expected of my mom’s cooking skills. This homecooked meal made me feel that I really have come home.

Though I have expressed my regret about not being able to stay for a little longer in Nagoya and my worries about the future, I am still really glad I have reunited with my family and can meet my close friends in Thailand again.

Epilogue: Seven scenes of Nagoya

To complete this post full of my last Nagoya memories, I am posting these Instax photos featuring my favorite seven scenes of the city.

I received Instax Mini 11 camera from one of my GSID friends on my birthday this year. It was a gift that left me shaken (in a good way) and I thought it would be nice to use it to capture some of the places in Nagoya that I have grown attached to or hold some meaning for me. Though my last two weeks in Japan were hectic, I managed to squeeze in a few nice detours/stops in between my errands and took the following seven photos.

26Nagoya

I need to figure out how to take better photos on Instax, especially when it comes to lighting and distance, but these imperfect shots are still my treasure. One-of-a-kind treasure. I think something unique about Instax photography is that each moment is captured and each shot created as it was. The results are printed out almost instantly and we can’t crop, edit the colors, adjust the lighting, delete unwanted elements, or do anything to alter it or create another copy using editing programs and apps. As I said earlier, these photos are far from good, but they embody my personal belief that I will talk about later on.

27NagoyaOkan-zakuranoNamiki-michi

1. Okan-zakura no Namiki-michi – Unlike the other places in this list which I often visited, this was my first time at the cherry tree-lined avenue. But it was so beautiful and the first blooms I saw in Nagoya this year, so I wanted to see how it would look on Instax film. (Taken on March 17)

28AtsutaShrine

2. Atsuta Shrine – One of Japan’s three holiest shrines. It happened to be the first attraction I visited when I went to Nagoya as a tourist in 2015 and when I returned in 2019 as a student too. Despite its sacredness and reputation, the shrine is usually pretty quiet and it is so green, so I felt at peace whenever I went there. I made my last visit in the late afternoon because I love the atmosphere around that time, but it was a cloudy day and Instax didn’t love it. This is my attempt to take a photo of the torii gate among the trees, but there wasn’t enough light and the gate is barely visible in the final result. (Taken on March 17)

29MiwaShrine

3. Miwa Shrine – A small shrine that packs a lot of rabbit statues and flowers. The decoration theme is changed monthly to match the seasons/festivals. I went there every month to check the decorations out (I can dedicate a whole entry to this shrine alone because I have so many pictures). The shrine is also famous for granting wishes related to concerts… but it seems I am currently not lucky enough as I ranted before about the upcoming NCT 127’s and Onew’s concerts that I can’t join. (Taken on March 19)

30Oasis21

4. Oasis 21 – I love Oasis 21’s UFO-like structure, the Jump Shop in the basement level, and the rooftop area with the view of Nagoya TV Tower and Sakae. They are small, but my Doyoung and Jaehyun dolls are in the photo too. I took this photo after farewell lunch with a friend and we were so surprised at the result. It was another gloomy day, but the sky came out extra stormy. (Taken on March 19)

31Nagoya

5. A slope near my apartment – My favorite sunset spot, especially in summer where sunsets were very vivid. This was the sunset from the day I moved out. (Taken on March 27)

32IfukuShrine

6. Ifuku Shrine – One of the two shrines near my apartment. I took a photo of the smaller shrine because I already have many photos of Ikatsu Hachimangu Shrine or the bigger one. I think I didn’t really appreciate Ifuku Shrine enough and couldn’t resist the cherry blossoms either. This picture was taken while I loitered around my neighborhood and waited for my film package which never came. (Taken on March 29)

33NagoyaUniversity

7. Nagoya University – Another sakura photo. The view was too nice to let go, though the light was too low. This photo was taken near the FamilyMart near my grad school. When I first arrived in 2019, I had my first mini hanami (cherry blossom viewing) while having lunch with my language school friends there. (Taken on March 29)

If you have read this extremely lengthy, dramatic, and ranty post until now, big kudos for your patience. I hope you at least enjoyed the photos…

I have neglected this blog for months because I was very busy with thesis and moving out, so maybe this post can explain my absence (I will go back to posting more travel photos soon), in addition to serving as an archive of my last moments in Nagoya that I wanted to preserve.

I have mentioned in a few other posts before that I believe memories are the most precious things. Our past can’t define our whole present and future, but it can influence us, shape us. Without memories, many things would lose meanings and I wouldn’t have been the person that I am today. The three years I spent as a student in Nagoya (though I was actually physically there for two years and five months) have given me many invaluable life lessons and precious memories and my heart is filled with gratitude that I had this opportunity of a lifetime. Still, some of these memories will fade one day because our brains can only remember so much and while I have accepted that I can’t hold onto everything, I want to try to preserve some of them in this post, especially memories of kind people, difficult situations that I have overcome, and beautiful places and moments.

When I was 17, I had to write an essay for a very vague topic titled “This life is precious”. I think this topic could be interpreted in many ways and I remember how varied my friends’ and classmates’ main ideas and supporting ideas were. I also debated with myself for a while about what to write and suddenly, I had an epiphany of a sort (though I knew I wasn’t the only one thinking this way) and wrote about the unrepeatable moments and experience in each person’s lifetime, how those have become memories that make each person unique and their life one-of-a-kind and thus, precious. I wish I were better at expressing my ideas, but I genuinely believe in what I wrote.

Four years later, I would learn that there is a Japanese idiom for this sentiment. Ichigo ichie (一期一会), or succinctly translated as “once in a lifetime”. I heard about it for the first time from the manga Kuroko no Basket. It has never been discussed in the main storyline and only appeared in Kuroko’s character profile page as Kuroko’s life motto, but after doing a bit more reading about the idiom and continuing the manga and learning more about Kuroko’s backstory, I realized that this is the sentiment that I resonate with, that I should seize the day and treasure each encounter for it can never happen again. The idea has been further cemented into my life after Jaehyun talked about the idiom in his messages to Japanese NCT fans.

And now it has been nine years since I was introduced to ichigo ichie. After living an alternate life in Japan (to me, it really felt like a dream, or an alternate reality), finding happiness despite some hardships, I have come to appreciate memories even more. Although I have visited Japan many times before and I will keep returning as a tourist in the future, I can never live and feel the way I did for the past three years again.

Have you ever felt that you have already created a masterpiece and doubted anything can outdo it? That is how I feel about my memories from these past three years.

05NagoyaUniversity

06NagoyaUniversity

But I am also trying to remind myself that it doesn’t mean the moments to come aren’t precious.

When the situation improves and it is safe to travel overseas again, l will go back to Japan. I will visit the old and new places. I will see the old and maybe encounter unforgettable new faces. I hope I can continue making new memories that I will treasure for as long as I Iive.

This post is part of the #giftograph_film series (some photos were taken with Fujifilm Instax Mini 11 camera, though most photos were taken with my mirrorless and compact cameras).

This post is also part of the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge (week #198: Light and Shadow).

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