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Fantastic Baby

“高く空中に オレは操縦士さ、初めてなら今から連れて行こうか 宇宙に” –BIGBANG, ‘Fantastic Baby’

To help myself cope with the fact that I will be leaving Japan in less than 12 hours, I have decided to compile an admittedly underwhelming list of things I will and will not miss about Japan. That, and I can’t sleep.

Things I will miss about Japan:

  • Constant politeness by store clerks and restaurant workers
  • No tipping!
  • Chain convenience stores that are clean and sell fresh, edible food for a reasonable price
  • Being able to step out of my front door and travel virtually anywhere in the country without a car
  • The overall feeling of safety and the level of trust among strangers
  • Availability of good art supplies, music, and comics
  • Attention paid to detail and the taking into account of every scenario for the convenience of the general public

Things I will not miss about Japan:

  • Constant staring and (mostly) unintentional racism
  • Smoking sections in nearly every restaurant
  • Overcrowded trains, streets, and shops
  • Overpriced movie tickets (along with everything else)
  • Having to dodge cicadas and killer hornets on the way home

So this is it. Tomorrow I will get on a plane and go home. Although the definition of “home” is not particularly clear to me anymore. I feel like this is my life, and it seems like a dream to remember when it wasn’t. And now all of a sudden I am being thrown back into my “other” life as if I never came here to begin with. Not that I’m not thrilled about seeing my friends and family; I am. But I think the hardest thing will be having to accept the fact that my life will never again be this. Looking back at my very first blog post, going back to the United States seems so unexciting and  anticlimactic. I am not venturing to a land uncharted, nor am I returning with a specific purpose. I am going back because, well, my time is up, and I have to–like legally actually have to–go. It’s hard to share my feelings, as I’m not quite sure of them myself. Perhaps I’ll elaborate more in a later post after I have adjusted better to life back in the States.

To be honest, reality hasn’t really hit me yet. I’m not sure when it will, or if it will be gradually or all at once. I don’t feel like I’m leaving. It’s more like I’m going home for summer break to see my family and friends. While my mind knows it’s not true, my heart is convinced that I’ll be back in the fall in time for classes to start up again with all of the wonderful friends I’ve met here. I’ve spent the past couple of weeks singing my heart out at karaoke, saying goodbyes, traveling to Tokyo and Disney Sea, and overall having the time of my life while at the same time not knowing how to handle saying goodbye to people I have become so close with over the past year. Just today on the train I was joking and laughing with my friend, who I may not see for quite some time. My other friend who was sitting on the opposite side of her said, “You realize that this is goodbye? Your stop is next.” And I looked at her and responded honestly, “What am I supposed to say? After all this time?”

Of course I then proceeded with a Doctor Who quote as I hopped off the train car and onto the crowded platform. Maybe I’m just bad at goodbyes. But making faces and doing k-pop dance moves as their train pulled away from the platform while receiving strange looks from the surrounding Japanese population is a pretty damn awesome goodbye if I do say so myself. Always better to end it laughing than crying, although I am sure the tears will come.

So where do I go from here? It seems that so much of my life has been building up to “going to Japan.” But it doesn’t mean I am “done” with Japan by any means. I have learned so much from this year-long experience, and will likely continue to do so after I return to America. I have been so fortunate to have been able to come here, to get a scholarship that has allowed me to experience innumerable things that I otherwise would not have been able to experience, to meet such wonderful people and to have made friends from all over the world, and to better understand a culture and a people through learning a foreign language. I could go on. And for all of you who have encouraged me and helped me get here, I cannot thank you enough.

See you stateside!

I spent my last week in Japan going to Pokemon Center Osaka and Tokyo and going to a Sailor Moon cafe. I haven’t changed a bit.

Winning Love By Daylight

“月の光に導かれ、何度も巡り会う。” –Moonlight Densetsu (Sailor Moon opening theme)

Yesterday I struck out with two of my friends to find the elusive “Sailor Moon cafe” in the Umeda district near Osaka, Japan. We came across it on the internet, and of course, being the huge Sailor Moon fan that I am, I decided then and there that I would find this cafe at all costs, rain or shine.

Original "Mercury" juice.

Well, it turned out to be rain, or more accurately snow-turned-rain, so after a frantic stop by a drugstore to pick up $2 umbrellas, we set out on our trek. Cafe Talisman ended up being about a 20 minute walk from Hankyu Umeda station, and using our questionable Japanese language and Google Maps skills, we found it after just a slight diversion. The cafe wasn’t in a touristy place at all, and was in fact in a much more residential area, where I wouldn’t expect to see many foreigners.

There were only two other women inside, and we were welcomed and escorted to a nice couch area off to the side. I spent most of the first ten minutes gawking at the adorable (but not gaudy) decorations and touches that had been added to the menu and the cafe to give it a relaxing yet classy atmosphere. I ordered an original “Mercury” juice, and my friends ordered “Healer” and “Jupiter” concoctions. “Mercury” is one of their more popular drinks, and it consisted of pineapple and blue soda flavors. It was the automatic choice for me as Sailor Mercury is my favorite Sailor Scout, and also the one I identify most with (due to her brainy attitude and also because she shares my name). We all ordered the pasta carbonara for lunch, which was surprisingly good and decently priced, and after reminiscing for nearly an hour about Sailor Moon, we ordered desserts and coffee.

I had the cafe’s “Lunatic Blend” (Luna is the name of Sailor Moon’s feline companion), and my friends got lattes. I ordered a strawberry parfait, and my friends got rare cheesecake and star-shaped banana chocolate pancakes. Everything we ordered was exceptionally good, which surprised me, because most themed cafes rely on their atmosphere more than the items they sell. Not that the atmosphere was at all lacking, with Sailor Moon music variations playing and figures strategically placed along shelves. I will definitely be making a return journey at some point during the duration of my time here in Japan.

If you are in Japan and would like to visit this cafe, here are some simplified (English) directions:

  • Take the east exit out of Hankyu Umeda station
  • Pass under the large highway overpass, and find the JR tracks that lead north/northeast
  • Follow the tracks on the right side for quite a ways until you pass a Circle K and a decently sized park
  • Cafe Talisman is just past the park on a corner, directly opposite the JR train tracks

The cafe also has a website and its own employee-run blog. Thank you for the wonderful experience!