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Thursday, April 03, 2008

My Last Day in Malaysia. My First Day in Japan.

I tried to compare the day I left for Perth in 2004 with the day I left for Japan and both days couldn't be any more different.

My departure to Perth was very low-key. Despite my efforts to conceal it then, I felt a mild trepidation and uncertainty about going there. There was some resentment too, because going to Perth wasn't part of the initial plans and felt that I was tricked by the misleading college that I studied in (but still I am too classy to drop names).

While my friend Peng Shien would disagree, I always felt that the me before going to Perth was very different from the me of now. The me before going to Perth had been left disenchanted by two miserable years in college where he was constantly reminded of his own inability to fit in with others. The me before going to Perth was unsure of the direction he would take in the future, there was no goal, just resigned acceptance of finishing the degree for a course (Marketing) that he did out of practicality than passion.

It was a morning flight to Perth, and aside from my family, I was accompanied by a dear friend, Wai Kong, and this then-girlfriend, Sereen. Both cooked me a marvellous breakfast before I left. And only recently did I realize that I have actually missed seeing the two together, though now the former is already staying at half a world away in the States, pursuing his career in hotel management, while the latter is happily married to another and had become a mother.

As I was leaving for Tokyo 4 years later, I've long chosen the path that I was going to take. Instead of feeling slightly disdainful that I couldn't fit with the college crowd (to a lesser extent, high school as well) like I was then, all I felt was joy and gratitude. April Fool 2008 began with me receiving a 2-week-old postcard that I thought I wasn't going to receive, and then after sending a mass message to most people on my phone list saying my goodbye and announcing my departure to Tokyo (while feebly trying to convince them all that I wasn't pulling an April Fools prank), my phone couldn't stop buzzing from the endlessly sweet wishes that people have text messaged me.

I was already receiving calls from relatives and dear friends, saying goodbye. Some expressed surprise, like KURUS's Mislina. And of course, since I was leaving on April Fools Day, I knew some would almost treat my farewell with half-disbelief. Carmen Soo's phone call illustrated this best. ("Hey, Edmund... are you REALLY leaving for Japan??? This isn't a joke, right?") Or an ex-schoolmate of mine (who went: "... I think this really might not be a prank. You take care lar!").

And Ming Jin the mentor calling with his wife to say bye bye. And my Alzheimer's Disease-afflicted grandmother, who actually sounded the most normal I've ever heard from her in months. Who very happily and clearly wished me all the best.

More things happened during the day because my flight to Tokyo was a midnight one. And my uncle and aunt, my cousin and her husband, they were all awesome enough to send me off too.

So yeah, unlike the time when an unsure youth was leaving for Perth four years ago, all I felt when I was entering the plane to Tokyo was joy and gratitude. Besides parents and sister, even my aunt (dad's elder sis) and uncle, along with my cousin Wee Suan and her husband Timothy were there to send me off. A slight realization that perhaps I might actually miss Malaysia more this time around.

During my flight to Tokyo, I was drifting in and out of sleep, watching the very fine ensemble film Kagehinata ni Saku (陰日向に咲く) AKA (Bloom in the Shade or Flower in the Shadow):

And then catching bits and pieces of Chiimu Bachisuta no Eikou / チーム・バチスタの栄光 (THE GLORY OF TEAM BATISTA) starring Hiroshi Abe and Yuko Takeuchi.

Reaching the airport, I immediately took the Narita Express to the Tokyo Station (a nearly 80-minute long train journey), and then making the switch of trains just to get to Shinjuku Station, and then, from Shinjuku Station, I headed to Mejiro Station. Thanks to my recent experiences of traveling alone, braving the complicated train routes of Tokyo was simpler than expected.

I was given instructions to take a bus from Mejiro Station to my dorm. But I was cocky, and thought I could just walk since I was only carrying a backpack that had my laptop and external hard drive, and another not-too-heavy luggage.

Yet it ended up being a 40-minute-walk. A walk made harder because of my luggages!

But as I walked, I was confronted by the beautiful images of cherry blossom. Immediately I took out my camera and started snapping photos:

Cherry blossoms

Cherry blossoms 2

Cherry blossoms 3

Cherry blossoms 4

I finally made my way to Wakeijuku (the very same dorm Haruki Murakami stayed in during his uni years, and, apparently four other Japanese prime ministers too). Went through an interview where four elderly men, directors of Wakeijuku, asked me stuff and I answered cheerily with the help of a translator sitting next to me.

And then, after I got my own room, I took photos of what I saw through the window.

View outside my window

View outside my window 2

More cherry blossoms.

I would later head back to Shinjuku to shop for an Ethernet cable (just so I could get online now), I was blown away by the sheer coolness of the technology gadgets that were displayed there. But instead of buying them, I've made my mind that I would pay Akihabara a visit tomorrow just so I could see even cooler stuff and also check out the maid cafes, moooeee!