Saturday, December 12, 2009

Back in Japan

Who'd have known that twelve days could be so fast, and so amazing!?

It was a crazy blur of seeing family, friends, and as much of my home as I could, but the one word that I can describe it with is "magical". No other word I can think of fits my memories of my surprise trip home as well as magical.

I did so much, there just isn't room to write everything down, but my Mum met me at Heathrow on Thursday 19th, after my twelve-hour flight, which of course I hadn't slept during at all! When I came out into the arrivals lounge, I was ferociously scanning the crowd of people waiting for us to come out for my Mum. I didn't see her, but I heard a cry of "Miles!" and then she came running into view. It was such a lovely welcome back to Britain.

We drove the two hours or so to my hometown of Birmingham, and went straight to my old secondary school, where my brother was doing a small performance at a quiz night there. We participated in the quiz, and didn't do too badly - top 3 I think.. But I have to say, as I'd been awake for 26 hours, I didn't perform as well as I normally would have done! But I went to another pub quiz the following week, which we won money for, so I think it evened out overall.

I slept well, but woke up early, which I did for most of the first week. My body seemed to think 6am was an excellent time to get up! How wrong it was...

On the Friday evening, my Dad drove me down to Wiltshire, where we stayed the night at my Gran and Grandad's house. He was going anyway, to take my Grandad to the rugby in Cardiff the next day, so I was really pleased I could go with him. It was so amazing to see my grandparents. I'm very close to them, so there was no way I would have returned to Britain without going to see them. We had a cup of tea and some biscuits and then went to bed.

On the Saturday I went to see my Gran in her stageshow, which was a collection of West End musical pieces, most of which I knew. It was the first time I'd ever seen her on stage, even though she's always working on a performance. I don't know how she manages it!

We drove back to Birmingham on Saturday evening, and I was so happy I'd had the chance to catch up with them.

Then the Sunday evening has become one of my nicest memories, perhaps ever. We had an early Christmas dinner - turkey with all the trimmings. And we had crackers, candles and Christmas music, and it all felt so authentic. Because I'll be in Japan, away from my family for the first Christmas ever, this year, I was overjoyed to have that opportunity.

After the amazing dinner, we took mincepies and fancy chocolates into the living room, lit a fire in the hearth, and watched a classic Christmas film, The Great Escape.

On the Tuesday, two of my best friends, who I met at Leeds Uni last year, came to Birmingham and stayed the night at my house. It was so nice to see them again! We'd all been geared up to not see each other for over a year, and yet here we were!
We met at the train station, and then went straight to the German Christmas market, which comes to Birmingham every year. Apparently it's the biggest in Europe (except for Germany of course).
I love the German market, because there's such a nice atmosphere, especially when it's cold, which it was! We wandered around the stalls, buying food as we went.
The next day we visited my old workplace, Cadbury World (a visitor attraction devoted to Cadbury chocolate), which is always nice. I saw lots of my old colleagues, and ate a lot of chocolate of course!
That day zoomed by, and suddenly I was saying goodbye to my friends for another nine months or so, but at least we'd had the chance to see each other once in the year!
The rest of the week was spent relaxing and spending time with my family at home. It was a perfect few days.
On the Friday evening, we left for Norfolk. My family and I go to Norfolk every year around my grandmother's birthday, and we go to visit my Mum's side of the family. It just so happened that my trip home coincided with this weekend break, so I could go with them!
I love the cottage we stay in most years - it's so incredibly British!

On the Saturday we went to a beach we often used to visit. It was the first beach I ever went to as a child.
Of course it was freezing cold, but the sky was a beautiful blue, and there were some nice clouds around. We went to a small cafe on the front and had cups of tea and cakes. (I really was getting my fill of British life while I was there!)
On Sunday we went to the annual extended family gathering at a pub called the Eel's Foot Inn and had a roast dinner. It was lovely to see all the faces I didn't think I'd see for such a long time!
Unfortunately, the lunch was at the same time as online check-in for my flight back to Japan the following day opened. So I tried to get onto the BA website from my Dad's laptop using a dongle.
But, as we were in the middle of nowhere, there wasn't a strong enough mobile signal to keep the internet connection. So I had to try to relax (I was very keen to get a good seat, as I'd been spoiled with the ultimate legroom seat by the emergency exit on the flight out) and enjoy the rest of the meal without worrying about it.

I always like going out to the back of the pub and standing by the Broad (lake).

After the dinner, we took a group photo outside the pub, and then went our separate ways. It's a four-hour drive back to Birmingham, so we had plenty of time to get used to the idea that I was leaving the next day!
We stopped at a motorway services and stole some internet from a Little Chef restaurant by parking right outside it. I logged onto my flight information, and was very surprised to see that there were plenty of good seats left. I chose one that was at the front of a section, next to the baby cots. The two seats with baby facilities were empty, so I thought that was a safe bet.
We got home at about 8pm, and I did my final packing, before watching a TV programme with my family. Then we all said goodnight for the last time for another nine months, and went to bed.
I woke up at just gone 7am and got my things together. I said a sad goodbye to my two brothers who were leaving for school and college, and then my Dad.
My Mum drove me back down to Heathrow airport in London and we checked in my baggage, before having a muffin (I miss proper muffins while I'm in Japan!) and a cup of coffee together.
And then it was time. We hugged and said goodbye in front of the security area, and then I waved as I walked past the gate, and I was gone.
It was very sad to say goodbye, but I couldn't believe I was able to go home and see them all. It was... magical.
The flight was fine, and the two baby cot seats next to mine stayed empty, so I had plenty of room, although, despite trying, I couldn't sleep again.
As we flew over Siberia, and turned south towards Japan, the sun started to rise. And it was probably because I was so tired, and perhaps a bit emotional, but the idea of approaching Japan, the Land of the Rising Sun, as the sky started to turn purple and crimson, was very romantic.

Coming back into Japan, I had my photo and fingerprints taken, for the third time, and there were no problems with my re-entry permit.

I decided to take the train back to Musashi Koganei, because it was cheaper than the Limousine Bus, and took about the same time - two hours. I took the JR Sobu Line from Narita Airport to Tokyo, speaking to a nice Japanese man who wanted to practise English with me, and then changed to the Chuo line, which took me directly to Musashi Koganei.

I dragged my suitcase down the hill and was finally back in the guesthouse, with a bed! But, it was only 1pm, and not time for sleeping! So I knocked on Rob and Katy's doors and we went for lunch at our favourite restaurant nearby, Tanmen Ramen (タンメンラーメン) and had our beloved Cutlet Curry (かつカレー, katsu karee).

We came back and I had a nap for a couple of hours. Or at least that was the plan, I remember turning off my alarm at 6pm, but the next thing I knew I was waking up at 10pm. Oops! I got up and showered, and then unpacked everything, and went back to bed at 1am. And then I had to get up at 7.30 to go to Disneyland with the people from Soul Run!

And now, looking back at the twelve days I spent at home, it feels just like a dream. A magical dream.


Yoko-Tomoto said...

It's wonderful, just now arriving to Tokyo.
I understand your appreciation for Japan's culture, for five years ago I was absent, now returned to Japan.
Is for I've read your blog that my memories come to mind.
My grandmother's Japanese, but we all live in Britain, we returned to dismiss the old year.

I'll follow reading


Miles said...


Thank you for reading!

It was a wonderful trip home, and it's lovely to be back in Japan now. It made me realise that I do love living here!

Hope you continue to enjoy my blog : )


Georgie said...

ahhh you went back to Trowbridge?? Jealous here :( I miss Wiltshire, I really do... oh well, only another... 8 MONTHS TO GO???


Sounds like you had a fab-dabby-dozy time back home :) xxx

Miles said...

Yes I did! Trowbridge was amazing, I love it there!

I'm sure Wiltshire is missing the Georgie-sized hole you left in it : ( But you'll be back before you know it! And I'll be visiting you! :D

Hope all is well with you. Speak soon!

Miles xxx

Vera said...

I've spent couple fo hours reading your whole blog hehe, and I have to say that I really enjoyed it.. I'm going to Tokyo in February, by myself, and I'm kind of scared, adrenaline :P

I've been fascinated with Japan for 5 years now, and finnaly my lifetime wish will come true... I'll go to Japan just for 20 days, because I cannot drop out of school, I'm in the last year of high school (18yrs) and next year I'm going to university to study japanese language :)

Well hope I'm not bothering you with all this, but seriously, I'm wondering how is it there? Being female, alone traveller in such a big city...

Take care and keep on writing your great blog!

Miles said...

Hi Vera!

Thank you very much for your comment! I'm really glad you enjoyed reading my blog!

In complete honesty, I love living in Tokyo. It's so excting, and there are literally loads of things to do. But it doesn't have to be a mad experience either, it can be really peaceful and relaxing. There are a lot of people around, but you can easily avoid crowded trains and rush hours.

The sheer amount of things to do, and the friendliness and helpfulness of the people makes Tokyo an incredible place to visit or live in.

The best part is how safe I feel compared to in Britain. I never have any qualms about going anywhere, whether it's night or day.

Hope that helps!