By Kazuya Muto
The day I arrived in Japan, it was raining. As I disembarked from the plane, shuffling after the other passengers, all I could feel was a great emptiness inside me.
I wasn't sure why. After all, Japan is my homeland, and I should have been glad to have been back here, surrounded by familiar Japanese things. "At last ...," I murmured to myself but the words weren't filled with joy.
I went to get a bus ticket for Takasaki, which is where I live. I approached the ticket counter and spoke to the woman in Japanese. Obviously she spoke Japanese fluently because she is Japanese, and I spoke Japanese fluently because I'm Japanese, but I still felt there was something odd about the conversation. It was as though to speak like that in Japanese was somehow artificial.
The woman handed me the ticket. I looked at it. It was all in Japanese. Again I found this slightly strange. I plopped myself down on a bench to wait for the bus. I watched the people passing by without really seeing them.
I know this is going to sound silly, but it was only after a while, sitting there in a daze on that bench, that it dawned on me that I was back in Japan and that I was no longer in Sydney. At that thought, my mind was suddenly filled with the faces of my parents, my teachers, my friends, my girlfriend. Suddenly, I wanted to see them as soon as possible.
The bus soon came. I got on. I quickly fell asleep, only to wake with a jolt two hours later. I looked out the window. The bus was traveling through some very familiar scenery. I was close to Takasaki Station.
At last the bus arrived at the station, and my mind wandered back to the day, all those many months ago, when I'd left Japan to go to Australia. But my mind snapped back into the present when I saw a silver car parked nearby. It was my parents' car.
I was the last person off the bus. As I stepped onto the pavement, I heard the sound of familiar voices, "Welcome back, Kazuya." I was so relieved to see my parents, though I noticed my father looked thinner.
The atmosphere between us was a little strained at first. No one quite knew what to say. My parents just kept repeating, "We're just so glad you came back safely," over and over again.
We got home. My dog came running out with a great smile on its face (well, I thought it looked like a smile). Then I went inside. I could smell the familiar smell of the house. I went upstairs. My room was as messy as before. Nothing had changed. I relaxed.
At that moment, I got a text message from one of my teachers. It said, "Look up at the sky. There's a rainbow. Welcome back!" I went to the window and looked out. Sure enough, there it was: a beautiful rainbow in the northern sky.
"At last ...," I murmured and this time the words were filled with joy.
Shukan ST: Feb. 9, 2007
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