Featured photo: Being in Japan made me feel like being home.

It’s the way the whole country smells like bamboo tatami mats and yakitori and just-cooked rice and green tea and burning incense.

It’s the way the train rattles and the streams sparkle and the weeds grow out of the sidewalk cracks.

It’s the way the language rolls off of my tongue with increasing ease with each passing conversation or meal ordered.

It’s the way my name is pronounced.

It’s the way the beer fizzes just right and the food tastes like I’m back in my mother’s kitchen.

It’s the way I feel invisible but not in an isolating way, more like the invisibility of a single thread in a carefully crafted handkerchief.

It’s the way the clothes fit.

It’s the way every other elderly couple reminds me of my A-chan and G-chan.

It’s the way people talk quietly on the trains but loudly in an izakaya.

It’s the way there’s shrines on every corner and hill.

It’s the way you can get onigiri, yakisoba pan and purin at the corner 7-Eleven or Lawson’s.

It’s the way the furiin sounds when the wind blows.

It’s the way beauticians know how to handle my hair.

It’s the way little melodies play every time a train arrives, the elevator opens or when you enter a convenience store.

It’s the way there’s no trash cans on the street but everything is impeccably clean.

It’s the way the strawberry shortcake hits different.

It’s the way speaking here makes me feel proud and self-assured, not alien or strange.

It’s the way my entire body, being relaxed and is more at ease, more in line with every passing day, like it’s remembering how to ride a bike after decades, the muscle memory kicking in.

It’s the way being here makes me feel.

Until next time 日本, thank for everything.

Or as they say in Kansaiben, まいど おおきに. 

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