Leaving Japan: an email

Here’s the text of an email I sent from Kansai International Airport to a few people at around 11:00 (Japan time) today:

Hi all,

Kansai airport has free wireless internet (one of the few good things about Japan!), so I thought I’d send you all and email. It’s just past 11:00am here, and I’m sitting in the departure lounge at gate 13, which you reach from the main terminal building by taking a ridiculously short train trip: probably about 1 minute or less.

It’s been an expensive day so far. My bags are massively heavy, and I wasn’t in the mood for the ordeal of walking them all the way to the Namba Nankai station and trying to get them up the escalators to the platform the airport train leaves from on the third floor. Kansai airport is not that far from Osaka, but the route there is very circuitous, and takes about 45 minutes. Including highway tolls, the ride cost me just under 15,000Â¥ (A$171.46), but it did take me right to the terminal doors, where the taxi driver helped me load my luggage onto a trolley. Driving on the elevated highways that shadow most of Osaka’s main roads is a surprising experience, feeling like a trip through a second city. The height of most buildings halves, and instead of highways above you, there is sky and sunlight. If not for the smog, at that level you could almost imagine Osaka was a liveable city. The highway to the airport passes Tempozan (where the aquarium is), the mass of factories at Nanko, some other areas I didn’t recognise, and finally passes over a huge bridge spanning out into the bay and to the island where the airport rests.

While waiting for the check-in counter to open, I met an interesting young guy from Phoenix, who works for United Airlines and can travel all over the world free of charge. He and his companion had spent most of the time between today and last Sunday shuttling between various American cities looking for a flight back to Arizona, before giving up and deciding to check out Osaka for a day. They weren’t impressed, and so I told them about how I hated living in Japan, which amused them and drew some disapproving glances from a middle-aged Western couple sitting nearby.

Returning to Australia, my suitcases are 7.8kg overweight, racking up a massive 34,000Â¥ (A$388.68) in excess baggage charges. It’s just as well I got all 50,000Â¥ of my apartment deposit back yesterday, and that having spent my time in Osaka earning A$3000-4000 a month, I feel like I can afford to pay for the luxury of returning in ease. Last night, there was little of the between-suitcase load-shuffling I went through when leaving, and none of the choosing what to leave behind. I’m coming home: I might as well do it properly and bring everything back.

The rest of my Japanese coins, which the money-changers in Melbourne won’t take, I spent on a copy of Malcom Gladwell’s Blink: The power of thinking without thinking (1040Â¥, A$11.89), a pack of aspartame-free chewing gum (elusive in Japan), and a bottle of green tea.

Beyond the customs and immigration gates, airports are strange places, mostly out of the country they sit in, but not quite. The Japanese ordeal is over. Leaving Australia, I felt relieved to break out of the rut I was in at home, but the overwhelming feeling was of excitement at starting fresh in Japan. Now, though I’m looking forward to coming back to Melbourne and doing new things, the dominant feeling is of relief that I’m finally out of Japan. It doesn’t reflect a lack of enthusiasm about coming back: rather, it shows just how much I loathed living in Osaka.

Time to board now!

Author: Ben Hourigan

Ben Hourigan is a novelist from Melbourne, Australia. His books Kiss Me, Genius Boy and My Generation’s Lament are Amazon category bestsellers, and are available wherever good books are sold online. Ben also works as an editor, copywriter, and self-publishing consultant at his own firm, Hourigan & Co. For news and book release updates, sign up to his email newsletter.