I actually moved to Tokyo
Secondary title: I almost didn’t leave New York.
The morning of our flight, I jump out of bed. I’m terrified that I overslept our departure time. (It’s happened before.) I check the time. It’s 3:03 am. I have 8 more hours in the US.
I must have been clutching my phone in my sleep because now I’m standing tall in the dark like a zombie Statue of Liberty: yoga tank flowing, a soft beam of light glowing from my hand. This is weird. I sit back down in the blank darkness of the bedroom, hear Shuji quietly snoring away, then snuggle the purring croissant form of Kabocha cat.
I’m moving to Japan today.
We spent the past 2 weeks cleaning out 3 years of living in our Clinton Hill apartment. Every thing is either packed up in a warehouse in Dumbo waiting to be shipped to Japan, re-homed to friends, or dropped off at the Salvation Army down the street. I’ve become a regular face to those guys in the SA warehouse. I suppose you might remember the face of a (rather sweaty) girl dropping off huge IKEA blue bags with a happy sigh, holding back tiny tears in the corner of her eyes. You’d definitely remember if this happened 3 days in a row.
The things Shuji and I deemed necessary for the next few months have been carefully wedged into embarrassingly overstuffed luggage: 2 check-ins, 1 carry-on each. Plus the cat, who we’ll bring onboard as a personal item.
I can’t fall asleep again, so I run through the plan for the day: Wake up, shower up, toss the mattress, toss the shower curtain. Give Kabocha medication for the flight. Triple check we have all her animal quarantine paperwork in order. Final check of the apartment. Leave keys inside. Call the car service. Get to Newark. Fly to my new life in Tokyo. Typical Tuesday stuff. NBD.
Of course, nothing goes according to plan.
Kabocha refuses to take her prescription. We’ve been using those pill pocket cat treats for her meds and she’s apparently caught on to the ruse. Why today?! I spend 15 minutes struggling to open her hold slip the treat in her mouth. She spits it out and hides. I give up and go back to packing the rest of my bags.
Kabocha then refuses to get into the carrier. We spend another 20 minutes chasing her around the apartment before we quickly shove her into the bag and zip it closed before she can burst out again. She’s (understandably) freaking out and now I’m freaking out about taking this wild beast on a 14 hour flight.
Then, the car shows up early. Of course. We run out the door. Flag down the car. Hold the cat. Throw everything in the trunk. Buckle up. Exhale.
We hit traffic crossing through the city on Canal, because it’s almost 7am on a weekday on Canal Street. There are huge delivery trucks sighing heavily when they roll forward, then screeching to a piercing halt a few feet later. A herd of tour buses heading toward Midtown or to the middle of no where. Sprinkled in between are a few early commuters from Jersey and Brooklyn.
The traffic gives me time to reminisce about this street. I remember being a hyped up college kid hopping off the Fung Wah bus at the (unofficial) bus stop by the Manhattan Bridge. I spent many late nights wandering the streets off Canal with friends who grew up around Chinatown: discovering the tiny dumpling shops, the tofu shop on Mott, the apothecary-themed bar, the store that sells CDs on one side and banh-mi sandwiches on the other. I remember commuting to my first job in NYC off the A/C/E station on the west side of Canal Street. Coincidentally, my last agency gig in NYC was also located off the same stop.
Amid the warm glow of sunrise and brake lights, I become nostalgic about the late night Uber rides and early morning call times. At no point in those days could I ever imagine leaving this city. Luckily, it’s smooth sailing once we pass through the Holland Tunnel.
We arrive at Newark faster — and with more feelings — than expected.
Okay. l can do this.
We check in to our flight. The attendant comes over to coo into the pet carrier, where the wild beast has transfigured back into a little cat. Whew. One of Shuji’s luggages is a few pounds over the limit, so the attendant points us to an area with a scale where we can repack. With the absolute smuggest grin, I watch Shuji stuff things into his carry-on suitcase…wait, where is my carry-on suitcase?
I frantically search the luggage cart, run back to the check-in kiosk. Nothing.
Should I call the car service?
Did I leave it in the lobby? Is it on the street?
Should I go back to Brooklyn? Do I have enough time?
Shit, it’s definitely rush hour now. I’ll miss the flight.
What if this is a sign I shouldn’t move?
Okay. l can’t do this.
It’s a sign. The universe is telling me not to go. All the doubts that had been circling in the back of my head for the past 8 months come rushing forward. What if I hate it? I don’t speak the language. What if I can’t find a job? I hate making new friends. I won’t fit the clothes. Everything is too cute for me. Fuck. Turn around. I’ll go back to Brooklyn, find my bag, and go back to work like a normal person. At least I speak the language.
I’m ready to make a run for it when Shuji calmly (and logically) suggests that it’s not a moment to abort mission: I have my passport and the cat’s paperwork. Everything else is replaceable. We’ll make it work. Fine.
l can at least try to do this.
We get through airport security relatively smoothly for a guy traveling with a nervous cat and a girl about on the verge of becoming a puddle of tears. There’s no turning back now. We get to the gate and I make the most of the time I have left while my phone still works.
I contact our building management company, trying to confirm whether my luggage is still in the building. Or lost forever. I attempt to call the car company, but they will have to reach out to the driver and get back to me later. I reach out to Shuji’s friends moving into our apartment — just in case I left it behind after our cat animorphed into a wolverine.
With each passing minute, I recall yet another thing that was in the carry-on and mentally bid adieu to each one. Goodbye travel pillow, moleskine notebook, brush pens, headphones, Kindle, my toothbrush — oh noooooo — my bag of delicates is in that carry-on.
I’m starting my new life in Japan without a toothbrush or underwear.
Not exactly how I pictured a new beginning.
It’s been almost 2 months since we arrived in Tokyo and very few things have gone according to plan. A trip had to be cancelled, I’m still paying for a phone I can’t use, convos with creative recruiters have gone cold. It’s not all bad though. Adjusting my plans brought me a few unexpected opportunities. (More on those later.)
The things we shipped from the States should be arriving this week. Today, I went to the Immigration Bureau to apply to switch my visa status from a temporary visitor. It was daunting. I waited in a long line to get a number to wait in an even longer line to submit my paperwork. Pending approval, I will be in Japan for the next few years.
Well, at least that’s the plan. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯