I Don’t Want to Forget

Beyond Mount Takao

I bought my ticket to Korea. I wrote. The sentence was almost an afterthought at the end of letter addressed to my friend, written with no elaboration because I had run out of space on the card and was unable to write any more. I signed it, Love, Anz, and mailed it as it was. She didn’t need any further explanation than that; she knew I would be in Korea for four months from late August to December, and she knew I needed a ticket to get there. Just several days before, I’d sent my Japanese address to two other friends who were about to start their own summer travels. I’ll send you a letter from Thailand, they both told me, to which I responded that I would love to hear from them, but I’ll only have this address until the end of July, then I move again, I explained. We tried to calculate how long a letter would take to get from a village at the end of the road in the mountains of northern Thailand to the outskirts of Tokyo, so they knew what date to send it by.

I only have three weeks left. The thought struck me as I tried to mentally trace the route and length of time those letters would have to travel to get to me. It stunned me. I put my hands on my head as if somehow that would slow time. Just three weeks.

Just what a privilege it is to go to a school that includes living in seven cities around the world during our studies hasn’t escaped me. Despite a lifelong burning desire to travel, I know that without Minerva, I would never live in seven cities in four years. I wouldn’t be booking a ticket from a summer of working in Tokyo to a semester of studying in Seoul. In the midst of being very aware and enormously grateful for the opportunity to engage in cities in this way, I am continuously struck by how fast this is going. In the nearly eleven months since I came to Minerva, my entire life as I knew it flipped upside down and backwards and resettled into a lifestyle where in one year, I will move three times– to San Francisco. To Tokyo. To Seoul. Since I left San Francisco, the time I spent there is becoming terrifyingly blurry. As this life in Tokyo has begun to feel normal, many of my conversations hearing my classmates recall anecdotes from San Francicso, reminiscing our time there, have sparked memories. I’ve thought again and again: that’s right! I forgot about that! And then, how could I possibly have forgotten about that? We left San Francisco just two months ago– some of the memories there were made just weeks ago and somehow they already feel like they were part of a different lifetime.

San Francisco is preserved in the journals I filled, the pictures I took, and the friendships I made. The Spotify playlist I made while there takes me right back to when I listened to it biking across the Golden Gate Bridge, buying fruit in the Mission, or the café I went to every week. Now five weeks in and three to go, I feel that I’ve begun to form a similar relationship with Tokyo. I’ve been here long enough to make little memories that shaped my experience. One of my greatest concerns, however, and I say this fully aware of how lucky I am to have this problem, is that with so many cities in such a short amount of time, I won’t have time to fully appreciate each one. I’m afraid that more and more of the little moments that are already beginning to slip away from San Francisco will get lost as time goes on. I want to come away from eight weeks in Tokyo with more than a blur of memories.

Eight weeks. Five weeks in. Three more to go.

I don’t want to forget the first night I arrived in Tokyo, disoriented from 30 hours of traveling and clueless as to how to find my hostel. The three people who stopped everything they were doing to make sure that I found it safely– the lady in the airport who told me I was in the wrong terminal to catch the bus, the man in the train station who ensured that I took the right exit to find the bus stop, the man who walked all the way from the bus stop to the hostel with me, even though his house was in the opposite direction, to make sure I got there okay.

I don’t want to forget my first day of work when I was taken to a farm in Chiba to do field work with my company. Some time in the middle of the day I sat down in the dirt and wondered how I’d come all the way from a tiny town full of farms in Washington State to a farm on the outskirts of Tokyo.

I don’t want to forget the first week when a group of us went out for ramen. We’d come from living together in San Francisco just a month before to exploring the other side of the world in Tokyo together.

Swimming in Kamakura.

Every single person on Mount Takao who said “konnichiwa” as we passed on the trail.

Nighttime on the 45th floor of the Metropolitan Government Building in Tokyo, looking out over the lights of the city stretching as far as I could see in all directions.

Sitting at an izakaya one night with my coworkers and realizing that even though language was getting in the way of understanding most of their conversation, I was comfortable with these people. I really liked them.

Coming home from work each night and eating dinner with friends.

I don’t want to forget the first time I got a train during rush hour and couldn't believe so many people could exist in one place. I don’t want to forget when it became normal and I was reading my book on the train pressed between dozens of people as if I did this every day (which I do).

All the onigiri I’ve eaten. Breakfast and lunch. Nearly every day.

Sitting at the desk in my room, taking Skype calls in the middle of the night to try to match the time zones of friends who have scattered around the world for summer.

Rooftops at nighttime.

Standing along the water in Yokohama. Music playing in the park and the light just starting to fade. The clouds reflected in the windows of the skyscrapers behind me and dinner boats casting off from the docks and lighting their lanterns. Fish jumping out of the river, people strolling nearby; every now and then, snippets of their conversations drifting over.

Cinnamon toast in a café in Shimo Kitazawa on a Monday after work.

The rain didn’t start to pour until the moment we got off the trail from Mount Takao.

Contrast. Between the very traditional and very modern, between the gardens of Shinjuku and the Imperial Palace and the tall buildings of the city that towered just meters away. The incredible peace of the former and the lights and crowds of the streets of the latter.

Watching whole families chase giant bubbles on a weekend in Yoyogi park.

Running along the river in Futako Tamagawa.

Writing in Ueno Park.

I don’t want to forget going through Shibuya crossing three times in a row just because I was so impressed with the chaos of hundreds of people spilling in to the streets in all directions and all ending up on the other sides and out of the crossing before the lights turned red.

Though I’ve always tried my best to live in the moment, Minerva is a crash course in being forced to. Either you live in the moment, or you blink and a city has gone by. Even though my time left here is so short that any overseas mail probably won’t reach me, even though I can’t slow time, and even though my flight to South Korea is unnervingly visible on the horizon, I can make the most of these three weeks.

I don’t want to forget standing on a balcony at the house in Mizonokuchi looking out over the skyline of Kawasaki with a friend. Realizing that even though this experience comes with inevitable challenges, we had started with an idea formed in a café in San Francisco that we turned into an application for Mistletoe and, somehow, we’d made it all the to Japan and into the midst of an incredible experience. We were just over halfway our time working in Tokyo. We had found lives for ourselves in this city, even if only temporarily. Sometime along the way we’d started calling Mizonokuchi home, and even if it’s only for eight weeks, I’ve never forgotten a place I called home.

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