As I was putting pictures from my camera onto my computer yesterday, I came across several from various periods of my time in Japan that I had forgotten. Going through them I revisited some of the remarkable things that I've experienced here: the snow festival in Sapporo, a baseball game filled with balloons, some of the foods that I've eaten, some of the friends I've known. It reminded me of another side of living in Japan; one that isn't my longing for the intimacy of old friends and family, of the longing for the comfort of living in a place where I can speak and read the language, of being able to engage in parts of living that I miss. I've seen some incredibly beautiful things here.
And yesterday, as I walked through Nakayamadera, I noticed the sounds that were around me. I returned once more today, with an audio recorder to capture the sound of simply walking to the various temple buildings; through the gate with all the people around me speaking Japanese, into the various alters with people ringing the bells, the recordings of traditional music being played, chanting, children talking, vendors selling their goods, the sound of water being splashed on the Buddhas, more bells, more music, people reading and talking about their fortunes. So many sounds. Such an incredible space to be within. I wonder what it will sound like to me when I hear it years from now.
I feel so incredibly lucky to have had this time in Japan. And yet, even in the midst of awe at such beautiful experiences, I'm aware of the missing that I have. Perhaps life is a string of accrued missing. Perhaps after time, I would find a community here, develop relationships longer than three years, acquire the motivations and the meaning that it takes to feel that this is my home. But I think I would always be missing. I would be missing home, whether that is America if I were in Japan, or Japan if I were in America, or some place that only exists in the perfect rendering of my memory of all things past. I wonder if it is ever possible to arrive.