Late spring. The trees are green and the bushes are full of wonderful flowers. And Japan is still Japan. I watched the Japanese stewardesses do a pre-flight huddle in the boarding area in San Francisco. Each one beautifully dressed in their ANA uniform, giving full attention to their supervisor, presumably about the flight game plan. And as they left the boarding area to enter the jet bridge to the plane, they each turned around to the room and bowed on their way out. Service is always attentive, almost always without a hitch, with a smile, a gentle tone of voice. It is impossible to enter the wrong line, to go the wrong way in Japan with so many guides taking care of every single step. Of course there is often guidance in America, but it's erratic, sometime non-existent. One must always have their head up looking for the next step; self-reliance is a virtue. And once again, the bathrooms are clean, people are very self-contained, and they seem not to see me. The fourth wall is back, and everything in its safe and proper place.
This is the last time that I return to Japan. It was the last time to leave America to come home to Japan. So much of me wanted to stay in America, and so much of me felt relief that it wouldn't be long before I would return there. And I still feel that way; I'm very much looking forward to the next chapter. But the realization that this was the last time to be welcomed back to Japan made it more nostalgic. I only have a few more months here. And this is indeed a magical land of courtesy and service, of perfection, efficiency, and care. It isn't my home, but I appreciate the tone that it contributes to the world and that it has contributed to my life. I have a lot of respect for the deferential abilities that I've witnessed here, and hope that I will remember them.
I imagine that there will be another return to Japan in the future, but it seems unlikely that it will be a return home. So here is a new beginning. A beginning of an end to another chapter in life. I imagine it will only grow more poignant as it fades.