Time for some news.
If Japan has taught me one thing, it’s the reality of impermanence. You hear that sort of thing a lot from people who’ve lived in Japan. Maybe it’s the way the seasons are celebrated – the delights of cherry blossoms in spring, the glorious autumn colours – or perhaps the way everyday objects here age with such effortless beauty.
Nothing lasts forever.
So it is with my time in Japan, which is now coming to an end. In a few weeks, I’ll watch my belongings being boxed up again. And close the door for the last time on my home in Tokyo.
For a while, it’s been final this and final that. Last coffee here. Last afternoon in the park over there. Fixing the date for my final Japanese lesson, Pilates session and calligraphy class. Every time I exit a train station or enter a museum, I wonder, ‘is this the last time?’
This goodbye will be hard. I’ve loved living here. And I’ve loved what living here has done to me. I’m a better man. Softer, kinder and, hopefully, wiser.
The first ‘last time in Tokyo’ took me by surprise. In the kitchen, unpacking an Amazon delivery, the same kind of order I’ve unpacked many times before. My daughter was nearby, having just come home from school. I began to put away some bottles of sparkling water and suddenly stopped. ‘Are you okay, Papa?’ ‘This is the last time I’ll unpack this in this kitchen,’ I reply. Then, on an ordinary Tuesday afternoon, as the end begins, we hug.
“Is not Impermanence the very fragrance of our days?”
– Rainer Maria Rilke
Of course I will return to Japan. Again and again. I have a house here now. A private retreat in the mountains. A bridge from this life we’ve had here to the adventures we’ll enjoy when we return.
However, this Tokyo house soon won’t be mine anymore. I touch the walls, wishing I could soak in all the memories they’ve seen. I take photos of the simplest everyday things: the tree-dappled light on the floor of the library, the long white entrance hall, even the door handles and window locks I’ve touched countless times over the last six years. I’ve lived here longer than any other place since I left my childhood home. But I can’t hold onto it forever.