The trip from Shinjuku Station to Narita Airport is always an emotionally exhausting journey for me. Even though I know I’m going to be back in Tokyo again eventually, saying goodbye to the people and places I’ve grown comfortable with is tough. It’s an acknowledgement time has passed and something I was once “looking forward to” is now over.
This time, while I still had a lump in my throat as the train sped off from the platform, I was eager to get on the plane, because it wasn’t just going back to Canada – I was going back to Canada to see family for Christmas.
When I was planning the itinerary for my Gone John trip, one non-negotiable was getting home for Christmas. This is the first time I’ve been a long way away from home for an extended period of time. While I think I would have coped well spending Christmas in Tokyo or anywhere else, I know it would have been rough on my family back home.
Some families don’t place a huge emphasis on Christmas – for them, Easter, Thanksgiving, or New Year’s Eve is when they have their big gathering. But the most entrenched tradition in our family surrounds December 25, and I didn’t want to miss it for the world – literally.
Getting to Narita Airport, it’s a completely different world after you get through security and immigration. Despite still physically being in Japan, it doesn’t feel the same – and it’s mostly because of the people. There are more people who look like me. There are more people who sound like me (and after 89 days in Tokyo, the rumble of North American accents speaking English can be grating). And, there is a bit more boorishness on the part of travellers (and that always makes me sad).
My journey to get back to Canada went by relatively fast. Tokyo to Seattle is a relatively short trip (about 8 to 8.5 hours on this occasion – short enough that we didn’t get a second full meal service on the flight). My first layover at SEA-TAC was okay (although it was incredibly frustrating not being able to maintain a good WiFi connection so I could do some blogging).
My flight from Seattle to Minneapolis was interrupted after a medical emergency on our plane caused us to make an overweight landing in nearby Spokane. That triggered a mechanical investigation which kept us grounded for about two hours, delaying most of the people on my plane who had connections (but not me – it only shortened my connection time).
Finally, I got on the last plane of my journey – Minneapolis to Saskatoon. As the wheels touched the ground, I looked out the window to see snow dust the ground. Snow. I forgot about that, considering there was none in Tokyo.
After a quick visit with customs officials, I gathered my bags and passed through the automated doors to find my mom and dad waiting for me. We hugged. My eyes leaked a little – it was good to see them. And just like that… I was back home in Canada.
I’ve been home a week now, and time is flying by. However, there’s much to get done – I have a car to sell, family to visit, and (this part makes me feel guilty) a little more trip planning to get done for Malaysia. But Christmas is just around the corner. And, it’s good to be home for the holidays.