The Slightly Longer Way Series - Table of Contents
|Day 0 – Friday, May 05 2023 to Sunday, May 07 2023||Flight from Edmonton to Tokyo||-|
|Day 1 – Monday, May 08 2023||Train from Tokyo to Kyoto||-|
|Day 2 – Tuesday, May 09 2023||RSJP Orientation Day||W1D1|
|Day 3 – Wednesday, May 10 2023||Placement test, Kinkakuji/Golden Pavilion||W1D2|
|Day 4 – Thursday, May 11 2023||Kyo-Yuzen Dyeing Workshop||W1D3|
|Day 5 – Friday, May 12 2023||Mori Touki-ken Pottery Workshop||W1D4|
|Day 6 – Saturday, May 13 2023||Ichihime Shrine, Nishiki Market||-|
|Day 7 – Sunday, May 14 2023||Nara, Todaiji Temple||-|
|Day 8 – Monday, May 15 2023||Urasenke||W2D1|
|Day 9 – Tuesday, May 16 2023||Nijojo Castle||W2D2|
|Day 10 – Wednesday, May 17 2023||Tojiin Temple||W2D3|
|Day 11 – Thursday, May 18 2023||Ryoanji Temple, Kyoto Sanjo Shopping Street, Tsubomi||W2D4|
|Day 12 – Friday, May 19 2023||Kyoto Station||W2D5|
|Day 13 – Saturday, May 20 2023||Kamogawa River, Shimogoryo Shrine Kankosai||-|
|Day 14 – Sunday, May 21 2023||Shimogoryo Shrine Kankosai||-|
|Day 15 – Monday, May 22 2023||Kimono-Pro||W3D1|
|Day 16 – Tuesday, May 23 2023||Ritsumeikan Library, Hama Sushi||W3D2|
|Day 17 – Wednesday, May 24 2023||Domoto Insho House, Kamogawa, Ichijoji||W3D3|
|Day 18 – Thursday, May 25 2023||Kitano Tenmangu Shrine, Hama Sushi (with Kel)||W3D4|
|Day 19 – Friday, May 26 2023||Super Karaoke||W3D5|
|Day 20 – Saturday, May 27 2023||Nothing special||-|
|Day 21 – Sunday, May 28 2023||Demachi Masugata Shopping Street, a long walk home||-|
|Day 22 – Monday, May 29 2023||Nothing special||W4D1|
|Day 23 – Tuesday, May 30 2023||Kyoto International Manga Museum||W4D2|
|Day 24 – Wednesday, May 31 2023||Ritsumeikan Library||W4D3|
|Day 25 – Thursday, Jun 01 2023||Maiko/Geiko demonstration||W4D4|
|Day 26 – Friday, Jun 02 2023||Final Presentation, Taiko Lab||W4D5|
|Day 27 – Saturday, Jun 03 2023||Kusatsu-Juku Honjin, Lake Biwa Museum, Omi Hachiman (with Zian)||-|
|Day 28 – Sunday, Jun 04 2023||Omi Hachiman City Museum, Omi Jingu (with Zian)||-|
|Day 29 – Monday, Jun 05 2023||Arashiyama||W5D1|
|Day 30 – Tuesday, Jun 06 2023||Nothing special||W5D2|
|Day 31 – Wednesday, Jun 07 2023||Final exam, Osaka, Manga Cafe (with Zian)||W5D3|
|Day 32 – Thursday, Jun 08 2023||Osaka, Namba (with Zian)||W5D4|
|Day 33 – Friday, Jun 09 2023||RSJP Graduation Day||W5D5|
|Day 34 – Saturday, Jun 10 2023||Leaving Zian, Train from Kyoto to Tokyo, Ikebukuro||-|
|Day 35 – Sunday, Jun 11 2023||Shibuya, duo MUSIC EXCHANGE||-|
|Day 36 – Monday, Jun 12 2023||Shinjuku, Sakura House, Sophia University||-|
|Day 37 – Tuesday, Jun 13 2023||Akihabara||-|
|Day 38 – Wednesday, Jun 14 2023||Flight from Tokyo to Edmonton||-|
Friday, Jun 09 2023 (Day 33)
Here’s some of the cards I bought last night for the Buddies. I didn’t use them all.
Here are the cards we signed for our senseis. We signed and gave all of them out today, except for Ms Kaneko‘s, which was signed and given out three days ago but is re-listed here for completeness anyway.
Mr Katsuki (Mon/Wed):
Ms Kaneko (Tue):
Ms Hara (Thu/Fri):
Mr Tanaka/Ms Nishioka:
I woke up at 4 am after falling asleep last night, realizing that I hadn’t really started memorizing my skit script at all, nor had I written any of the thank you notes that I wanted to write yet. I eventually put together five thank you notes, and managed to deliver four (to Miyu, Leon, Sora, and Jerome) — the fifth one I couldn’t manage to meet up with the Buddy (Yuma) for, which was probably a good thing anyway as I noticed later on that I had typoed his name on the card. There were a couple other Buddies I could have used the last card for, but it was very awkward because it was very difficult to find the right time to deliver cards to Buddies while other Buddies that I did not have cards for and did not intend to write cards to were hovering around close by too, never mind find time to write one from scratch while in the lunch room or awards ceremony room surrounded by Buddies since it was our final day, so the last one also went unwritten and undelivered.
I should have done like Zian and brought kaya bread (three loaves worth!) for everyone to try, or like Sora and brought Disneyland cookies (he just returned from Tokyo Disneyland the prior day to attend the dashimono) for everyone. He was very popular today with some of the other Buddy girls — they were all super excited when he offered them some, and then again when he offered them seconds later! I guess those Osaka cookies would have been the better choice after all. Eh, I still delivered most of my cards in the end.
I’m jumping around though and should return to my regularly scheduled chronological order of events. But this was a very emotional day — as, spoiler, was tomorrow — and it’s very hard to write about a couple of the events still. So I might skip on some of the details until the End of Series post. O-tanoshimi, as the Japanese say. Please look forward to that.
First off, Zian texted me in the morning saying to go ahead and catch the 7:45 (or well, 7:50) bus without her, as she still had cards to write. I hadn’t finished all my cards either, since I had been practicing the dashimono, but I was planning to write them before class started. (This is partially why that dashimono skit is such a horrible idea, it clashes with last day preparation and with our turbulent emotions)
I was sad at this, as this was our last chance to go to school together, but perhaps not dwelling on or concentrating on “the final time” we do this activity or that activity was a good thing, so maybe this was for the best too. (This is something I’ll likely touch on either later on today, or tomorrow, or in the wrap-up post)
Anyway, I went to school myself, and decided to skip breakfast and head straight to the classroom. I reminisced that without Zian, I would likely never have found the morning 100 yen cafeteria breakfast meals and would probably have just skipped breakfast and gone to class early every day, like I was currently doing. A view of an alternate, much duller version of the program! I finished my cards in class though, and then did some memorization before anyone else showed up. Ironically, Zian caught the direct bus from Nishioji Shijo and ended up arriving before the other 6 did anyway.
For class, Ms Hara gave me and Cameron (apparently he was ill and away on Thursday as well) our final papers back — I got a 70 on this, apparently. We also had some feedback individually given to us for the oral presentation and the final oral exam, I got a B (70-79) and a C (60-69) on those respectively too. Good enough for me. We needed an aggregate 60 in the entire course to pass, which would have included the written and oral exams, the presentation, the homework, and class attendance to pass, and even attendance in the Japan after-school culture activities might have factored into the overall score.
In practice I heard that someone in the other class did really badly on the final and still passed the overall course — I fully support this, because the skill levels were different coming in, and that person was barely past the stated minimum level (“please know hiragana and katakana”) and yet was thrown into the Beginner 2 class because there were only 8 people in our cohort, so we did not have enough people to run a Beginner 1 class. Due to this, and the flexibility of how they don’t really stipulate how Japan Culture Studies factors into the grades, I suspect they never really actually fail anyone unless the person seldom even turns up for classes.
In hindsight, needing to turn up for only 2/3 of all classes as a minimum requirement is ridiculously low. Unless I guess that rule is there for something like an extended hospital stay or something. You can’t possibly pass one of these accelerated classes with just 2/3 attended though, unless you were in a class that was already too simple for you or something. And even then…
In our 2nd class block for the day, we watched a number of fun YouTube videos, including one making fun of Kyoto street names and another some Aomori dialects from a YouTube channel (with clips of an actual variety show) called Himitsu no Kenmin, or 秘密のケンミン. I was half asleep at this point and trying not to nod off but they were quite interesting! I think there was a third or fourth one that I completely zoned out on though.
In our 3rd class block, we practiced the dashimono skit. I learnt, much to my relief, that no one else memorized the script either, and Aurora had printed out these amazing gigantic scripts to put on the tables as menus so we could read them. I also had my book and had written out the script (in much more readable romaji, excuse me, even though every Japanese teacher I’ve ever had just had a shiver go up their spine and has no idea why) and circled my lines for readability. Aubrey had also bought and brought some cat ears, paws, and a tail from Donki to wear as she was playing a giant cat character. Someone was also supposed to decide on a ridiculous item for an ancient emperor to have though, but no one did and we ended up using a pencil case or something for that instead. Oh well.
Our lunch period was our final cafeteria/shokudou meal, so everyone went there for a meal and brought it back to the lunch room. Mine looked like this:
Hamburg steak with tomato sauce, and a fish on top of that. Lots of meat and a few side veggies. 655 yen.
Quite a few recognized Buddies came along to lunch, including a couple I wanted to give cards to, but also many that I did not, mostly because there were only so many cards that I could give out and I still had no idea who some of them were by name, as they usually hung out with other students or never wore their tags or never brought us/me out to eat somewhere or somehow otherwise stood out. One left before I could send him his; I’m considering asking him on Instagram for his address and mailing it to him. We’ll see though.
After lunch, all of us returned to the lunch classroom as the schedules all had us doing “survey time” from 1:00 to 1:45 pm, before the closing ceremony started at 2:00 pm. However, I noted that a Buddy had showed us an email they had gotten (and that was written fully in Japanese) that said that the ceremony time had been changed to 1 pm. We were all puzzled as to why we didn’t receive that notice, but I could have sworn that I had actually seen that somewhere too. Finally, Zian found the source — it was buried in the bottom half of the email giving us the survey link last week. Oops. We were all late on the final day!
For some reason, none of the other 6 seemed to be aware of a couple shortcuts around campus — there’s one major one leading up to our classrooms in the Yoyokan building that slices about a full minute off by using the side staircase/door instead of going around the cafeteria through the main doors, and there was another one going to the conference room where the Maiko event and this closing ceremony were located that involves cutting through a little garden, this brought Zian and I to the room about a full minute or two before everyone else (maybe they stopped somewhere else too) even though they were walking in front of us. We had tried to tell Julian and Sara about the first shortcut earlier in the week but they looked at us in a really puzzled manner, so we didn’t push the issue (but casually raced them using our secret shortcut). Mind you, it was Zian who first identified the possibility of both shortcuts existing and stated that we should try it.
The graduation ceremony was a little awkward, Mr Tanaka had already launched into some sort of introductory speech for the Buddies that were there, despite all of the eight graduating students not actually being there yet. Zian and I arrived first and snuck into our chairs, front and center in the middle column of tables, and everyone arrived a little later. Our pottery results from Day 5 and yukata photos from Day 15 were there, as were Ritsumeikan souvenirs (a clear file and a pen) and a few other informational papers.
Once all of us had arrived, one of the other coordinators (still don’t know her name!) did a proper introduction speech, mostly in English, and then Mr Tanaka walked us through the graduation process. Our names were to be called one by one, starting with the other class and then us. We would have to say “Hai!” and then stand up to walk up on stage to receive our graduation document (in a thick booklet) as pictures were taken.
We then did our dashimonos, starting with the other class, who did a series of disastrous and funny doctor visits:
And then ours, a disastrous visit to a cat cafe:
The Buddies who were present were all then brought on stage to give an introduction of themselves again, despite this being the end of the program (to be fair, I still only really knew the names of maybe five of the Buddies present on stage — there were about 100 after all!) followed by some closing words.
Ms Nishioka then played two videos showcasing highlights from all our after-school culture events. Even Tigey appeared in the videos.
After this, Tanaka-sensei led us all in clapping once to signify the end of the ceremony, and that was it! RSJP was over! 5 weeks were over. So long, yet so short. There was a long post-ceremony mingling session with the Buddies who were still around after that and many photos were taken. It was kind of awkward for me and a couple others who didn’t like that sort of thing, but it was also a momentous and bittersweet moment, so it was important to capture that bittersweet taste and remember it. Of Buddies, some of who I knew well and some of who I still have no idea who they are:
Of dear friends, soon to be parted but maybe to meet again in the future:
Of the shining lights that led the way:
Of people taking pictures of people for my collection, of course:
We were soon kicked out of the conference room, but ended up just outside of it doing the exact same thing:
(The last two there are mirror photographs.)
Then we got kicked out of the hallway because there were classes in the building, so we went out to the main yard/quad area and did the same there, yet again:
At this point, we were half an hour into social picture taking, and some of us who were not social butterflies were flagging, while a couple of the Buddies seemed to have boundless energy and wanted to take the same pictures over and over again. Cameron mentioned wanting to go to the store to pick up some Ritsumeikan goods from the co-op store before we dispersed, and Zian and I wanted to do the same, so we departed after exchanging some farewell hugs with some of the others.
Once at the shop, I picked up a red Ritsumeikan T-shirt, a set of metal buttons, and a school badge. Cameron picked up a similar T-shirt and a spiffy tie, and Zian picked up a polo shirt, I believe. I’m not sure what else she picked up. We made our way back up and out of the co-op shop in time to see the main group finally dispersing and the five other cohort mates heading for the bus stop just north of the school, so we said our goodbyes to Cameron and he headed out to meet them too. Zian and I headed the other way — we needed to catch a different bus from one of the bus stops on the southern or eastern main road to get back to Nishioji Shijo, so we walked 10 minutes or so out of the school to the southern stop and caught the 26 home.
While we would not be back to Ritsumeikan, there were still several other pieces to go before the day’s story was done. Firstly, Miyu, who had not been able to attend the closing ceremony, had said that she wanted to meet the two of us at Saiin Station (the Nishioji Shijo Station) at 6 pm, since we both lived by it and she uses that station as a transfer point to get back home to Osaka.
Secondly, I had invited Zian to hang out in my room overnight during the previous night, and she had agreed to this, and I was looking forward to this. We were practically best of friends at this point and seemed to enjoy each other’s company, and were both sad that we were going to be leaving each other soon. I figured we would be able to have a final night having a long, meandering chat and maybe spend some time playing cards (which was an item on her to-do list that we only partially did).
We had agreed on maybe doing it around 9 pm or so after she finished packing and cleaning up her house, which was apparently a thing her contract stipulated that she did, and so I had also gone ahead and informed my housing manager of this and paid them the additional fee for having one extra person sleep over that night (which I had learnt about from almost having Kel sleep over too when she visited Kyoto two weeks prior). We both also knew that we were also preparing a last, long thank you note for each other, and that neither of us were done writing that, and that we were likely going to exchange some gifts as well. We had two and a half hours or so before we met Miyu though, so I figured that we would be good on time.
We met up at 6pm outside Saiin, where Miyu had a little gift for each of us, surprising us with two little bags of stuff. I’m not sure what Zian got, but I got a little cat keychain of sorts. And a card.
That’s a kaomojinuko, I was told, and I have some extra stuff on it to share in his Plushie of the Week post in a couple of weeks. Please look forward to it?
Zian had also prepared a gift bag of stationery for Miyu, which surprised her back in turn. I didn’t have anything of that sort for her though, oops, though I had given her a postcard (from Jerome, Zian, and I) while we were in Osaka on Wednesday, and then another thank you card in the afternoon today on the way back from lunch. I did have a thank you card for Jerome from Zian and I as well though, and requested that she deliver it to him on Monday since he would still be around Ritsumeikan for a couple weeks more. She agreed to that.
We waved to Miyu one last time as she left, and then it was Zian and I left. We walked a few feet over in the direction of our homes, until the usual corner where our roads split, and where there was an okonomiyaki/teriyaki stall on one corner, and a bookstore on the other corner. (I called this Okonomiyaki Street, by the way.) We stood by the outside of the bookstore as she said that she likely wouldn’t be able to make it that night, as she still needed to clean her room and do other things (like packing and finishing the letter). She’d meet for dinner though, and we agreed to go to Aeon Mall for it when she was free. She listed off a bunch of things that she had to do, and I tried to argue that there was no way that they expected her to wash the bedsheets before vacating the house, and that they had to be sending someone in to the unit afterwards to clean it no matter what. She said that she had asked advice from a Japanese friend (actually said friend’s mother) who said that it was better to do that. I did offer to help come over and vacuum and stuff too but I was shot down too. Oh well.
At this point, I wasn’t sure if she was trying to get me to persuade her to come along anyway, or if she was sheepishly requesting for more time to not only clean up but prepare a gift and card too. I wanted her to not worry and come with her luggage and stay to chat overnight like we had said, because friendship and our precious remaining time together would be the most important thing down the road, but that was not a request I could make — that was a request my 14 or 18 year old self might have made, or if I was the younger one, but I was not. And that was not necessarily the wrong decision, since more time together doing something “one last time”, like I wanted to talk about near the start of this post, could also mean that the final parting becomes more difficult. I don’t know.
I went home and started to pen her card. I drafted it out on my laptop, then started to write it — I had 6 small pieces of paper and filled them all, then I stuffed them all in an envelope and gave it to her, along with a booklet I had gotten in Osaka, a pad of paper that I had picked up from Aeon Mall, and the karuta clear file I had gotten a few days prior. She then read it between cleaning and laundry at night, felt moved, and decided to swing by my place at 10 or 11 pm to stay the night anyway. We had a sleepover like girls do and stayed awake all night, the flames of friendship burning brightly with midnight oil as we spent one last night together, reminiscing about our five magical weeks together and strengthening our lifelong bonds.
But that’s not what actually happened. She called for dinner when I was about 15 minutes out from finishing my letter, and when I said that I wasn’t done yet, she said that she was nowhere near done either, so so much for that. Tomorrow, she said. We’d meet at 10 am, just before I checked out at 11 am, and exchange gifts then. Instead, tonight, we went to have a last dinner together.
One of the things she liked doing, and that we had done many times along our shared journey, was that when we couldn’t make a decision, we’d use a die roll to decide instead. She’d pull up Google on her phone and generate a number from 1-10 after deciding what results the dice rolls would have. This was amusing, fun, cute, and very much an inside joke between us. Back at the bookstore exterior, we had been deciding between Aeon Mall and one of the dozen or so izakayas around us, and Aeon Mall had won out. We had talked on and off about possibly visiting an izakaya (but no alcohol!) after I had brought it up earlier in the week, but when she had floated the idea here, I had become hesitant because I was still processing the cancellation of the girls’ night talk, and because I tend to be a bit conservative and risk-averse, and it felt dangerous to flirt with having a risky experience for our last meal in Japan (as we didn’t really know how to order stuff in an izakaya). So she proposed a dice roll, and the dice said Aeon. But Aeon was equidistant to the south between our housings, whereas the izakaya were pretty much all around my housing. Regardless if it had led to a good or bad experience, would visiting an izakaya have also led to stopping by my place?
But that was a road not taken. Instead, the separate roads from our apartments led to Aeon Mall. She arrived first and went up to the third floor to try to look in the Capcom arcade there for a specific Meitantei Conan machine that she had seen when we had first walked by here four weeks ago. She didn’t find it though. That machine must have circulated out for another set of prizes or something. Zian also pointed out that our last dinner was also in the same food court where our first dinner was that night, so that was a nice piece of symmetry.
She had a dish she wanted to order, as it looked good, but it turned out to be something really spicy, which she couldn’t tolerate. She still tried her utmost best though, aided by a cool drink.
This was partly because I had also ordered something super spicy tonight, not realizing that her meal had the potential of being spicy too, so I couldn’t trade. She had come over to me to say she was going to find a table before I had actually placed the order, so I could have noticed. I didn’t.
Somehow or other we muddled through the meal though, since I could still share the non-stew part of my meal that wasn’t lava incarnate, and we then walked through the arcade again looking for that claw machine she wanted to find. We didn’t, but she saw a taiko machine and took her spice-filled rage out on it.
She said she felt much better after that, haha. I walked her back to her place afterwards, though not before we got stopped by two trains passing each other at a railway crossing. How emblematic. Once the railway signals cleared and the hands lifted, she did a little dance on the track that, to me, perfectly symbolized how I saw her and what I thought of her. Graceful, free-spirited, and passing through my life in a little bit of a blur.
We left, and I headed home and finished my card, then got overwhelmed by emotions, and then fell asleep before I could touch my blog again.