Juuissaino Armie e,
じゅういっさいの あるみえ え,
Itsuka anata ha honmonono Sakura wo mirudeshou. Yume ha kitto kanaukara aseranaidene.
いつか あなた は ほんものの さくら を みるでしょう. ゆめ は きっと かなうから あせらないでね.
Sakurano kinoshitano nijuu nanasaino Armie yori ai wo komete
さくらの きのしたの にじゅう ななさいの あるみえ より あい を こめて
Dear 11-year-old Armie,
Someday, you’ll see a real cherry blossom.
Don’t worry even if it takes a long time.
All the best things in life are worth the wait.
Love, 27-Year-Old Armie under a Cherry blossom tree
I booked an early morning flight from Cebu to Tokyo on the 21st of April, but when the plane left at 6.00 AM on that day, I was still waiting for my Visa to be released. Unfortunately, the Visa arrived a day late for some reasons but I wasn’t upset at all. In life, there are things beyond our control. I didn’t blame anyone and I didn’t dwell on it, too. I just booked the next available flight and waited.
I’ve waited for 15 long years to fulfill the promise I made to my 11-year-old self and I endured, so waiting for my next flight didn’t matter much. I got my Visa before noon and I was hugging it on my way home. I was smiling broadly like a kid who has got early presents from Santa Claus nights before Christmas Eve.
I was already at the Mactan airport four hours before my scheduled flight. I brought with me a book and my constant travel companion, Chiaki kun. In between chapters of the book I was reading I would pause and reminisce why I have always dreamed of going to Japan.
I was in my fifth grade when I saw this beautiful photograph of a place I didn’t know was somewhere in Kyoto, Japan. I fell in love with the place. I did some more readings and found out more interesting information about Japan. I learned to love its traditions and culture, like the tea ceremony, ikebana, calligraphy, and theater plays to name a few.
It was also the time when Japanese anime like Ghost Fighter, Flame of Recca, and Slamdunk became popular among kids my age. Eventually, I learned to love the Japanese music, too and was drawn to listening to and singing J-pop songs. I was living in two worlds back then – my reality where I was a regular grade school student who loves Physics and History, and my fantasy where I was a Japanese girl who has several Japanese friends.
When the boarding announcement came, I couldn’t hide my excitement anymore. Inside of me, the 11-year-old kid was dancing and looking forward to finally seeing her dream country. I slept during the whole flight and I only woke up when we were asked to fill up some forms we needed to be showing at the Immigration office. The cabin crew gave me forms in Nihonggo because she thought I was a Japanese passenger. It wasn’t the first time it happened. I always get mistaken to be either Korean or Japanese.
We arrived at the Narita airport around noon, and what happened when I saw a glimpse of the outside from my window seat was magical. I was crying and I didn’t even know why. I was feeling like I was back to a place where I used to stay or live. It didn’t feel like it was my first time in Tokyo. It felt like I was finally back home.
Narita was a huge airport and on my way to the Immigration, I got the chance to meet the captain of the plane. I believe in rare encounters and of its purpose unbeknownst to us yet. I gave him thanks for flying all of us safe. I also managed to have a selfie.
It was a smooth appearance at the Immigration. I wasn’t even asked a question. The officer just browsed through my documents and stamped my passport right away. Wow! The 11-year-old inside of me was screaming in excitement while I was trying to contain myself. I didn’t want to look crazy, at least not yet. However, when I got to the arrival area, where there were kawaii mascots welcoming the arriving passengers, I let loose and became an 11-year-old girl again.
Oh dear, nobody would really think this girl right here is a 27-year-old firstborn, who is an old soul.
I got myself a pocket WiFi, and after checking a few stuff at the airport, I took a bus from Narita to Tokyo. There’s a certain happiness you couldn’t contain but you couldn’t express at the same time. My kind of happiness back then felt just like that – I wanted to dance, sing and yell in joy but all I could do back then was take a deep breath and smile sheepishly while watching the blooming scenery surrounding me.
“I’m finally home!” was my constant thought while savoring the warm welcome of Tokyo’s spring season. I don’t know when the last time I was in Japan was, but I knew I finally came back and it made one of my inner beings happy. Also, that very moment, while I was thanking Daddy God and the Universe for bringing me back to Japan safely, I experienced a rare kind of love that will forever be imprinted in my heart.
A love that promises nothing but a lifetime worth of blissful memories.
An eight-year promise
After I settled all my stuff at the hotel where I stayed in Ueno, on my first night in Tokyo, I fulfilled a promise I made eight years back.
Eight years ago, I met Chisato Inoue in Cebu. She was among the Regional Development students who participated in the Toyo University-UP Cebu workshop in Cebu. I still remember our first conversation like it happened just yesterday. We were on a city tour and we were seated next to each other on the bus. I introduced myself in my very basic Nihonggo and that certainly amused her. She smiled sheepishly and introduced herself, too. Our conversation went on with topics like cherry blossoms, anime, Jpop artists, about her school, among others.
The day before they were all scheduled to go back to Tokyo, we went out for dinner and gave each other parting gifts. She gave me a dolphin necklace, I gave her one of my favorite green stuffed toy keychains, and we promised to see each other again, either in Cebu or in Tokyo.
Back when there was no Facebook Messenger yet, our constant communication was through email. We talked about our crushes in school, our fair share of rejections, our student life, our part-time jobs, our worries, our bits and pieces of happiness, and we never fail to greet each other on our birthdays and even on not-so-special occasions. When she finally moved to Tokyo and live on her own, she sent me photos of her kawaii apartment.
In 2011, she told me she will go back to Cebu, however, it didn’t push through because of the horrible earthquake last March 11, 2011. It worried me a lot because I couldn’t reach her even on Facebook. It was really a relief when I received an email from her and when I also got her Facebook message.
She loves Sakura (cherry blossoms) and she knows I love them, too, so through the years we were apart, she always sent me photos of cherry blossoms.
On my first night in Tokyo, I couldn’t wait to see her again after eight long years. We agreed to meet at a place near Ueno Park. I knew Japanese are not into hugging, but when we finally saw each other we really embraced each other so tight while we were on a sidewalk. People were passing us by but it felt like we were the only souls in Ueno that night. That moment felt like forever.
While we were deciding where to eat for dinner, we updated each other about our respective jobs, about our life in general. We were together for only a few hours that night but those were hours filled with love and longing.
Happiness is having someone to nurture a genuine friendship with. Ours is a kind of friendship that knows no distance and time.
Happiness is when you fulfill a promise you have made to someone you love. It didn’t matter anymore that it took us years. What mattered that night was we were together, enjoying the heartwarming cold of April’s spring.
On my first night in Tokyo, I slept with an incredibly grateful heart. The euphoria was just indescribable. The chronicle of the rest of my days in Tokyo was just as memorable, too.
Looking back at it now, I really can’t thank Daddy God and the Universe enough.