I live in Japan for almost three years and it has become my second home by default given my scholastic pursuits and during these times, although arguably, I imbibed a good deal of the Japanese way of life. Having said that, in a sudden gush of forlorn and a hard hit of semblant homesickness, I miss Japan today.

Perhaps because I am overstaying in New York that its luster has somehow diminished, I am slowly veering away from feelings of overwhelm and excitement to treading into familiarity and indolence. Yes, New York isn't as orgasmic an experience as it was two months ago (or last 2003) and my restless self is probably shaken from deep slumber to harbor today's sentiments.

Sure, Japan turned out to be too novel yet too mainstream to sustain my interest, like the fate of The Vapors and their 80s one-hit-wonder 'Turning Japanese', as soon as I realized life was not as fun and adventurous as the countless anime cartoons I avidly grew up watching on TV. But having to sit out my studies for years, I learned to let Japan grow on me and, surprise! surprise! it somehow did.

How do I miss Japan? Let me count the ways…

I miss the Japanese toilet bowl. Gross as this may read, the Japanese toilet is an ingenious technology I give a great deal of shit about (pun intended). It has a built-in heater, sprinkler, deodorizer, and automatic flush that discharging impurities becomes a chore worth doing (even in public toilets!). It's like empowering one's bowel movement; or spoiling one's colon (get the drift?). Basta, shitting becomes an activity to relish (okay, the analogies are getting a bit out of hand…).

Next is the ubiquitous karaoke parlors. One's visit (let alone living) in Japan is fragmentary and even adulterated without singing the lungs out on one of thousands of recorded instrumental songs in a karaoke machine. Okay, for those who know me since kindergarten, I was never a singer. I hardly sing except on occasions confined in the bathroom. But, thanks to my stay in Japan, karaoke parties are an added occasion to belt out a song or two.It took a lot of coaxing and courage (and yes, practice) to pluck out the singer in me but, in time, I manage to carry the tunes of a very (and I mean very) selected repertoire of songs in a karaoke room. I discovered my music genres, and (brace yourself) they are alternative, rock, and a bit of the oldies; Pop, R&B, and love songs are an agony to carry out (much to G's dismay).

Hot springs or onsen. I study in a place in Japan where hot springs are like McDee's: popular and all over. For US$5, one can relish, revel, rollic, roister in a pool of hot, relaxing, and therapeutic spring water for hours until one's fingers are white and wrinkled.

Ebi tempura (breaded shrimp), yakiniku (grilled meat), and tabehodai (eat-all-you-can). I am not fond of Japanese food. I barf sushi and gag at any food with any hint of wasabe. But I gloat at the sight of and pig out on ebi tempura and yakiniku, especially on tabehodai parties. What is there to say but there are always an exception to one's gastronomic rule…

Gym. I sorely miss my gym workouts in APU. I go thrice a week for two hours each session. My well being was reduced to time spent on a treadmill and doing rounds and reps on machines that kept me fit and, well, sexy (at least for G). And, whoa! I never complain. Workouts discipline me more and offer good results (however relative) than learning kanjis. Now that I am away, my workout routines are irregular, heck, even palsied! This morning, I jogged five blocks and I figured I was out of shape after the first block with shortness of breath, muscle pains, and a throbbing headache. I walked instead and felt just as bad as the one time I lost my gym card.

Sakura. Spring in Japan is a sight to behold with cherry blossoms all around. I'm not really into flowers unless enroled in Botany (which was never, either) but the small and colorful sakuras dot avenues and parks that one can derive pleasure and marvel from by just looking! So much so, the Japanese churn out festivals and events celebrating the cherry blossoms, including picnics and BBQ parties. This year was supposed to be my last year with the sakuras, but since I am in the US, I guess I'll just go find the next best thing… Washington!

There are probably a laundry list of things in Japan I miss. Unfortunately, having to remember them is torture and as bad as nursing my current feelings of forlorn and homesickness. Perhaps, in time, I'll get to miss New York and all the other places I got to travel to, too. But for now, my restless soul needs to lay still and catch up on sleep. –D

Two weeks ago, some friends treated us to a nearby Japanese restaurant. Now, I am not really fond of Japanese food (I hate sashimi) except for a few I consider 'edible', but I tagged along nonetheless — it was a treat for crying out loud!

The restaurant was an eat-all-you can/ US$20 plate buffet. The selection was considerably wide, although I had reservations as I walk through the buffet table. For one, chicken katsu (which I was craving for) was not in the menu; there was no more miso soup (how sad!), and; the ebi tempura didn't look and taste authentic at all! I was frustrated but I wasn't there to mope or complain; I was there to eat and enjoy the company of friends. And so I relished the next best thing: yummy green tea ice cream. It took me three cups to get me nostalgic of Japan once again.

I miss Japan. Never in a million years have I thought I would say so but I do yearn to come back 'home'.

My love affair with Japan is akin to my liking of green tea.

I nearly puked when I had my first taste of green tea some years ago. But over time, I have come to love its almost bittery taste. The strong flavor grew in me that I now take pleasure in drinking Starbucks green tea frappucino and in eating green tea candies and mochi.

I came to Japan three years ago, armed with a few Japanese words and phrases I learned from the Nihongo course I took in the Philippines. I never took the course seriously because I thought the Japanese were capable of communicating with English anyway. Boy, was I wrong!

I have always imagined Japan as a cosmpolitan country and so I was not prepared to the slow-paced life that welcomed me in Beppu. I felt strangely disillusioned with the absence of skyscrapers, tall buildings and condominiums, large shopping malls, Western fast foods and restaurants and the hurried lifestyle that define the quintessential highly advanced nation. Evidently, I did not read much about my university and where it is located. And at that point, there was no turning back.

In time, I have learned to accept the fact that Pizza Hut is alien to Beppu and to eat pizza topped with corn kernels and mayonnaise is a norm; that life’s simple joys are going to onsen and karaoke; that everything in Japan literally comes with an expensive price tag.

And then there were the phrases. Over time, I have acquired the silly habit of mechanically saying hai! (yes), even to questions I could not fully decipher and sumimasen (excuse me) or gomen nasai (sorry) even at the most trivial of circumstances.

With all its oddities and eccentries, I have grown to love Japan. And I may even shed a few tears when I leave the place for good in a few months time.