The plane taxis its way from the tarmac to the long concrete runway. It's almost 2 pm. G and I are on board Korean Air flight 721 bound for Incheon, South Korea. Final destination: Honolulu, Hawaii.

The thought of sun, sand, sea, and Matsumoto's famous shave ice escapes my consciousness as the plane’s tires speed away for take-off. I poke G away from her tired, sleepy self and point her attention outside the window. There isn't anything much to see but a long row of steel and concrete that makes up Kansai International Airport; Nothing much except catching the fleeting moment of finally leaving and bottling three years of life spent in Japan.

As the plane wades its way through the afternoon clouds, I couldn't help but feel sentimental and sad. Japan has become a second home. It wasn't love at first sight – in fact, sushi and haikus are still alien to me, but Japan (and all its eccentricities) eventually grew and rubbed on me as days turned to months and months to years. I have imbibed a great deal of Japanese-ness that my heart bleeds to leave. I crack a smile then frown at the thought of living a life without the ubiquitous karaoke, ramen noodles and miso soups, shallow and searing onsen baths, the osteoporosis-ridden obachans, high school girls in skimpy skirts outside combinis, and the ingenious toilet seats.

Wow! I'm going to miss a lot. And I haven't even fully thought of the friends I left behind.

My stream of thoughts is interrupted by the stewardess' voice. What drink do I prefer? she asks and I promptly say soda and water with a friendly hello on the side. I would have thanked for the distraction away from thoughts about Japan but as I drink my cup of Coke, I stop and smile: I just had a conversation in nihongo.

See related blog entry: Missing Japan (Posted 31 March 2005)