Pretty Lights make me nostalgic for Japan. We have a tendency to listen to music on repeat for weeks at a time and find some new song to obsess over long before the last one lost it’s novelty. In Osaka, it was Pretty Light’s album Making Up A Changing Mind. Over and over again in our tiny apartment in the morning, after we have folded our futons and tucked them away in our closet, all afternoon, as we prepared lesson plans for the next day, and coming home at night, hungry for curry and rice, we listened to this music.
We are staying in Boston now. Our tourist visas ran out on Thanksgiving, and we were welcomed home that night to our American turkey dinner, stuffing and cranberry sauce, a far cry from sashimi, drink yogurt, and the Japanese diet we had become accustomed to. In the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Years we were not sure of where we would end up, if we would go back to Japan, and when. By the time we found out our work visas had been approved, we had already decided it would be best for our careers and families if we were to stay home.
I cannot complain. Kyle started massage school at the beginning of January, and being able to stay at our parents homes I am able to write without worrying about next month’s rent. Our 90 days in Osaka seem so long ago now, if they even happened at all, but I am reminded of that time whenever I hear these songs.
I think of navigating our way through our neighborhood,which we fondly called “The Maze” for it’s grid of identical houses lined up along the paved street without any sidewalk to spare, cramped side-by-side at arms length at the very most.
I am reminded of walks to Tennoji, going to the grocery store while the grease in Kyle’s dreads dried after I twisted them for him. Or my daily commute on the train: sitting among other people going to work, going downtown, coming home from school, and how I could not communicate with them beyond “Sumimasen” or “Arigato Gozaimas.”
There was the way we were so cramped in our 12 sq meter apartment, and how we were constantly rearranging our single piece of furniture- a kotatsu table- to accommodate our daily needs- pushing it closer to the wall so we both had a place to lean as we did our work; clearing away our computers so we could make room to chop vegetables for dinner. And as days got colder, tucking our legs under the blanket and staying toasty by the kotatsu’s heater.
My memory is distracted by visions of nostalgia- climbing up the stairs to the roof where we would stretch in the summer, sweating through the dense humidity, the clothes lines where our clean t-shirts and socks and unmentionables waved on quiet breezes; looking up at the sky changing at sunset, the power lines connecting house to house in long black lines- and how it actually looked like an anime.
There were times in Osaka when I would be so lonely. Living 13 hours ahead of Boston made it difficult to arrange skype dates with people from home, and emails seemed less meaningful. I would write about what was new with me and Kyle, how the job hunt was going, but it was hard to maintain a written correspondence while we were all so busy with our lives. Kyle and I worked as teachers at a conversation school, where customers could come practice talking with native English speakers, but most of the time we could not talk to anyone except each other. We could discuss any topic of conversation- ANY topic- on the subway and we were atleast 90% confident that no one would be able to understand what we were saying.
As happy as I am to be home, I hear this music and I crave the exclusivity that we shared in Japan, pressed against each other on the Midosuji line at rush hour, chatting away about any this or that, not knowing what would come next, what town or city or country we would live in, and not needing to know, because we knew we had each other.
And I am happy to hear these songs, because I know we still do.