With two more days of work to go before my 10 day stint in Scotland, today was and up and down sort of day, beginning with two hours sleep and getting up early to deal with immigration bureaucracy only to go back to bed only to wake up again to do deal with other tasks.

One of those tasks was walking to my old judo sensei’s house. When I say old, I mean in both senses of the word since the guy was 75 when I was 25 and that I haven’t had the opportunity to do judo since October 2009.

The reason for the trip was a mistake on my part. He loaned me a judo gi when I started out training and I gave it back to him about 4 months ago since I’d bought a proper gi for myself to train in. When I say gave it back, no one answered his door so I left it on his door step.

But there was a problem with this; I gave him the wrong gi.

That’s right, in yet another bout of idiocy I left him my new 33,000 yen judo gi. I only realised this last week when I was clearing out my wardrobe to start packing for my return holiday home to Scotland since I wanted to take things back home that I wouldn’t be using here in Japan.

After buying a present for him this morning I was determined to suck up my pride, speak up with my best bad Japanese and trade gi’s at the expense of my shame.

It took about 40 minutes to get there and all the while I couldn’t stop thinking about what I was going to say to him (“um, long time no see!”), or what I would do if he wasn’t at home again (go back another time with a note in Japanese asking him to call me).

After a nerve-wracking journey I arrived at his place. It had been a while since I’d been there and since a lot of the houses look the same it was a little tough to figure out which one was his. However, I remembered he trained on Mondays so the attic trained in should have had it’s light on but I couldn’t find it. Something was different about the place. I couldn’t put my finger on it.

I walked up and down the street about 3 times, no doubt looking confused to the locals parked in their cars, whom I guessed were waiting for their kids to come out after various school activities.

“It was right here!” I was sure.

Then it hit me: there was a house I didn’t recognise there before. It didn’t quite match the other houses colour-schemes. It must’ve been put up recently. They’d torn down the old geezer’s house and his attic.

I can guess at why. He stopped teaching me because he had bad health. He had to go for various operations and it’s not uncommon for men his age to have strokes. It didn’t help that he smoked.

Or perhaps he moved on? Maybe he sold the old house for something cheaper. The wishful thinker in me thought that was the case any how.

I thought back to the short time I spent there. Learning judo was a big part of my Japan Plan(tm) originally; meeting new people was integral to what I wanted to do here as a part of creating a new life for myself. I wanted to discover what Japanese people were really like and met some crazy kids who studied there, who helped form my first good impression of Japanese people. Over time, and not seeing them, my impression of Japanese has grown dimmer.

I also wanted to lose weight for my own sake. At the peak of my judo training, I went through 3 different bikes travelling 45 minutes on bike from where I lived to that dojo (I lived in a different town at the time). If you look at my Japan photos from around that time, like the Katsunuma Wine Festival folder, you’ll notice I look a lot fitter. Since that time I’ve put a lot of it back on despite walking 2 hours every day to and from work.

Most of all, it gave me something to do with all the time on my hands and was a way to fight the isolation of being in a foreign country. Seeing that new house was the final punch in the combo, the last sign that the dream was dead.

It’s no secret that I’ve made plans to leave Japan in March or that I’m not enjoying my job but for all the time I tried to keep masquerading that I could survive here for a while longer by taking up walking to work after wrecking my last bike, investing in a bass guitar to start a band which, to be honest, is going downhill at the moment. Even now, this apartment is so cold after my boiler has decided to stop working. It feels like I’m being told something repeatedly but still I resisted to really take action.

I had persevered with people who haven’t really ever had me in their hearts or minds even when all I was doing was thinking of was how I could be helpful to them, how I could communicate and interact with them, and have done so for about 9 months now, they either ignored my efforts to keep in touch, decided they wanted to focus their efforts on other people or just outright blast them.

After seeing that house there, I got what I needed. I got the closure to move on from all of that.

To that old ojii-san, wherever you may be, thanks for everything.

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