Posts tagged ‘thoughts’

March 27, 2012

Japan Firsts

I was reading the JET Programme Official Forums yesterday and someone posed the question:

What was your first experience with Japan?


When I was 6 years old, I hated the Narita Airport.

My family had gone back to America on “home leave” in 1994, the same summer that the Lion King came out in theatres. My mom took us (my siblings and I) to see it with my aunt and cousins. I soon became obsessed with Simba. I loved the movie so much and quickly became my favorite! While we were in the US, my mom bought me a Simba stuffed animal.

AAAAAmZqlV0AAAAAABqIwwIt was love at first sight for me. I had always slept with a blanket ever since I was born, but Simba and I soon became inseparable. Simba and blanket were my bedtime companions.

We flew back to Singapore and had a layover in Tokyo/Narita airport. Simba and blanket, of course, had to come on the planes with me. Carrying a blanket around was childish, but carrying a stuffed animal seemed okay. Before boarding our final flight to Singapore, I went to the bathroom, taking Simba with me. When I came back to the gate with my mother, they had already called us for boarding. So my family of five rushed to get in line.

When we landed in Singapore, I gathered my things and packed up my backpack. I looked everywhere for Simba, in the overhead bins, under the seats… but he was nowhere to be found. My mom said that I cried for about an hour.

Where did I last see him? In the women’s bathroom in Narita airport. I was so upset that I had lost something so special! But I was also a little angry upon imagining some Japanese child with my Simba. I imagined some cleaning lady finding him and taking him home to her child. I wanted to fly right back to Tokyo to get him, but… sadly, that was impossible. (I now know that the staff in Narita probably must have taken him to their Lost and Found, where he must have lived a sad, childless life… Sniff-sniff.)

They didn’t have those exact stuffed animals in Singapore at the time, so I couldn’t get a replacement. But, life went on until… My amah Maryflor took her winter vacation and went to Australia. She found that exact stuffed animal and brought him home for me! I was absolutely overjoyed. I think I still remember the moment in the kitchen when she came home and presented Simba the Second to me.

Every time I thought about Japan after that, I remembered my poor stuffed animal lonely in the women’s bathroom. When I returned to Japan by myself in 2005, I got off the plane and went to the restroom to brush my teeth. To this day, Narita Airport will always remind me of The Lion King.


My sophomore year roommate Asako snapped this shot of me while I was taking a nap.
To this day I am most comfortable sleeping while hugging something.

But other than that, what were my first real encounters with Japan and Japanese culture?

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