This is an overdue blog, for good reason. On the last day we were ready to leave at 10am, to get to Osaka Airport to begin the journey home. The first half of the journey went smoothly, we were able to fit all our luggage into the van, checked in at the airport, and did last minute airport shopping (unlike the US, Japan’s airport prices are roughly the same as their street prices, so there’s no guilt from paying 3 times the price ). We then left to Narita airport, as from there we would go to the US. This is where everything took an unexpected turn. It turns out Narita isn’t very experienced with snowy weather and we were stuck on the tarmac for 3 hours before we deplaned. They said their plane de-icing fluid wasn’t working as expected,and I now suspect de-icing fluid may not even be a thing, but I digress. We all got McDonalds in the interim. Meanwhile, other flights were being cancelled due to weather and I found it very suspicious that our flight hadn’t been cancelled. We got back on and I watched a movie called “Flower and Sword” while we waited on the tarmac. I wish I had watched the movie before going to Japan, as it had a lot of cultural and historical reference, but there were also benefits to watching it afterwards, as you could appreciate and understand the plot more. After an hours wait on the plane the flight was officially cancelled.
We deplaned a final time, and had to renter Japan. We were unable to get a hotel as our flight was one of the last two to be cancelled, so we stayed at the Arrival section of Narita Airport. We got rescue crackers and neon green sleeping bags. It was an aesthetic. We made a Camp Williams and approximately 9 hours after we were suppose to leave, we fell asleep. Everyone else woke up a couple hours later to do some light shopping as Narita has a Uniqlo etc. but not me. I slept. I like to sleep. I woke up when it was time to check back in. We checked in at midday for a new flight that would leave at 5pm, and went back to the departure lounge. It had been 24 hours since I had showered at this “shower and daybed” place that was located in the departure side. I paid 1000 Yen for a 30 minute shower, which I plan to claim back on my travel insurance. I also bought more socks in the airport, because cancelled flights are a tourist trap. We were finally able to board at 5pm, a fully 24 hours after we were supposed to leave. It’s a good thing that United has an abundance of movies on their flights, and now 14 hours flights don’t phase me. I did learn from this experience to always keep a change of clothing, deodorant, toothpaste + toothbrush and comb in your backpack. It just worked out that these were the last things I packed from the hostel, and had put them in my backpack. I also named the plushie dog I bought in Japan. His name is Airport Narita Lost Baggage Cancel Delay. And yes, Lost Baggage is a spoiler alert.
We landed in Newark some 12 hours later and said goodbye to Tiffany, who would be stopping off on this leg of the journey. I also said goodbye to my carry on as it was checked in. Little did I know at the time that my carry on would not come to Albany with me. We finally flew from Newark to Albany, losing some luggage along the way. (I was promised my carryon would arrive the next day, and it did, so that was good ). It was a relief to get back to my room and sleep in my bed. While I enjoyed our trip to Kyoto I had started to miss my room so in that regard it was nice to be back. Now that I’m in my bed, and have gotten a lot of sleep, I can reflect on our trip.
For one not only will I miss Kyoto, but I’ll miss the friends I made along with way! It amazing how small of a school Williams is, and yet how you can go your entire 4 years here without meeting a good half of the population, and specifically the 7 other’s that were apart of the trip (except for you Leah. I always knew you). That being said I’m sure I’ll see each of you around on campus. I think at the beginning of this trip I expected to learn a lot more of the technical side of the varying crafts and practice we would be surveying, and the way their practitioners make a living in this era. While we did learn of the aforementioned, I think the more critical lesson I took away was the way one nurtures and practices their artistic passion within what appeared to be the rigid confines of an artform. This was a recurring theme among all the people we visited, and I hardly think they all met up and coordinated this and yet they all were similar in this respect, despite their varying lifestyles and practices. They each honed a skill important to them, but did so in a way that not only maintained the traditional roots of each respective practice, but allowed their individual interests and understanding as an effect of the modern world influence what they produced, and the way they practised.Whether it was reimagining and creating new Noh Masks, or reinventing a more accessible form of tea ceremony, each of the Artisans we met with showed they you didn’t have to sacrifice the imaginative process for tradition, or vice versa. The importance of this lesson transcends the cultural haven of Kyoto, and is one we can all apply to our own lives, whether we consider ourselves artisans or not.