by Mae Iris
Nagi leaves her hometown to study music in Tokyo
“That probably wasn’t the best first impression”
I said one last goodbye to my childhood home and the sea. I wouldn’t see them again for a while. My brother started the car and we were off to Tokyo. I had been accepted into one of Japan’s best art schools and would be living with my brother’s friend while in Tokyo. As I watched the small town fly by, I remembered the dumbest things. Things like the time the dog from the bookstore ran away and the store closed early so all the employees could look for him, or the time the whole town had a power outage before the ice cream shop had a backup generator. All of the ice cream melted during the two days the power was out. We passed by the junior high school and I recalled the countless times I snuck into the school through the back door when I was late. Passing by the high school I almost felt sick remembering how I spent a year and a half taking double classes so that I could graduate from high school early. None of the schools in the cities will let you do that. Finally, we left the town and everything ahead of us was open road. We drove for about half an hour before we reached the ferry that I would ride from Shikoku to Honshu.
It was close to noon and the ferry wouldn’t arrive until 1:30, but Asahi and I had very little to do in the mean time, so we just sat on the beach and chatted. “So what exactly are you studying at some prestigious art school? You aren’t exactly great at art.”
I had refrained from talking about my reasons for going while around my parents, since neither of them would want me going if they knew I was pursuing what they would consider an “unstable career” instead of taking over the café. But Asahi wasn’t the kind of person who cared about if the café stayed in the family or not. “I’m not going there to be an actual artist, dork. We both know I can’t draw a straight line.” I paused to take off my shoes and stick my feet in the water. “I’m going there because they have a good program for performing arts. I want to be a musician. I want to play and compose traditional music. I can already play koto and shamisen, I want to learn to compose music and make a career out of it.”
I put my shoes on as the ferry came into sight. Asahi grabbed my suitcase and I took my instrument cases. He tried to take the koto case from me, but I wasn’t going to let him carry both my suitcase and one of my instruments. It may be a little heavy, but it’s also really expensive and I didn’t want my klutzy brother dropping my koto. After getting my ticket and loading my luggage on the ferry, I hugged my brother goodbye and boarded just in time to leave. As the ferry left the dock, Asahi shouted a promise to come visit me in Tokyo during his next vacation. On Wednesday, March 18, 2015 at 1:47 p.m. I left Shikoku for the last time as Mizutani Nagi.
The ferry landed later that afternoon in a small seaside town, much like my own home town, only this one had a bullet train. I got on the train and settled down for the four hour ride to Shinjuku Station. Once I arrived at the station I walked to Asahi’s friend’s house in Harajuku.
It was about ten O’clock when I arrived at the address Asahi had given me. It was a small yet colorful and cluttered accessory shop on Takeshita Street. It was taller than it was wide, with two floors above the shop itself. I guessed that those two floors were living space. Most of the lights were still on. As I wondered how I was supposed to go about knocking on a non-existent door, seeing as the shop was closed and nobody was downstairs, a man opened a window from the second floor and shouted “around the back” down at me. I walked around to the back door, and just as I was about to knock on it the man opened it and welcomed me inside. “Hey there, you must be Mizutani’s little sister. My name is Ueno Kaori. I wasn’t really given much warning that you would be coming, but I’ve done my best to get some space made for you, so welcome to your temporary home I guess.”
It was an awkward welcome from an awkward, lanky, disheveled man; but it was my first real memory of my home in Harajuku. I would never forget it.