Twice yearly I make the trans-global journey between my familial home in Prince Edward Island, Canada, to my adopted hometown of Saitama, Japan, always with the somewhat dichotomous pangs of separation and anticipation. Having just left the Land of the Rising Sun, I will miss my friends, of course, as well as the best sushi on the planet, the ultra-speedy internet connection, a huge grocery store and several restaurants within five minutes’ walk of my apartment; the formal and ultra-polite character of the Japanese people as a group, and the relentless bombardment of color and sound that characterizes all of Asia. I will not miss, even a little bit: the steam-bath humidity of the Tokyo summer; the subways packed past belief by platform agents armed with door-sized flat slabs of fiberglass designed specifically for stuffing commuters into train cars; the nasty fermented soybean treat, natto, less palatable to the western taste than, say, Vegemite, but well loved by the locals; oh, and let’s not forget Japanese popular music, J-pop, about which the less said, the better.
Now happily ensconced in Prince Edward Island, I am reveling in the laid-back pace: the farms overrun with U-Pick strawberries awaiting a dollop of freshly whipped cream; the beaches that will wait another couple of weeks at least until the first hardy tourists are willing to brave the chilly breakers; the top-down midday cruises in my aging-but-still-cute (like its owner, hopefully) Mini Cooper; the chipmunks and blue jays that exercise eminent domain on the grounds and airspace around my house; and of course, evenings catching up with friends and relatives I haven’t seen in the better part of a year. And perhaps best of all, I have so much space: my kitchen / dining area here is bigger than my entire apartment in Japan, no kidding! On the minus side, cable service hasn’t made its way this far out of town, so I still have interminably slow dial-up internet, which you may remember from back in the days of disco. The nearest supermarket is twenty minutes away, so some planning is required to ensure not running out of essentials like chocolate chip cookies or beer. And, while carping, I should mention the unofficial provincial bird of Prince Edward Island, the mosquito, whose size and rapaciousness is the stuff of legends.
Some time back, and I must confess I don’t remember where, I read a great definition of “home”: Home is the place where, if you have to go there, they have to let you in. Another variant: Home is the place where you bring all the stuff you acquired on your last trip, before embarking on your next one. PEI fits the first definition for me to a tee, and Japan the second, although it must be said that I am running out of space for any new stuff in either place. Stay tuned for notices of a bi-continental garage sale of epic proportions!