University of Wisconsin–Madison

What Will You Miss?

One of my coworkers yesterday asked me “what will you miss from Japan?” I gave a completely blank stare. Even though I have less than two weeks left of my internship, I had not thought about this question at all. The coworker rephrased, “what are you excited to do when you get back to America?” I was equally at a loss for words.

It’s so hard to think in the moment what you will miss about a culture and country you have grown to think as home. Sure there’s the obvious like Japanese food or the ability to travel so often, but there’s also the smaller things that make Japan Japan, such as politely bowing to everyone, saying good morning to everyone as you pass or not talking on your phone in public. But if I thought it was hard to explain what I would miss from Japan, it was near impossible for me to think how to articulate what I am excited for when I get back to America. I am definitely excited to head home, but I also want to express how grateful I am for this opportunity and that a part of me doesn’t want to leave. Of course I miss my family, my friends, pizza and other American food, but if I say that then am I saying I just want to head home and wish I was home already? Because that’s also not the case; I want to be in both countries at once.

I always expected to just know what I would miss, like I assumed I would have always been thinking about it, but in truth I just adapted what is normal to me without analyzing all the minute differences. I suppose thinking about this early on might prepare me better for reverse culture shock when I arrive back in the States and seeing no one using chopsticks for every meal. It’s such a normal question “what will you miss” and yet such a difficult question to answer. Should I focus on the traveling, the food, the people? Or maybe all of it, but then I could go on forever. If you were leaving your home country, how would you answer the question “what will you miss from here?”

Now I’ve been thinking about the question though, I thought the best way to break it down would be by city and by food. Out of all the cities I visited, this is how I would rank them by places I would want to visit again. I would visit them all again, so it isn’t completely fair to rank them this way, but some (like Kyoto or Osaka) I would live in if I had the chance.

  1. Kyoto
  2. Kamakura
  3. Osaka
  4. Mount Koya
  5. Fukuoka
  6. Tokyo
  7. Hakone
  8. Hiroshima
  9. Nara
  10. Kobe
  11. Asuka
  12. Yokohama

For food, these are some of my Japanese favorites (It is too difficult to rank these so they are in no particular order):

  1. Udon (kitsune udon)
  2. Gyoza (Japanese Dumplings)
  3. Ramen
  4. Kobe Beef
  5. Mochi
  6. Manju (favorite is Fukuoka manju)
  7. Nabe
  8. Pork cutlet
  9. Sushi
  10. Takoyaki
  11. Okinomiyaki (the original Osaka version)

As for all the smaller bits of what I will miss from Japan, it is too hard to articulate. I think one of the things I will miss the most are the people I have met, but I can’t find it in me to write about them yet. I feel like writing about leaving my coworkers and friends in Japan finalizes that I am leaving, and I don’t want to have to completely admit that to myself now.