Of course, there are the obvious answers, such as daifuku mochi, matcha ice cream, umeboshi, or nori. A stroll past Senso-ji in Asakusa. Or a decent bath in an onsen. Seeing Mt. Fuji on a clear morning, visiting a Japanese garden.
But there are many things that are different back in Europe.
I find myself often missing the absence of certain things. I miss the silence when I am woken up by a honking concert down the street at six a.m. (I’m not sure I’ve ever heard the sound of honking at all in Japan). I also miss the silence when I am sitting in loud chatter in the train or am listening to the music leaking from my neighbor’s headphones (as the posters in the Tokyo subway admonish: please do it at home!). Or when another baby screams like it’s being murdered on the tram. By now I have figured out that the most likely explanation is that the mother is trying to put a jacket on her child. For some reason, Japanese children not only don’t scream on such occasions like they’re being speared, they hardly seem to make any sounds at all in public (if someone would care to explain me the trick, I’d sure like to take note for future use).
And I miss the smile and the politeness when I end up in front of someone whose expression and behavior announce to the world that they hate their job and in particular, dealing with me.
While I do enjoy the return of cheese into my life, I miss Japanese food. Where’s my miso soup and my breakfast fish? I don’t dare eating Japanese food out of Japan because I fear disappointment. By now, I can tell whether it tastes right or not.
I even miss the 100 yen stores! So many practical items are hard to find here, and when I find them, they cost way more than I now think they should.
I’m already preparing a shopping list for my next stay in Japan… I will totally go with an empty suitcase and bring it back full. (Just the way we did the other way round when we’d return with a suitcase full of cheese and muesli.)
And during this time of year, I do miss the climate (not sure I’d say the same in August). Novembers are fabulous in Tokyo with electric blue skies almost every day. In Geneva, we’re counting the rare days when the sun manages to pierce through the fog.
At least our home is not so different from the way it was in Tokyo. We brought a lot of Japanese kitchen things, we still sleep on a futon, and we have Japanese prints and tenugui on our walls.