In Hiroshima University, one semester is divided into two terms. The last week of the first term of my exchange had been rather rough, unsurprisingly so since assignments were due and exams were being held. After my last exam of the term, to decompress I decided to hike by myself to the ruins of Kagamiyama Castle. It was at the very top of Kagamiyama Park right next to the dorms.
It was refreshing to be surrounded by nature and I did the short hike up at a leisurely pace, enjoying the autumn scenery. There was hardly anyone in the park as it was quite late. I remember the peace I felt from listening quietly to the wind that blew gently through the trees and rustled the colourful dry leaves. By the time I got to the top my spirits were lifted and I felt much of my tension melt away. Though I hadn’t planned for it, I arrived exactly in time to watch the sunset.
At that moment, a Japanese man came up from a different path. We were mutually surprised to see someone else. After chatting for a bit, we decided to hike down together as the sun begun to set.
Since my conversational skills were severely limited we only talked about generic things. At one point, Shii-san was telling me that he had stopped working as he was sick, hence he had the time to hike most days of the week.
We looked at each other for a moment. I would have no idea what to say even if it were in English, so I just continued chatting with Shii-san about other random things. He is the same age as my mother, and he has a daughter who goes to Hiroshima University as well, studying sports education.
We parted ways probably within 30 minutes of meeting each other. I tried my best to convey my wishes that he would be in good health and good cheer.
I think of my meeting with Shii-san as somewhat of a metaphor for my semester exchange: short, beautiful, and something I will never forget. Towards the end of my exchange, I was asked several times, ‘what made the most impression on you in Japan?’. Past all her rich culture, beautiful nature, and wonderful food, in the end, my answer is the people I had met. From fellow HUSA students and student supporters, to the astronomy club members and those whom I met on my travels in Japan, to Oda-san, whose kindness and beautiful heart got me and my friends to go to Hiroshima city for 4 hour long visits each month, the list goes on.
I was lucky enough to celebrate my birthday during the exchange, and my friends got together to gift me matcha powder and a chasen. Later, Tsukasada-san, whom I only met once while she helped dress my friends and I in vintage kimonos from Oda-san’s shop, gifted me a pair of chawans she made in her youth. While travelling alone after the semester exchange had ended, I bought a chasaku and chasen stand from the person who performed a tea ceremony for me in Takayama.
They say that the saying 「一期一会」comes from Japanese tea ceremony. Even though performer and guest may meet again, no meeting is the same. Hence, each party should put all their heart and effort into each and every tea ceremony.
Now back here in Adelaide, whenever I make matcha I will remember how precious and wonderful my semester exchange was because of the people I had met. Perhaps I may meet some of those people again one day, perhaps not. But I will always hold the memories of my semester in Japan dear to my heart, and remember the lesson I learnt from it, particularly from a chance encounter at sunset on a hill: that each and every meeting is unique and precious in its own way, and to treasure those moments that can never again be repeated.
Mey Wong, Bachelor of Arts (High Achievers) is undertaking an exchange at Hiroshima University during S2, 2019