Pacific Ocean, Japan - Natasha Anita

My Watermark is the Pacific Ocean, Japan.

I have moved around quite a bit between the US, Japan and Canada. My watermark story takes place a few months after I moved to Japan, during which time I had very little knowledge of the Japanese language.

I went on my first overnight trip to Miura in the summer of ‘08. After a good hour of walking through the woods, my fifth grade class scrambled to their hotel rooms, exhausted. When I finally got to mine, I found it empty, everyone’s luggage stashed against their beds. Luckily, I’d come prepared, having packed - at 870 pages - my copy of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix to help me pass the time. I’d only managed to crack open the cover when,

“Umi dayo, umi!”

Umi? I thought, the word sounds so familiar....

Jumping off my bed, I walked out onto the back entrance of the hotel and came face to face with a view that made me gape soundlessly.

The sea.

Unable to read basic Japanese characters, or kanji, at the time, I hadn’t realized the itineraryincluded a trip to the beach. Being a bubble-wrapped kid, I’d been separated from water in many ways. Out of my parents’ fear that I may drown, I was excused from swimming classes in school. Even baths were a rarity for me. Here was a chance of a lifetime to commit innocent rebellion.

My heart skipped a beat at the thought.From behind me, the teacher remarked,  

“It’s your first time seeing this, isn’t it?”

I nodded.

“This is the Miura-hanto Peninsula,” my teacher told me, “We are facing the Pacific Ocean.”

I stayed silent, unsure of what to offer as a reply.

“Well, what are you waiting for?”

Without uttering a single word back to her, I scrambled towards the sea, splashing water all over my capris. I ran until the water met my thighs, unheeding to the fact that I’d be soaked right through. Looking down into the clear water, I could see tiny fish, as well as crabs and clams, a whole new universe.

Water is a peculiar thing. You drink it every day and take it for granted, and yet when it comes to the ocean, it is, without a doubt, mesmerizing. Not only does the water shimmer and dance before your very eyes, but with the sound and rhythm of the waves, the smell and taste of the salty air on your lips, the sea is a paradise for the senses.

In the midst of playing in the water, I somehow made a few friends. The water acted as a catalyst, doing what I hadn’t been able to do in the months of being in the same class with these people, smashing down the barriers of language and culture and giving birth to friendships I never thought I could have. It was as if we’d been friends all along.

The day ended with us watching the sunset together as a class.  When I paused to look at the redness of the sky meeting the blue of the ocean, it gave me a feeling that everything was going to be okay.

What the teachers’ intentions were when planning this part of the trip, I will never know. Perhaps it was to teach us the value of water, or maybe it just seemed like something that would be enjoyable. For me, the experience was priceless, one that I continue to revisit in my mind time and time again. My years in Japan would eventually go on to become some of the best of my life, an overall adventure only made possible by venturing out to the sea. Needless to say, I never really did get through Harry Potter.

Bonnie McElhinny
Natasha Anita

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