At the farewell dinner for me and some other colleagues who were shortly to be leaving Tokyo, our boss suddenly took out a plastic bag and rustled around inside it for a bit, before proferring it to us. “Take one,” he said, without further explanation. I reached inside and extracted a piece of origami.
It was a frog made by his elementary school-aged son. “Kaeru,” our boss finally said, which means both “frog” and “return”. In other words, it was a pun-ish paper amulet wishing us all a safe trip home.
Given that I’d been doing a lot of giving and receiving of presents and omiage during the last week, it struck me as odd that a little piece of folded paper could mean a lot more to me than some of the more extravagant going-away presents I’d accepted.
Anyway, I kept the frog with me on my long-haul flight home, and now it’s perepetually perched on my desk. I think I mostly took away from my 10 months in Japan things more intangible than physical, but as objects go, this is one of my favourites.
(And look, I’ll admit it, my Ghibli nekobus plushie is pretty awesome too).