Cost: 216 yen
Found At: Family Mart
Of all the things to make me homesick, it was the Happy Face podcast that made me really miss home the most.
The podcast is a devastating look at serial killer Keith Hunter Jesperson’s life and crimes, but more importantly, the focus of the narrative is on the experiences of his daughter and the effect he had on her life. What I hadn’t realized when I first switched it on, was that the crimes, the stories, and the people involved were all set in my own home state of Washington, and there is something in the curling accents and dark jokes of Melissa and Rose Jesperson that brings back all the cold, rainy afternoons and long, winding drives of my childhood. It was a deeply nostalgic experience that caught me completely off guard. It’s been a year since I’ve heard the voice of someone who sounds like me – since I’ve heard the muddled notes of the accent that I grew up with. Hearing it again brought back a tumble of complex emotions that were difficult to parse, save for one clear and unmistakable note of homesickness.
And it’s at moments like this – when I’m far from home and feeling overwhelmed by the strangeness – that I turn to one of Washington State’s other great exports: Starbucks Coffee. And I know that Starbucks is a faceless corporation set on taking over the world. But it’s my faceless corporation set on taking over the world. And no matter where I go – no matter how far afield I roam – I can always trust the Starbucks to have the same green and black interior, the same energetic baristas, and the same acoustic guitar music playing over the loudspeakers. And even more convenient, the Family Mart has its own selection of Starbucks lattes – I don’t even need to find a Starbucks store to feel at home. It’s not exactly the same, but it’s a few cups of thick cream, a heavy portion of sugar, and just enough matcha tea powder to get me through the evening. It’s that familiar flavor of melted green tea ice cream in a chic green cup. With this in hand, and a podcast in my ear I can almost forget that I left home at all.
And tomorrow, I’m sure, I will wake up ready to dive back into Japan – to have all the unique and unusual cultural experiences that I came here for. But for now, it can wait, and I can enjoy my little slice of somewhere else.