(Not) The Last Night

Bina Antarbudaya
5 min readFeb 22, 2024

Zaki Musyaffa Abiyyu–INA AKP to JPN YP 22/23

My seat shakes as the plane climbs the sky. The colorful lights of the airport start to disappear from the view in my window, replaced by the shine of Tokyo night city. The far horizon draws a beautiful gradation of red, pink, green and blue. Seems like a rainbow that stretches as far as my eyes can see.

Teeet! Finally the seat belt light turned off. I pull out the seat desk in front of me and take out my laptop. Open the word app and start to type my report as an exchange student. Tonight, 14th March 2023, is my last night in Japan. The closer I get to Jakarta, the further I am from Japan.

I am Zaki Musyaffa Abiyyu, who used to be called Zaki. I’m an exchange student from Indonesia, riding on a plane from Narita airport to Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, Jakarta. It has been almost 9 months since the last time I came to this land, and now I have to leave them behind already.

My exchange placement was in Sapporo, Hokkaido. Hokkaido has been known for its cold weather. Unlike most other places in Japan, Sapporo gets a lot of snow in winter, making it the host of winter sports for the Olympics.

Pewh… I blow a deep heavy breath, remembering my beautiful memories I got these last months.

Since I came back to my dorm from my summer host family, I continued my kendo practices. They were hard, even one of our four members decided to quit. But, the other three continued their practices so that they passed 1-kyuu kendo certification in October and also participated in a kendo tournament in January. Of course, I also participated in the tournament. Sadly, after having a 2–0 victory in my first match, I lost 1–2 and 0–1 in the next 2 games.

My experience in the kendo club wasn’t long, but it gave me a lot of inspiration. I can say for sure that for the last 9 months, kendo has taught me the meaning of ‘hard work’.

Besides the kendo club, I also remember my experience during the last winter vacation. During this vacation, I went to 4 different host families in Ebetsu, not far from Sapporo. If I can give this vacation a theme, I’ll give it ‘nonbiri’, or ‘relax’ in English. Why? Because I spent most of my time at home with my host families.

At the first home stay, I spent my free time playing go with my host Dad. My host Dad has been playing go since a long time ago and used to watch go shows on television. I was lucky just for winning 2 times out of dozens of our games. Besides going, I also got some presents which were novels from my host Mom. It was an English Harry Potter novel and a Japanese teenagers’romance novel. Honestly, reading a Japanese novel wasn’t an easy task. Having a lot of kanji to read, I have to reopen my smartphone dictionary every couple of seconds. Hard, but fun. Addicted by the Japanese novel, later I bought myself another novel and also received another novel present from my Japanese teacher.

Continuing my journey at the second home stay, this time I learn how to play shogi. Shogi is a Japanese traditional board game that is also called ‘the Japanese chess’. The game is similar to chess, moving pieces to catch the opponent king. But in shogi, there is a little bit more complexity. In shogi, pieces that have been caught by a player can be reused as his pieces. This is what makes me interested in shogi. As a fan of chess, I learned shogi pretty fast. I defeated my host Dad at the second home stay and got a draw with the third home stay’s host Dad. If you have some interest in shogi, please help yourself by searching it on the internet.

At the third home stay, I spent my time with shogi and novels, again. I also went to a nearby jinja (temple) with my host family to watch people who went for hatumoude (first visit of the year) on the new year. At the fourth home stay, my host family took me to a kendo school where they let me have practice with them to prepare for my tournament in January.

One thing that I didn’t do with my host families was skiing. Skiing is a famous sport in Hokkaido. With the abundant amount of snow, Sapporo has been the host for the Olympic winter sports like ski, ski jump, ice skate, etc. Luckily, I got a chance to try skiing with my host school. Even though it was only for once, I got a glimpse of the feeling of sliding down a mountain while enjoying the view of Otaru’s sea.

“This is your co-pilot speaking. We got a malfunction at the window heating system, so we decided to return once to Haneda airport. We’re sorry for the inconvenience and ask for your cooperation.”

Oh wow, that was the first time. Our plane started to change its direction to Haneda, back to Japan. Well, I don’t have any problem with that. At least I got some extra time for writing my report. I should have finished this report a while ago, but because it was very busy last week, I didn’t have the chance to finish it.

These last seven days, I spent all of my free time doing clubs, hanging out with my friends, packing my baggage, and revisiting my host families. Speaking of my host families, there is one special host family among them. It was my summer host family. My host sister is my classmate, so I could revisit my host family anytime after school. This host family is special because it was my first host family and also because my host sister.

My host sister is my best friend in Japan. She is the first ‘real friend’ I ever made in Japan, who talked to me even when I didn’t understand Japanese at the first time. Her seat was just in front of mine, so we chatted a lot. She helped me to get more friends and improve my Japanese. I feel very blessed to be able to meet her in Japan. She made me think it was the right choice to come to Japan.

I said goodbye three days ago at New Chitose airport. I promised that if God allows, I will come back to Sapporo, to home. Chat with her about our memories in the past and laugh just like a real sibling. I promised that 14th March 2023 won’t be my last night in Japan.



Bina Antarbudaya

The Indonesian Foundation for Intercultural Learning Official Partner of AFS Programs