Solace [JAPAN]

Mia Kagimoto
My hands, furious with stress, waded through piles of clothes, though intensely begging to slow down. I needed it. Shirt after shirt, trousers after trousers, all my hands could feel was fabric. Warm sweat made its way down the sides of my face and neck, eventually making its way into the hem of my stiff button-down. I harshly exhaled and put all of my weight onto the balls of my feet, collapsing onto my bed. The fan above my head whirred, quite therapeutically at that, and I, fatigued, stared out of the window, at the shallow sunset. The husky chattering from the downstairs TV calmed, and as I looked out at the luminescent streetlights, I felt the pounding in my head slow. 
I gazed across my small room, and my body’s movements slowly synchronised in tiredness. I could feel the cool air from the fan above, and slowly exhaled as the long-overdue wave of tiredness swept over me. My eyelids felt heavy, and I could feel my consciousness slowly seeping away.
A flash of blue.
That’s all it took for me to leap back onto my feet.
I dove for the small box in haste, eager to grasp its frail lid in my hands. My fingers caressed its sides, and the uneven crevices of cheap paint slapped all over. Though the box might look trashy to others, it meant the world to me. I read the words over and over in my head, captivated by the uneven yet still eloquent font.
For Finn.
I slid the lid off the small box, and slowly took the small stack of envelopes from the inside. They were worn from being opened so many times, but that was the least of my concerns. 
I lined them all up in chronological order, the way they should be. Elaborate stamps complemented the different coloured envelopes, bringing out all of the vibrant shades of blue.
Cautiously, I lifted the first letter up into the flickering light and skimmed across the frail page.
March 10, 2023
Hi! This is Akari, from the pen pal project.
I’m 13 years old, and I live in Japan. Tokyo, to be more specific. I go to an international school, and my favourite subjects are history and art. What are yours? I am so excited to get to know about someone from America as a part of this project. What’s your favorite color? Favorite book? When’s your birthday? Mine was yesterday, so happy birthday to me, I guess. 
I hope this letter hasn’t come across as too pushy. I’m just excited to get to know someone new!
Make sure to write back quickly!
-Akari ♥
I could feel the sweetness radiating off the letter and wanted more of it. I picked up the next letter and carefully unfolded it.
April 4, 2023
Hi Finn! I still can’t believe I actually have a friend in America. I was told to write about my pets, and what my favourite food is, but that’s a bit boring. I want to learn actual, useful things about each other. 
I live in an apartment in Central Tokyo. It’s a bit cramped, but I’ve gotten used to it. America’s probably a lot nicer, because the houses are so much bigger. At least, that’s what they seem like on the TV. I have a younger brother, and he can get on my nerves sometimes. Do you have any siblings?
Anyways, I really want to go to America. I love Japan, but sometimes it can be annoying, especially with the whole population basically being shoved in what I like to call the “Tokyo Shoebox”. Is it really as big and flashy as it looks like on TV? 
Let me know as soon as you can!
-Akari ♥
I read over my name, over and over again. I couldn’t get enough of the whole…
May 20, 2023
Hello Finn! Sorry for the late response. I’ve had some problems lately that have really been draining me.
As you probably know, being 13 is hard. I don’t know if it’s the same for the 7th boys, but if it is, feel free to vent. To be completely honest, I need an outlet too.
My friends hate me. My brother seems to be distancing himself from me. I feel like my parents expect more. Gosh, at this point, I’m pretty sure my fish hate me too. Are you facing any problems? We can face them together.
My dad is probably my biggest problem. It’s so cramped. Everything is just claustrophobic. There’s nowhere new to explore. I want to go, but he says we have to stay. Sometimes I feel like he doesn’t care.
Please, write back quickly.
I could barely remember what I wrote in response to her letter. All I knew is that I needed someone who understood me. And she was that someone.
June 6, 2023
Hey Finn! I don't know what got over me in my last letter, but all your sympathy was appreciated. I’ve got more friends now. My brother is acting more normal towards me. My dad’s still not totally appreciative of me, but hey, everyone’s got to have some problems. 
Japan’s still… hard. I’m really antisocial, so when people all go to the same place to hang out, and I see them, I get really nervous. Yesterday, I was at the playground with my friends, and I saw a group of boys from school. And guess what I did?
I fell. On my back. From the swing.
Aren’t I just the most graceful person?
Anyhow, if you have any advice on what I should do if this happens again, please tell me.
-Akari ♥
I felt a small smile play at the corners of my lips and picked up the next letter to read.
July 4, 2023
Hiii Finn! Are you celebrating Independence Day today? I’m so jealous of the fireworks. But luckily, I’ll be seeing some in a couple of weeks, as a part of the firework festival.
I’ve been thinking lately, and I really think you should come and visit Japan. There are some things here that are really cool. I think you’d like the fairs here. You can catch fish and win some food. It’s not very “worth it” if you think about price and the chance you’ll win, but for the experience, it’s more than worth it. We should go together sometime. 
There’s so much I want to do in Tokyo, but I don't have enough weekends or energy.
Well, I hope you write back soon. Let me know how Independence Day went!
-Akari ♥
I want to go to Tokyo, but I don’t think I can handle a trip right now.
August 28, 2023
Oh. My. Gosh.
We had to go back to school today, and there’s this new kid. He’s called Jack, and to be completely honest, he’s kind of cute. Do you think I should talk to him? I don’t know. I think he likes someone else.
Also, I’ve discovered this new open-field thing near me, and it’s so cool. I could spend hours there with my friends and not get bored. There are so many things I want to do in Tokyo that I haven't done yet. Maybe we could make a bucket list together.
Are summers in America hot? I know that places like Texas get really hot, but I don’t know that much about Pennsylvania. You should tell me. Japan is always so humid in the summer, and it’s suffocating. But it’s so refreshing stepping into an air-conditioned building after.
The. Best. Feeling.
-Akari ♥
Right now, in the cool of the fall, I could only dream about summers in the sun. Maybe Japan would be a good vacation location…
September 30, 2023
Jack’s so annoying. About a week ago, I told him about how I felt for him. Guess what he said. It’s so atrocious, I don’t know if I even want to write it down.
But I will, for the sake of context and context only.
I said, “blah blah blah, Jack, I really like you.”
And he responded with, “Who asked?”
I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to punch someone more.
Are you having any problems in America? Do you have any cool places to visit? My dad’s been talking about America a lot recently, which probably means he wants to visit. If you have any recommendations on where to go, please let me know.
-Akari ♥
I don’t know why anyone would ever reject someone like Akari. Based on our letters, I think she’s amazing. She just seems to… not judge me. It’s always rare to find someone like that. The only problem is, she lived halfway across the world.
October 29th, 2023
My dad’s still talking about America. He must really want to visit.
Recently, I’ve been finding so many more cool places to visit in Tokyo. You really should visit. I want to explore more. I used to think it was boring. I used to call it the “Tokyo Shoebox”. Now, it seems more like Barbie’s closet. 
Also, thanks for the recommendations of places to go in America. Pennsylvania is definitely still on the top of my list. Maybe it’s because of Hershey, or possibly because of a certain someone I want to pay a visit to.
I’m hoping to see you soon, in Pennsylvania.
-Akari ♥
I remember visiting Hershey when I was 12 years old. I’ve never liked theme parks, or chocolate. I hated the loud noises. The screaming. And the blaring music over the speakers, and people. So many people.
November 20th, 2023
Christmas is finally coming around. I’m so excited for the holidays. We can’t go to America over the winter, but my Dad’s still talking about it. Maybe we’ll visit during the summer. 
I wanted a real Christmas tree this year, but our apartment complex didn’t allow it. Have you ever bought a real Christmas tree? Ours is just a plastic one from Costco. It’s still pretty though.
I’m hoping to get a guitar this Christmas. I want to be able to just strum at it whenever I want. Do you play any instruments?
-Akari ♥
I tried to play the cello once. That was before I overheard my mom telling my teacher to “not waste your time on a kid like him”...
December 24th, 2023
I got a guitar! What did you get? I hope you got something you wanted, like the poster, or maybe even the studio album!
The best present I got wasn’t the guitar, though.
We’re going to America! And pretty soon as well! We’re leaving on March 1st. It’s a bit of an odd time to leave, but I’m still happy that we get to go. And even better, we’re going to New York! Which, if I’m correct, is right by Pennsylvania! Let’s meet each other. Then, we can talk in person for the first time.
-Akari ♥
I stared at the studio album, hung on my wall. The cover art, and every single song on that album was immaculate. I thought of Akari as I examined the record and thought about how she would have loved it. If only she was here with me now.
January 31st, 2024
A lot has changed since my last letter. I’m moving house! My dad says it’s quite a bit bigger, and I’ll have even more fields and shops to visit. We need to send all of the boxes quite early. I’m sitting in my room right now, which looks like a cardboard jungle. Basically, everything is packed. My clothes, my books, my decor… everything. I don’t mind it though. I’m hoping we’re moving closer to Odaiba. The malls there are better than any other in Tokyo, and I’m in desperate need of a shopping spree. Although, I don’t know if that’s going to happen, because my dad keeps telling me about how the new house is quite a bit further than where we live now.
I’m hoping for the best, and that I’ll find someone I know that lives close to me. Maybe I can make some more friends.
-Akari ♥
My ragged clothes that lined the floor seemed to taunt me. If anyone was in desperate need of a shopping spree, it was me. Not that I wanted one, of course. I hate shopping. Or at least, I should.
February 3rd, 2024
Hi Finn. I’m sorry about this letter being a lot earlier than usual. Unless I’m counting wrong, I’m pretty sure our pen pal project finishes the day I “visit” America. March 1st, 2024.
I was lied to, Finn.
I love where I live. I want to stay. All that trash I said before, the “Tokyo Shoebox”, the claustrophobia, that doesn’t matter. I don’t care. I want to stay, Finn. I want to stay. How do I stay here? I want to stay. I have a life. I have friends. I don’t want to move to New York. I’m happy here. How do I tell my dad that I don’t care if his job changes? I want to stay. I need to stay.
Finn, I’m not just visiting America. I’m moving there.
I’m sorry that this letter was not up to my usual standard. This might be the last you hear from me. Don’t miss me. 
-Akari ♥
The panic in her usual, glowing tone was alarming. But it's a clear emotion. She makes it easier to understand. It’s nice. I can finally understand how she feels. 
I reached for the last envelope of the lot. Unlike the rest, the return address wasn’t some random-looking scribbles.
I could read it.
And it was sent from New York.
March 2nd, 2024
I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have written to you like that. You shouldn’t have to deal with my problems. And I’m sorry that I’m writing to you after the project’s supposed to be finished. I just needed some feeling of the ties being tied. New York’s great, but it’s not the same. I don’t feel safe. I don’t feel secure. But I will learn to feel safe. 
I wanted to write to you to let you know that we shouldn’t talk anymore. I don’t want to be reminded of a project that held me together throughout the past year. It just brings me back to Tokyo. To write the letters in my small room. Cycling to the post office to post it. The reading of the cards during lunch. I can’t do something that I did in Japan. So, I’m sorry. You really helped me. I’m hoping I helped you. But this needs to come to an end.
Goodbye Finn.
My lifeline. Gone. In just one letter. Now, I find stability in the blue box of letters. She may not want to remember me, but if I didn’t remember her, if she was never with me throughout the project, I can’t even think about how badly I would have fought through school.
I tucked the letters back into the blue box, then hid the box in my closet, under all my clothes, saving it for the next time I wanted to feel…
Mia Kagimoto was born in 2010 in Fukuoka, Japan. First attending a traditional Japanese pre-school, she learned how to read and write in Japanese, becoming bilingual at the young age of four. While it was hard keeping up with two very different nationalities (British and Japanese), she pushed through and experienced both Japanese, American and British School systems. Often pursuing opportunities to showcase her words and art, she has always been driven to work hard and express herself through different mediums. Her passion for words continually grows, and she hopes to one day publish a book of her own. She is truly excited for every opportunity she gets to share stories, and she hopes that through her work, she can spread her stories.

"letters never sent" by tnarik is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

The Author
Read More
A magazine for teen writers—by teen writers. Under the Madness brings together student editors from across New Hampshire under the mentorship of the state poet laureate to focus on the experiences of teens from around the world. Whether you live in Berlin, NH, or Berlin, Germany—whether you wake up every day in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, North or South America—we’re interested in reading you!