Sayonara Song

Saying goodbye might be the hardest part of travel. Despite all the miles I clock and all the countries I visit, I have yet to perfect the process of bidding farewell to a country that I have fallen so deeply in love with.

I left Japan a few hours before a big typhoon — it seemed to be a running theme of my trip. That morning, Narita airport was practically empty and when I landed on another continent ten hours later, I was greeted by television images of the watery destruction back in Tokyo. I didn’t worry, though. Japan is very adept at getting back on their feet.

Japanese culture is also deeply attached to ritual. Boarding a plane and simply flying away from the country seemed a banal farewell — almost sacrilege. I felt so sad inside and that something was lacking in this quick and uneventful exit. As I watched at the foggy rice fields disappear below, I realized that this was one of my problems in Japan — I could never really say thank you. I mean, I learned to verbalize “thank you” over and over again, but somehow it was just never enough.

I’ve long maintained that “Thank You” are the most important words for a traveler to carry, and yet I have so many more words and feelings for Japan. My very full heart is thwarted by a limited tongue and so, like all good digital nomads, I have leaned slightly on technology to express how I feel.  This little digital tribute was shot and recorded using just my phone–the words and vocals are all mine, while the music is courtesy of one of my free iPhone apps, Songify. (It’s amazing how well you can sing with a little help from auto-tune!) Now, I’m well aware that my digital persona might sound like a three-year-old in Japanese, but I’m OK with that. As you recall, that is precisely how I entered Japan — as a three-year-old.

So here’s my music video to all the Japanese people I met in Japan and beyond–and to all those who made my journey so wonderful. ありがとうございます.

Here’s an English translation of the lyrics:

Hello all.

My name is Andrew and this month, I’m traveling in Japan.

I want to say to you that I like your country very much: the mountains, lakes and sea are all so beautiful.

The temples are so peaceful.

The cities are so exciting and Japanese food is delicious.

I am so happy to be in Japan.

Your country inspires me and I will never forget it.

Thank you for sharing your culture with me.

Thank you so much.


* a special thanks to Naoko Hase for her help with the Japanese translation


  1. Dave
    Cuenca, Ecuador
    September 29, 2011, 4:18 pm

    I visited Japan earlier this year for the first time, a month before the earthquake, and had a wonderful time too. I enjoyed your updates as you discovered the country and culture too, and like you, felt my time there was too short (11 days).

  2. Laura
    Chicag, USA
    September 29, 2011, 4:36 pm

    Ouch. Painfully regretting now with this digital tribute that I didn’t make it to Japan on my last visit to Asia. Beautifully done. Thanks for sharing your your adventure.

  3. Pam
    Stratford ON
    September 29, 2011, 4:49 pm

    Your heavy heart upon departure is my sentiment exactly; it doesn’t change no matter how many times you return. If you loved the experience you will always feel that way. I have been to Japan several times, each time is different yet the same. When I return there is that old excitement that starts when the plane lands. When its time to go, that ride on NEX back to Narita is bittersweet. I always cry….but I know in my heart I will return….it is now my second home as long as I breathe…..go back often….

  4. Eva Sandoval
    Terracina, Italy
    September 29, 2011, 5:08 pm

    Brilliant song and video, Andrew. I moved away from Japan 2.5 years ago and sing a little sayonara song to myself every day. Luckily, I’m the only one who hears it. The vid made me a bit Japan-sick; the images selected did such a great job of capturing bits of everyday life in Japan. Hope you had a pleasant journey to your next destination!

  5. Ken
    September 29, 2011, 5:15 pm

    You were great Andrew. Hope that your tune is widely circulated in Japan and that you become a new singing sensation. Nice touch 🙂

  6. Lee Watts
    September 30, 2011, 5:24 am

    That is just how I felt when I went to Japan in 1977…Your tribute is wonderful

  7. Sheila
    October 2, 2011, 12:10 am

    Beautiful! Thanks for this. I moved from Japan 8 years ago after living there for 12 years. I left a huge piece of my heart there and your video brought back so much. Even though I’ve been back 3 times since I left, it will never be enough.

  8. Heather Todd
    Rehoboth, DE
    October 3, 2011, 11:12 am

    Andrew, we loved following you through Japan and the culimination of your travels featured in this video truly bring to life the amazing Japanese culture. We had never thought of traveling to Japan but now it is on the top of our list. Thank you so much for sharing it all with us.

  9. Johnny Valencerina
    Manila, Philippines
    October 7, 2011, 3:52 am

    I’ve got an opportunity to see Japan through the sponsorship of my former employer in December 2001. It was a cold yet great 9-day combination of work and leisure; hopping from one city to another; all events still fresh in my memory up to this day, I don’t feel it’s already almost ten years ago. It’s my wish to have a chance to visit again that beautiful country.

  10. ray
    Mesa AZ
    October 24, 2011, 2:57 am

    love the voice transmitter. Japan is a great place to see and falling in love with it is so easy. Arigato-Gozaimasu.
    (I spent 12 yrs there and look forward to going back.

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