Sunday, February 14, 2010


I was shocked to realise recently it's been four years since I first travelled across the world (well, I'm pretty sure I flew across Russia, if we're going to be entirely accurate) to reach this small corner of the Land of the Rising Sun. To say it's flown by is both a cliche and an understatement (and how often do you get those two things together). To put things in perspective, until I arrived here, the longest I had stayed in any one place since I was 18 was two years, and that place was home, with the Mama and the Papa. It's pretty surprising to think that I have stayed here so long, especially bearing in mind how tough I have found it. I often wonder if I wouldn't be better to just give up and go home, back to a place where I'm a normal person who doesn't make small children cry in the supermarket simply by virtue of being white. Although, sometimes making small children cry is entertaining, if a little cruel.
Such a milestone inevitably inspires a bit of reflection, so I've decided to adopt an idea from Amy at Just a Titch and make a list of the Good, the bad and the ugly.
The good:

-The scenery. I live in a place surrounded by mountains on three sides and the sea on another. It's a beautiful place to live and the view along the Inland sea road never ceases to amaze me. The sunset over the numerous little islands is just breathtaking. Even the view from my tiny apartment is amazing, see.

-Cherry blossom season
Really, until you've seen the Japanese cherry blossoms up close, it's hard to appreciate just how gorgeous they are. I mean, how can anyone feel bad when this is five minutes up the road?
And this is about an hour away?

-The good friends I have made here. As I think I might have mentioned before, I'm not a person who makes friends easily, so I try to treasure the ones I do make as much as I can. The friends I have made have to be willing to work through the language and cultural barriers, which can be considerable. A few people have come and gone, but I have a few good and dear friends who are just lovely.

OK, maybe not the best picture to illustrate the loveliness of my friends, but really, how often to you get to work with someone in a Scream mask?

-The food. Japanese food is good. There are a few things I'm not so keen on, but the Japanese attention to detail makes their cuisine a sight to behold, not to mention quite tasty with it.

-The temples- I just love Japanese temples. They're always so peaceful and they always seem to have some fascinating carving or decoration that's unique to each place. Visiting a temple always makes me feel more at ease and relaxed than I did before I went.

The bad

-the sense of isolation. It can be really hard always being different to the people around you. I tried explaining to a friend of mine once, in my very basic Japanese, how it feels to be a constant object of interest. In simple terms, it's like being a cross between a doll and a performing monkey. People stare and question and poke at me on a daily basis. It's very rarely intended to be unkind, which, in some ways puts more pressure on me to be extra tolerant because that person doesn't know they're the fifth person to bombard me with questions and observations about me. It can be a bit exhausting at times.

The ugly
The first thing that springs to mind is the hideous old woman who sat in the supermarket cafe sucking on a toothpick and staring at me while I ate my bread roll. The noise almost put me off my food. To be fair, I amused myself by staring back at her long after she'd looked away. Mean? Yes. Made me feel better? Also yes!

Overall, Life in Japan is pretty sweet. Even when life is tough, there's always another day, and you never know what that might hold.


1 comment:

  1. I've never stayed longer than 2 years in once place really either (foreign office kid), so being 5 years in my current home is definitely a novelty. It's nice quite as beautiful or as culturally different as Japan, but I can appreciate the sentiment!

    You have made a life for yourself the other side of the world, and of that you should be proud. A lot of people would take the easy route (like me, I guess!).

    Good on you - and what a beautiful place to live...


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