Having lived in Japan for almost a decade, I often wonder if I'd be happier being an expat elsewhere. Sure, there are plenty of places I'd love to visit and plan to go to at some point, but would it be worth the burden of picking up and starting over?
And, at what age should one finally decide on a permanent home and settle down? Personally, I feel the words 'settle down' are almost as ominous as 'Rest In Peace'...
My first home in Japan was Kanazawa in Ishikawa Prefecture. I was really lucky to live there given its reputation as a tourist destination for Japanese people and its wonderful mix of old and modern. At the time, I taught at a large Eikawa and met so many people over a short period of time, it was almost overwhelming. Being a much-smaller city than any of the major ones in Japan meant the locals took more interest in foreign guests. Oh, the memories... the girls, the nightlife, the hot, lazy summer days off... Was probably the perfect place to have my first experience living in Japan.
My second home was a small town in the countryside about an hour south of Sendai in Miyagi Prefecture. The population of the town was 17,000 and I was one of 2 or 3 foreigners living there. There were no video-rental shops, convenient fast-food places or any of the other establishments you find in abundance in major Japanese cities. I taught at 14 different public schools and had to drive up to 45 minutes one way to get to one of them way up in the mountains, which was no fun in the winter. But, it was an experience that taught me a lot. Not about Japan, its culture or its people, but about myself, and what I was made of. I found out at the end of my contract that I was the first person to last a full year with that company. But, Tokyo called me, and even though they really wanted me to stay, I couldn't.
Unfortunately, the move to Tokyo coincided with my divorce. I'd been married to a Japanese woman the whole time I was in Miyagi, and even though I might not have lasted the year without her company, it was clear the relationship was doomed. Neither one of us were marriage material (I'm still not), and moving far away was about the best thing I could do at the time.
I've worked for only one company my whole time in Tokyo, even though I've quit, come back, moved 4 times and am basically semi-retired. I find Tokyo to be simultaneously an extremely-easy and quite-difficult city to live in. What's good and what's bad about being an expat in Tokyo is pasted throughout the cybersphere, so I won't get into it, but I will say that I feel I've lost a piece of my soul here, though I'm not sure if that's due to living here, age, poor life choices, or some combination of those (and possibly more). So, I often find myself thinking of living somewhere else...
Where do you imagine yourself living, if not right where you are now?
Friday, May 17, 2013
Monday, May 13, 2013
In Vietnam, the 'rules' of the road aren't rules so much as they are suggestions. Enjoyed this view from the second floor of The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf in the Pham Ngu Lao district of Saigon, Vietnam...