Twenty years ago today I came to Japan for just a couple years. My plans sort of changed after I got here.
As has become ritual for the program I was part of, we arrived in the morning and then, after a trip through immigration where, oddly, and against personal tradition, I managed to choose the fast line, I left the air conditioned airport to the shocking morning heat that often makes people reconsider their futures in Japan. (Tokyo is roughly the same parallel as Santa Fe, New Mexico, but, really, 10 a.m.? That much heat and humidity? 10 a.m.? Really?)
I was temporarily housed in the Century Hyatt in Shinjuku (which was awesome) and did some tentative exploring.
After a few days of orientation, we were sent off to our new homes and all I remember is a guy who would become a good friend making video interviews of us for future review. I also remember me assuring one nervous English lass that “they can’t eat you” and since that was the worst thing that could happen to her she was going to be okay. (Oddly, I was told later that this actually helped calm her.)
I was fortunate to land in a beautiful, friendly town. Or maybe it was unfortunate. I settled in and got comfortable, which is always a bad thing for me. Improvisers need pressure, not time to plan and make excuses. I settled in and lots of grand plans suddenly seemed less important. I kept up the pretense of graduate school for a while, but even that seemed less important. (Actually, it had seemed less important for a long time, which is part of the reason I came to Japan. More on that in a future post.)
It helped that I was living near some great people who, to this day, continue to inspire me and who helped me get through the first year. (Note: wherever you go, as long as things aren’t exploding, stay two years; the second year is always better.) Eventually I met She Who Must Be Obeyed and things progressed from there.
Part of me misses being back home, but I’m happy to still be here, even as things have stagnated slightly. One of the odd aspects of my psyche is always seeing myself as being in transition. Where ever I am at the time is only temporary. That allows me to put off making decisions and allows me to coast when I should be driving more aggressively. Admitting that something has become permanent is a hard thing to do.
That said, I miss Wednesdays in Niigata more than being back home. Soaking in a bath and chatting with friends and then eating and drinking for a few hours helped us all remain sane.
I still feel comfortable, although lately things have felt less relaxing (long story). She Who Must Be Obeyed still kind of likes me and we have two beautiful girls. One of them still likes me, the other thinks I’m an idiot. It’s not a bad life, really. Not a bad life at all.