I’m finally ready to leave Japan after 6 months of living and working here. My flight back to London is booked for Tuesday the 25th of June and I couldn’t be happier or feel more relieved.
I made the decision to leave Japan two Sundays ago, but the decision was a long time coming. During the past 6 months, I’ve lived in two very different places, the countryside and the big city, and despite putting all my efforts in to feel happy and satisfied with life here and trying to find where I fit in, it just hasn’t quite worked. But sometimes things just aren’t meant to be.
There’s a whole list of reasons why it hasn’t managed to work, which I’m sure has come out it several of my previous posts. I just can’t manage to feel comfortable with many aspects of life here. For instance, just briefly, I have trouble finding people that I relate to, so it’s hard to make friends with both Japanese and non Japanese, or at least it’s hard to make lasting friendships rather that superficial ones. There are plenty of superficial friendships believe you me.
Also, I never thought I’d say this but, I find Tokyo TOO big, not the city itself but just the overwhelming amount of people – it’s intimidating! Lastly, Tokyo is not a relaxed, welcoming city like London. In my opinion, it’s stiff and uppity, and obsessed with appearances, money and consumption. When I say London is welcoming, of course I don’t mean every stranger you see will smile and shake your hand, of course not. All cities can be cold and harsh, London and Tokyo are no exception. What I mean by welcoming is that London welcomes people of all backgrounds and ethnicities and it’s no big deal. It’s almost rare to meet an actual Londoner in London, and I love that!
This attitude does not exist in Tokyo and I can’t live in a place that is so judgemental and not accepting of foreigners even today. I studied the history of Japan, so I understand why it can be like this and there is no one or thing to blame for this attitude, that’s just the way Japan is. But just because I understand it, doesn’t make it any easier to live here. Perhaps if this was my first time to Japan I would be too distracted by Japan’s unusual quirks for this kind of thing to bother me, but this is my second time to live here. I am not blinded by the touristy stuff anymore, I’m just trying to live here as a normal person with a normal life and feel comfortable and settle in but I’ve found it near impossible.
Some of these issues that bother me took a while to dawn on me, whereas others I’ve been aware of for a while but I was desperately trying to ignore them for as long as I could to give myself time to continue trying to make things work. But the reality is that I’m not happy here and it’s time to leave. The thought of leaving on my original ticket in October was killing me, until I realised that there is no reason for me to be here until October. It’s not a prison sentence, I haven’t been posted here for work on some contract that ends in October, I can leave whenever I want. There is nothing keeping me here in Japan.
The only thing I really get pleasure from is my job, and the people I work with. I realised that I was treating any fun times I have here as a way of ‘killing time’ until I can get on that plane home. If you’re genuinely having fun, you just don’t do that. When I had to leave Japan early after the Tohoku earthquake when I was a student, I was like a child who doesn’t want to leave Disney World, I left kicking and screaming. I was heart broken over leaving.
This time however my feelings are different and I’ve had such awful homesickness that I didn’t even know was possible to experience and I have fantasised about leaving Japan frequently. Every time I see the airport limousine go past my apartment block, I imagine myself on it. That’s not the behaviour of someone who is happy and enjoying life in Japan. Although my work life could not be better, my social life leaves something to be desired. I don’t fit in with the geeky Japan lovers (aka Japanophiles), I don’t fit in with Japanese my own age, I’m not in the student category anyone, or in the “expat” category, and despite my efforts to get out there and meet people that I connect with, I haven’t been able to establish a social life that makes me happy. It’s a shame seeing as I don’t want to leave my job; I just want to leave the country…
Anyway I’m currently in discussion with my boss as to how I can keep working remotely from London for the gallery, which makes me happy. I love that little business and I don’t want to let it go! Plus, I have met a couple of really special people that I do have a real natural affinity with and I’ve learnt a lot about myself (excuse the cliché/bullshit) and I’ve learnt a lot about Japan and about how I feel about Japan and Japanese.
I think it’s safe to say that the love affair with Japan is over. However, I will always love the Japanese language and enjoy using it but probably just for fun, as a hobby. I know now that I don’t want a career that involves Japanese and it feels great to finally be free of the pressure I have put myself under for 5 years to use this language in a serious, career-oriented way.
I have wonderful memories of being in Japan as a student and I will leave Japan this time with wonderful memories also. But I think what I didn’t realise this time around is that I think I got pretty much everything that I wanted to get out of Japan the first time I was here. Perhaps you can have too much of a good thing and I’d like to leave Japan before I put it in a resentful place. It’s kind of like when you watch a movie years later that you used to love when you were younger, and the second time around, something is different and you don’t get as much enjoyment out of it as you once did. When you start to think that the movie isn’t so great half way through, it’s time to stop watching. When you start resenting the place, it’s time to leave.
So leave I shall whilst I can still leave Japan with fond memories! And that’s that.
My London friends, I’ll see you all very soon! I expect hugs, Quorn, and reasonably priced cider upon my return!