Monday, February 19, 2007

Japanniversary IV: The Final Japanniversening

Today is my 4th and final Japanniversary.

Sometimes I think, "Wow, it's only been 4 years since I came to live here." and others, "Wow, it's already been 4 whole years since I came to live here." My original intent was to stay one or two years so either way I have long since abandoned my original timetable.

I'm going to miss my students and my co-workers, walking and taking the train EVERYWHERE, artists and musicians out on the street, deafeningly loud cicadas, every season having it's own special reason to get completely plastered , the ten minutes of camaraderie before diving back into mind-numbing FTL boredom, girls in kimono and hakama saying tearful goodbyes at the station every spring, the Shinkansen, Loligoths and punk-goths finding a way to conform and rebel at the same time, that one person who manages to find a way to stand out in a crowd of seventy-five under big man, Nakazaki-cho and tea with Richard talking about Dr. Who, going out to see the disparate members of Pizacatto Five, being into obscure Japanese bands, being able to rent CDs, a Cherry-Blossom report in the daily forecast, リンカン on Tuesday evenings, Curry Udon, DenDen Town and Osaka Otaku, Shinsaibashi waiting for first train, tea at Himeji Castle and people diving into the Dotombori, being the only foreigner in the live-house, and reading manga on the train.

I'm not going to miss that goddamn nazal voice shouting about some bargain in my ear, old men pissing in the street, middle-aged men reading porn on the train next to elementary-school-aged girls, people thinking they are somehow a different species, being complimented on my ability to use chopsticks, being told that the store staff cannot help me as they do not speak English when I am asking for help in perfect Japanese, black vans blaring out the Kimigayo, people pretending the rape of Nanking never happened, nothing costing less than 100 yen, having germs sprayed across the back of my neck by some ass who has never been taught to cover his mouth when he sneezes, old ladies shoving pushing and throwing elbows to get to a seat that I would have offered to them if they were just the slightest bit gracious, and salarymen fantasizing about the playboy lifestyle I don't lead while insisting that it is foreign men sleeping with Japanese women, and not their coming home to have unprotected sex with their wives after taking an unprotected sex-tour of southeast Asia that spreads STDs in Japan.

I've learned and gown so much. I've discovered countless fascinating places. I've met and continue to meet an endless stream of fantastic people, and it's them more than anything else (more than the thousands of years of history and culture, more than the ultra-hip/uber-geek subculture, even more than the okonomiyaki.) that tempts me to stay 'just one more year...'

It would be so easy.

But if I say, "Well...I can always head back next contract." What's to stop me from saying that 12 months from now, or 24, or 4 years from now when I turn 30?

Teaching English 30 hours a week for roughly $2500 a month + medical, dental, and retirement is a comfortable situation for a lad to find himself in so early in his career. But then, it's not a career, it's a job.

There's no up, up from where I am so it has to be away.

And while I keep meeting people who I wish I had the chance to get to know better there are so many people waiting for the the Llyw they know oh-so-well to come back to them. (At least, I hope there are.)

Really though, that Llyw can never come home. I lost him years ago; heated him over a flame and drew the vapor across a chilled plate condensing the Eu de Llyw and adding new elements to bring out a wholly new, but somehow familiar flavor. (Can you tell I've been drinking?)

Those who know me well, know that I was something of an outsider though my formative years and suffered quite a bit for it. Strange then that I should voluntarily live in a place whose inhabitants describe me first and foremost as 外人 「GaiJin」 (literally 'outsider'). I've thought about that a lot, and the best my armchair psychology can come up with is a desire to say "Yeah, I'm not one of you. But so what? I'm Awesome anyway and you know it."

Ok, all bullshit, psychoanalysis & metaphor aside, I'm not the same person I was four years ago, or three for that matter, or two or even 6 months ago. And the more I change the more I come to understand the parts of me that will never, ever change. I'm never going to get the chance to do everything I what to and go everywhere I want to no matter how long I live. I'm never going to be able to pretend to be someone I'm not (except when I'm acting). I'm never going to be very good with money. And I'm never going to shut the hell up. These things will never change, and I don't know that I want them to.

I don't regret a single minute of the time I spent here in Japan, but I do regret all the minutes I missed back home with my friends and family in America, I miss everyone so much. The other day on the street I heard a noise that reminded me of the sound of my brother's laugh and I got so homesick I forgot where I was going.

I never want to leave, but I can't wait to be home.


Mister Speed said...


Did I just see that you'll be back in the occident in only FIVE WEEKS?

This is exciting news- although I must rush to come up with a suitably insane shopping list for you.

Actually, let me re-emphasize that.
Holy crap, dude. Let me know if you want me to start looking for an apartment for you or anything.

Ian said...

It's hard for me to comment on this, for the same reason that it's hard for me to write about Japan on my blog, though I swear I will at some point. My feelings for the country are very mixed, and I know yours are too. You did a good job of putting lots of them into words, but it seems like there's this ineffable other that doesn't quite get expressed, do you agree?

As to going somewhere to learn about what doesn't change by changing what can, yes, you're right. I'm reminded of what Casteneda said in "Journey to Ixtlan" (no link, the book is generally bullshit, 99% of it is crap, and the writer is a fraud). He says that you have to leave where you're from to separate who you are from where you are. I think you've done a good job of that, and it will make you better as you continue forward.

Now just write more, ass.