Saying Goodbye to Japan…

After three years I am finally leaving Japan. As the plane tickets are finalized (and payed for), and as we pack up our belongings; ruthlessly throwing out the things which we don’t need, the realization that we are actually leaving hits me. I have had a great time living in Japan and I have learned so much. This tangent I have spun off on from my original goal of working in theater has taught me a lot, and now is the time to go back to the States and use these skills I have acquired and find my place.

Inspired by my friend’s post, this is a reflection on my time in Japan.

Things I accomplished:

  • Learned some Japanese (and learned how to learn a language).
  • Learned that I love teaching high school students and became a good teacher.
  • Met my husband and got married (and struggled through a yearlong wait for his spouse visa to be issued. At last!)
  • Learned about a different culture and how to exist in it (when in Rome…)
  • Lived on my own for the first time in a rural area and learned how to be fully self-suffient.
  • Made a few Japanese friends.
  • Became a better cook.
  • Helped other Assistant Language Teachers with their problems and hopefully helped them become better teachers.

Things I regret:

  • Not learning more Japanese.
  • Not making more Japanese friends.
  • Not going to Okinawa and Hokkaido.
  • Not seeing Takarazuka (there are still two months left…)
  • Not starting a blog about my experiences sooner.

Things I will miss about Japan:

  • The food (soba, udon, ramen, the special taste of canned coffee, hire katsu ヒレカツ, izakaya 居酒屋 food, all you can drink specials, salad udon, agedashi tofu 揚げ出し豆腐, festival yakisoba 焼きそば, and much more.)
  • Friends I’ve made.
  • Karaoke boxes!
  • Purikura (print club!)
  • Nama gurepufurutsu sawa 生グレープフルーツサワー (shochu (焼酎) – Japanese vodka – soda, and a raw grapefruit that you juice yourself and add to the glass).
  • Vending machines everywhere; from drinks, to toys, to oden (おでん)
  • Summer festivals (祭) and wearing a yukata (浴衣) to them.
  • Cherry blossom viewing parties (hanami 花見) where we sit outside all day and eat and drink.
  • Great customer service and no tipping.
  • Good trains and public transportation.
  • Being an expat at time when when the reputation of the USA is not very good.
  • Automatic flushing toilets and automatic faucets that actually work properly.
  • How safe Tokyo feels compared with big cities in the States.
  • Hot springs (onsen 温泉)!
  • Watching gakkou e ikkou (学校へ行こう!) on Tuesday nights.

Thing I will be glad to leave behind:

  • Having to bike everywhere.
  • Being stared at just for looking foreign.
  • Expensive fruits and vegetables.
  • Not being able to find many cooking ingredients for recipes I want to try.
  • Unequal gender roles.
  • Simple things being difficult to do because my Japanese isn’t good enough, or there is excessive beauracracy.
  • The translation/repeat method of English teaching.
  • The idea that the group is always more important than the individual.
  • Lack of central heating, kerosene heaters, small refrigerators, microwave/oven combination, Japanese stoves.
  • Big, stripy mosquitos.

Things I miss about home:

  • My family and friends.
  • Cheap fruit and vegetables.
  • Having a car.
  • That being an individual is valued and success is not measured by seniority but by ability.
  • Making theater.
  • Not living in a tiny apartment.
  • Being able to dress uniquely without worrying that I am not dressed appropriately for teacher (a highly regarded job in Japan).
  • ATMs are open 24 hours and you can use a credit card or cash card almost anywhere.
  • Cultural diversity.

Things I am worried about dealing with when I get home:

  • Culture shock.
  • Finding a job in the arts.
  • Getting health insurance.
  • Moving back to my hometown where I haven’t lived for 10 years.
  • Evaluating my experience in Japan and creating a new 5 year plan.
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Comments
One Response to “Saying Goodbye to Japan…”
  1. Are you going to resume teaching after you return to the States?

    Ben,

    I would like to go back into theater, but I am not sure where life is heading. I definitely loved teaching, but I don’t think I want to be a high school teacher for the rest of my life. I am currently looking into directing, community engagement programs at DC theaters, and considering possibilities for grad school (either in theater or arts therapy.)

    I realized recently that I don’t want to be selfish. What I would love to do is direct plays for the rest of my life, but I want to do something that really benefits other people. I feel that theater is often inaccessible for the people who might really benefit from it, so that’s why I am interested in community engagement and arts (drama) therapy.

    -Bahia

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