About Me

maker, creative, living lightly, local, craft, minimalism, and taking joy in the small things

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Farewell Japan

I have arrived back in Australia now, actually I'm now back in Canberra, having spent a couple of weeks in Melbourne with my family. So I suppose I have had a good chance to reflect on my time in Japan.

To begin with I obviously learnt a lot. I had to learn a fair amount of spoken Japanese to get by everyday in my small town. I also had to learn how to use spare time. I don't think I have ever had that much spare time in my life, and I doubt it will occur again. I learnt how to hold my tongue, how to read people who say "yes" regardless of whether they mean yes, no or maybe. I learnt how to bow (and am having trouble stopping). I learnt how to choose my friends - wanting to avoid really sickly sweet girly girls. I learnt how to spend long periods of time without speaking English, or speaking at all early on in my year before I had learnt much Japanese. I learnt to rely heavily on the idea of 'it will all work out' and to trust people when they say they are going to do something to help - usually involving filling out forms for me in Japanese.

Of course, there are heaps of things that I am going to miss. I am going to miss the food, and the travel opportunities - a large part of that is that living in Japan can actually be cheap, cheaper than living in Australia! I am going to miss how safe Japan is, though I tried to avoid feeling too safe. There were other JETs who didn't lock their bikes, or their apartment front doors, but I tried to keep up all my good habits (coming from somewhere less safe than Japan). I loved my bike, and it's super useful basket. Also, I am definitely going to miss living on the beach, and the Japanese summer. I grew very used to the humidity, and in July just gone I was far more comfortable than I was in the August last year, when I had just arrived.

I am going to miss my friends, though I have great excuses to do some serious (english speaking) world travel. Carla and Melody, from Missouri, became my friends in winter, and probably saved me from being so down in winter. I really valued my Japanese friends who persevered with English for my benefit, rather than making me feel like they only wanted me around to practice their English. I loved having friends/pseudo-family who didn't speak English at all, and were patient enough to let me speak very slow Japanese. I found it far easier to understand them rather than reply, but it was great that they helped with my Japanese, without making me feel like an idiot!

I am not going to miss the Japanese winter, and their backwards ideas of heating. I did not enjoy winter, and being cold all the time probably made me feel unhappy to be in Japan. I am also not going to miss seeing the school kids and their crazy school hours. Really, I just feel sorry for them, not having a chance to have 'unplanned' time. I am also glad to blend in with people around me back in Australia. No matter how long a foreigner lives in Japan, how competent they become at the language, they will always stand out on looks alone. With only 12 foreigners in Hagi (population 50,000) I was always noticed. Whilst there were benefits, the disadvantages were pretty extreme (ending up on the cover of the local magazine was probably the worst moment).

I definitely want to return to Japan, for holidays, and probably to live. I really enjoyed holidaying in many big cities of Japan. My favourite was definitely Tokyo, but I would also love to live in Osaka, Hiroshima or Fukuoka. However, I think it's time to spend some time in Australia first!


Michael said...

Hello Kate,

You don't know me, but my name is Michael Dugan and I currently live in MN, USA. I lived 20 years of my life in Japan (Osaka, than Nara) and came here for college. I'm going back this August with my wife to teach and live there. I thought I would leave a comment as I found some of the things you said very intriguing. For me, standing out in public has been such a normal part of life that it seems very normal. Blending in was a very unusual concept for me to understand. I'm glad you enjoyed Japan and had a great experience, I hope you will return and find other things about Japan that definitely captured my heart. My friend has been offered a position, I believe, in Hagishi. If you could give her some tips as a foreigner going to that city, that will be much appreciated.

Thanks for the interesting reflection,

Kate Price said...


I would happily email your friend - of course several of the people I worked with are likely to have moved on, but I imagine the city itself has not changed that much. Please ask her to leave a comment here and I will reply with whatever advice I can give.