Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Thinking Out Loud

Yet again, I find myself being pulled in seven different directions, only to discover that I haven't moved at all. It's not the first time, nor will it be the last.

During my junior year of high school I had to decide which university I wanted to attend. From my 2nd year in college onward, I was job seeking. After a year working freelance in the city of Austin, I had a wide variety of countries in which to live abroad. Earlier this year, while still living in Hiroshima, I knew I wanted to stay in Japan for a time.

And so I find myself in the remote city of Kagoshima, (LAT 31.5840, LONG 130.540), right back where I started. Not that it hasn't been a worthwhile ride, mind you. No... I don't think I'd recognize the person I was in high school, and I don't regret any of my past decisions.

Right now, in Japan, I have an apartment. I have a bed. I have access to food. I'm involved with the foreign community. I go out. I travel. I take risks. But, I'm still too comfortable; I eat the same type of lunch every day; I have a routine of going to the gym and exercising; I know how to find American food and drink; work is necessary, but completely useless.

It's not a question of finance; I make enough money to survive and live, and that's all I need. The question is... where will I end up? What will I do? Who will I meet? Does love exist?

I've said it before, and I say it again, more to remind myself than anyone else, there is no point in working a joyless job to fill your life with stuff; the only thing that will accomplish is get you to comfortable and accustomed with your life that you believe there is no other way to live... far from the truth.

That's my concern now. I am living in Kagoshima. I have no permanent ties, little debt, and my heart still aches for more of everything. But a part of me sees the appeal of settling down, looking for a girlfriend, and building a world of my own.

I can't stay, and yet I kind of want to stay. But I won't. My Japanese skills advance every day. Conversations become easier. The city becomes more familiar. Another piece of the puzzle is brought to light.

Japan or not, community or no community, I have to remember that there is more out there. For better or worse, I have to see it, experience it, learn from it.

Staying in Japan


Although I think it would be interesting to live in Tokyo for a time, I know it'd be the wrong decision in the long run. With assess to so many English speakers and American food, I'd probably fall into the same routine I had in Austin. I do miss acting and more opportunities to socialize, but this just isn't the place.

Any thoughts from Tokyo residents?


I love what Hokkaido has to offer, and I just might need to experience it before I leave for good. I've never experienced all four seasons as they are meant to be experienced - a warm summer, a snowy winter, a colorful autumn, and a bright spring. Skiing, adventure sports, sulfurous onsen, fresh milk, delicious chocolate... in a prefecture almost a country in itself.

I've been looking into summer positions as an adventure guide, as well as some of the ski resorts. Anyone reading from up north?

Southeast Asia

Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam

To explore. To see Angkor Wat. To rent a beach hut and spend days doing nothing in Thailand. To go over a darker page of history in Vietnam. I'm not planning on anything full time, but southeast Asia would be a good transition between Japan and...

New Zealand

Where I want to try living next full-time. Another island country, but filled with a great percentage of English speakers. I wouldn't be the minority. I could live with greater comfort, greater freedom. Full of mountain climbers, skydivers, surfers, and thrill seekers.

Antarctica Marathon

No question. I will do this once I raise the $300 deposit. March 2009. Running on solid ice at last.

Marathon Tours

Just as the title suggests. Any thoughts?


Shari said...

Since you asked for advice from people in Tokyo, I'm going to be very honest with you. However, it may come across as harsh, but I don't want you to take it personally as I don't really know you. I know a little about you from your blog, but that's it.

The way you talk about living around foreign folks in Japan is as if relationships with them have no use to you. This isn't an uncommon notion, particularly among young, single males in Japan, but it completely disregards the fact that friendships with different people carry different challenges. I've known men who have "grown up" in Japan having come here just after college and worked here for long periods of time who can't maintain a friendship with a person from their own country because they didn't bother to learn the social skills for an adult relationship with other people from their native culture.

You may be different from the person you were in Austin, but the people back there are different as well. They've matured in ways you haven't and you'll never develop skills as they have if you only focus on cross-cultural relationships and turn your nose up at the psychological challenges of having friends from home (they are quite different and more demanding). I daresay that, if you go on as you are, you'll be very poorly equipped to find a partner from your native culture as you'll never learn how to deal with a western woman (assuming you haven't got your sights set on a Japanese woman).

If your main goal is to turn Japanese, then I guess you may want to avoid Tokyo. However, I think that you're missing out on something else is you shun foreigners because you feel they have nothing to offer you. Also, I categorically reject any notion that being around foreign folks in Japan is like "back home". You encounter foreign people from all over the world in the communities here and from all walks of life. I've found my relationships with other foreigners just as valuable as those with Japanese (if not more so).

ターナー said...

That is a little harsh, but it is completely beyond the point I was trying to make - I'm not considering moving on account of ties or lack thereof in the Japanese or foreign communities, I'm considering leaving to start anew, in a different environment, with a different set of rules, a different way of thinking, every day a new experience - lately, I feel this hasn't been happening.

I don't shun the foreign community, nor do I believe relationships have no value; you talk like the only people I'm interested in knowing are those from another culture. On the contrary, I meet people from different countries in Japan often, and continue to keep in contact with friends at home via the internet.

I tend to somewhat disagree with the idea that being around foreigners in Japan isn't like being back home, as you say; I was exposed to plenty of British, Australian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, etc, etc people in Austin; being around them, we tend to talk about things from back in the US, as well as our impressions on Japan - that is something I should discover for myself.

Shari said...

I'm sorry if I misunderstood but you did mention a drawback of being in Tokyo would be that you were afraid being around foreigners would be the similar to being back home.

Anyway, as I said, I don't mean it personally and I'm sorry I didn't really get the point. I can't see any drawbacks to being in Tokyo if you haven't lived there before. It's a very different experience than Kagoshima.

ターナー said...

No denying that. It's just that as Japan isn't new to me, I would tend to see the more familiar sides rather than the Japanese sides.

tokyoexpat said...

My advice is: do not rule out Tokyo. I live on the western outskirts of Tokyo. The commute into Tokyo is not easy, but it allows us to live away from the expat lifestyle that so many foreigners like. I would describe the area we live in as semi-rural. We get a great view of Mt. Fuji and can use our car and bikes easily. Plus we get the benefits of living in Tokyo when we need them. So, as shari points out you can have a really different experience here. I think it will get what you decide to make of it. there is so much diversity in Tokyo that the choice will be yours. I think if you really want to make it work for you, you can.

By the way, having kids changes everything. I can not really comment about "love" as I am not sure how to define it. But I think you will know what it means to you when you see it.

Maikeru-san said...

I just wanted to give a little input about Tokyo. I spent a year studying abroad in Tokyo and really feel like I was part of the Japanese culture. I was interested in learning the language, so most of my friends were Japanese, I would say about 98%. You won't be around foreingers if you move to Tokyo, but you will have an exciting look at the modern Japan of today mixed with little surprises of the old Japan. If you are interested in nicely priced housing, my host family has foreign houses and they are very nice. www.toyamahouse.com Good luck and give Tokyo a chance, I loved it there!

Garrett said...

Turner, it looks like you've heard a lot from adoptive Tokyoites. I'll say only this for the city I've called home my whole adult life:

Tokyo is rare. For all its warts, it is indisputably one of the tiny handful of marquis cities in the world. One of maybe a half dozen greats.

I've had the good fortune to travel to many cities in many countries and I've noticed that great cities, like love, are something you know when you see.

Kagoshima has its charms, as does New Zealand, as do most places, but there's something to be said for world-beaters.

I think all of the world's great cities are worth at least an extended stay, even if they turn out to be not for you.

All of that said, I'm going to back you up here in your dispute with Shari. I think you're right - being surrounded by people from your own country does make being here a lot like being back home. Not the same, but not all that different.

The whole relationship thing is kind of out of left field. Shari, at the risk of being presumptuous, I'm going to guess you're an English-teacher, been in Tokyo a couple of years, irked by the tendency of the Western guys you know to date Japanese girls. You don't quite get it, you think it's a bit lame that guys you know go out with girls they can't talk to in the same way they would girls who spoke English fluently. The guys are stunted.

If this is the case, don't sweat it and don't take it out on the guys or on Japanese girls. After a few years, you'll settle in, they will, too - unless you leave - and it won't seem like a big deal.

As for the different social skills thing, I've noticed that, it's true, I do kind of stick out when I go back to the US, but not necessarily in a bad way. The sad thing is that the only really noticeable difference between me and my contemporaries in the US is that their pop culture references are lost on me. No biggie.

Since I'm ranting, Turner, if you run a marathon one ice in Antarctice, you officially become "hardest motherfucker from the Japan Blogosphere." I decree it.

Let me know if you hear about any getting-drunk-and-ranting-about-shit -in-Antarctica competitions.

ターナー said...

Will do. A few slots just reopened for the 2008 race, but I can't raise that kind of cash in time; know any rich sponsors?

Thanks for your advice. I'll be thinking about it, and talking it over with family (mostly just to bounce my own ideas around).

Durf said...

Yet another comment from a Tokyo resident: Tokyo can be everything people complain about when they mention it as a poor choice as a Japanese city to live in: lots of foreigners, no "real Japanese flavor," all that stuff. But I think you really need to work to make it that way. If you don't go out of your way to extract the foreign-friendly flavor of the place, you need not be exposed to it at all.

It's silly to say that a megalopolis home to a quarter of the world's Japanese people somehow isn't "as Japanese" as other parts of the country. (Not saying that you claimed this; it's something I've heard in the past from people boosting Kansai or Kyushu or somewhere else not Tokyo as a better option.)

That said, if you get the sense that you've "done Japan" and it's time to move on, you won't find Tokyo breathtakingly new and inspiring. Big and crowded, yeah, and maybe offering more job opportunities, but it's Japan and it's Japanese.

Southeast Asia: Adamu at Mutantfrog.com lived in Bangkok for a year or more and supported himself doing J-E translation. I know a few other translators who take a globetrotting approach to their work. If you have the language skills it's very possible to maintain ties to this country while experiencing someplace new.