Happy New Year! 2014 means I’m kicking off another year in Nippon. It seems not long ago I stepped off the plane with only my razor sharp wits and a folder full of printed out emails to guide me. I thought I’d spend a year in Japan eating sushi and getting cultured and stuff, and then move back home.
When I met my first coworker/one of my roommates later on that day, she said the same thing: she’d only be out here for a year. And when I met my other co workers at training, a lot of them were only planning on staying a year too. And in the three years I’ve been here, a lot of the young bloods coming in all insist the same thing: I’m only gonna be out here for a year at the most.
Ha Ha Ha… no. That rarely happens, at least not here in Tokyo. Once this city seeps into your veins, like neon heroin, you’re hooked. I don’t know what sweet nothings this seductive city has been whispering to my friends, but Tokyo’s been courting me with such irresistible charms as an endless array of parties to choose from every weekend, (the nightlife here is crazy!) ultimate convenience and easily available work in what is an otherwise a crappy economy. There are a ton of reasons I continue to live in Tokyo, but let me break down the top five.
Number 5: The Work In Japan, if you’re a native speaker of English, you’re good for work, period. There are schools everywhere always looking for native instructors. Of course, the more certification/experience/connections you have, the better the job you can get. But even the bright-eyed, fresh off the plane hopefuls can probably find something, as long as they have a University degree. I’m blessed to have a job that leaves plenty of free time for writing and blogging, and I highly doubt I could find the same situation back in the old country.
Number 4: Still learning Japanese Konnichi-wa? I’ll be honest: it’s way too easy to get by with only English in Tokyo. And since my job involves teaching English all day, and immersing my students in an English environment, I’m not picking up Japanese as fast as I thought I would. It actually takes work! Like, going to classes and homework and stuff! Grrr, I thought I was done with that for the rest of life. But I’ll be damned if I leave Japan without a decent understanding and command of Japanese because…I’ve always wanted to be bilingual dammit. Besides, it’s rewarding as every year, as I get more proficient, I get a new perspective and deeper interaction with Japan and Japanese culture.
Number 3: Oh the Places I’ll Go I’ve been able to go on some excellent adventures in an out of Japan. I’ve been to South Korea, Thailand and Kyoto to name a few. Japan is without a doubt one of the most interesting, alluring locations I’ve ever come across. The last place I visited in Japan, Nikko, left me stunned, and nothing stimulates the muses like the perplexing majesty of a giant, ancient Buddha, or the sun filtering through a forest of green bamboo stalks. This may be a tiny Island, but it’s crammed with beautiful and inspiring sights waiting to be discovered, and the more I see, the more I want to see.
Number 2: Relationships I’ve met some great people out here, forged some bonds, and I’m in no hurry to leave them behind, especially since this move has inadvertently ended some of my old friendships back home. In fact my guess is that a big reason many people stay as long as they do is that they can’t stand to leave their boos behind, thus one year stretches into two, sometimes baby boos enter the picture, and before you know it you’ve been living in Japan for 20 years.
Number 1: Novel Metropolis I loooooove big cities, and Tokyo is one of, if not the biggest, most glittery metropolis on the globe. This place is a playground to me, and I’m not tired yet, I don’t wanna go home! I wanna stay and stalk the artsy boutiques on Cat street in Harajuku. I wanna sip gin tonics and flirt with business men in under the glare of the skyscrapers in Ginza. I wanna get drunk and sing my heart out at all night Karaoke in Shinjuku. I wanna slurp up salty breakfast ramen after clubbing all night in Shibuya and Azabu-Juban. I wanna keep going to exhibits and cafés and parties, and keep riding the familiar, green-striped Yamanote train between Tokyo’s twinkling giants–I’m still not tired of the view. I wanna keep going for bike rides down the back alleys of my neighborhood, finding new little mom and pop restaurants and tiny bars that can fit four people max. I wanna keep experiencing this exciting, enchanting city for as long as I can.
So that’s why I’ve been here so long, and why I’m looking forward to another year of exploring, learning and growing in my novel metropolis.