Another Tokyo Anniversary
Four years ago today, I flew into Narita airport, to begin a new life in Japan. After a short, hot, often creative, though frequently frustrating two years in Singapore, I was more than ready for a new challenge. My dream was to live in a country where English wasn’t an official language, a country that hadn’t been part of the British Empire, like all the countries I’d lived in since the age of 2.
Today I’m celebrating this anniversary from a distance, in the final days of holiday that was possibly too short, and certainly too tragic. My thoughts are in Japan, for all sorts of reasons. But, my body is, for a few more days, still in Australia.
“How long will you be here” is the question these kinds of anniversaries always elicit, not just in Japan, but everywhere I’ve lived as an expat. It’s understandable. Our answer says a lot about how we feel about a place; do we belong, do we want to belong, is our frame of mind positive or not.
Though in the past year I’ve grown weary of answering the question. Perhaps I’m weary of the way so many expats in Japan seem obsessed with categorising other expats, figuring out what box to put them in, labelling, judging, naming then either including or excluding, mostly excluding it seems, especially online.
I was asked a few weeks ago if the expat community here is toxic. I don’t believe it is. I’ve met too expats here who have a deep appreciation of Japan, a real and thoughtful experience of the language, an ongoing engagement with the history and culture of this land to ever label the expat community here toxic.
“At least two more years” is the answer I give, when I feel inclined to give any answer at all. My daughter has that long left to finish High School. Feeling settled, in a good school, with good support, and having moved so often already during her education, it feels right to stay, to keep our little slice of Tokyo intact, at least for now.
Beyond that I don’t know. A few weeks before this holiday I was looking at land, something small, but special, a little place to dream. I remember coming home that night to check on Echo. Giving her dinner I was thankful for the way things seemed to be going. Now I’m taking time out of this holiday to make her a small box, for her final resting place. Life has a way turning on a dime in recent years. Sometimes I’m reticent to dream.
Or maybe I’ve given over too much time to dreaming? I never like to be triumphalist, but life in Tokyo is kind of amazing, in so many ways. I love my home, I love my studio, I love my neighbourhood. There’s no shortage of amazing produce to cook at home, or brilliant cafes and eateries to try within walking distance. There’s no creative idea that can’t be made, either with what I already have, or what can be conveniently bought from a nearby store, or next day delivery online.
With a new business plan in place, a solid support and self-improvement network, and a familiar pace of life, it’s easy to see how the day after day rhythm of work, rest, play and recreation can fill however many days I have left in Japan with meaning.