Five Years In Tokyo
Five years ago I arrived in Tokyo. In those years I’ve changed, far more than I could ever have anticipated, which leaves me wondering what the future holds.
Five years ago today I arrived in Tokyo, a tired man. Two years spent living in Singapore had been a whirlwind. It felt like I’d barely unpacked after the move from Hong Kong before it was time to pack again and move to Japan.
My early days in Tokyo were consumed with trying to learn a new language and then trying to write a book. The former proved far harder than I had expected, the latter far less successful than I’d hoped.
In the end I was too harsh on myself on both counts. Perhaps that’s the true lesson of my years in Japan: how harsh I can be on myself.
Feeling rudderless after a couple of tiring years, I took a month-long sabbatical in New York. I thought something was missing so I set out in search of it. I did find a lot of inspiration, a fresh perspective on art, but most of all I found I wasn’t really missing anything at all. I had simply buried myself under so many side projects and commitments that I didn’t even recognise myself any more.
Maybe that’s another lesson: to look within first.
For someone with such a lifelong penchant for introspection and solitude, it feels odd to say that at this advanced stage of life I’m finally learning to put things in perspective. Maybe it’s like climbing a mountain road, seeing the same view again and again, but every time from a steeper angle.
So, in Tokyo I started going to therapy twice a month, for a couple of years now. I started meditating, and something I’ve done on and off most of my life became something I do twice a day as if my life depends on it. The same could be said for a good sleep routine.
Perhaps this is the lesson.
The time I’ve spent in Tokyo feels significant. My Tokyo home is the longest I’ve lived anywhere since I left my childhood house. I’ve lived in Japan longer now than in any of the five countries I’ve dwelled in since leaving Australia.
But the significance is about more than just time.
Later this week I fly home to Tokyo aware I’m a changed man.
Over the next year, what I hope to understand a bit better is how much of this change is because of my stage in life, and how much of it is really because of being in Japan. My gut feeling is, a bit of both, maybe.