Apologies for the radio silence! It’s been one heck of a month, but I finally have some free time to blog!
It’s been five years since I came to Japan. Back then, I only knew three words in Japanese, was incredibly homesick, and had no idea how to drive a car, let alone know how to use Japanese money to buy one. Over these five years, I have gained so many friends and acquaintances, taught over a thousand different classes, and noticed so much personal growth that I can’t possibly include it all in a single blog entry, so I’ll try to keep it short.
While it can be a new and exciting experience for some, teaching in Japan was quite stressful at my local school, as it is one of the lowest achieving public high schools in the prefecture. In Japan, you don’t only teach kids English. You teach them English in order to pass tests, and in a country where the only thing that stands between children and their future is a long series of tests, this can be quite a challenge.
However, I never once felt like I was alone. Over five years, I met hundreds of different teachers, parents, and friends from outside of work. Living in such a small town meant I was a regular everywhere I went. My barber, my mechanic, even the entire staff of my local LAWSON convenience store knew who I was, and when I would pay them a visit. My barber even “closed” at 4pm every Wednesday just in case I decided to show up for a shave and a massage after work, which I often did!
During my fourth year, I had to make a choice: Go back home or finally realize my childhood dream of being a game developer in Japan. Taking everything into consideration, I picked the latter, and applied to many places before being accepted as a game designer in Tokyo.
Looks like all these years of sticking at Crazy Sunshine while I was teaching paid off.
I’ve spent the last two weeks packing five years worth of stuff, and yesterday the movers picked it all up. Speaking of which, moving in Japan is expensive. While not as expensive as moving into an apartment or house with all those unneeded, nonrefundable fees, you have to make sure you only take what you need. The smaller, the better.
The moving company I used doesn’t determine cost by weight, but by the total dimensions of a variety of cages, and charge you depending on how many of these cages you fill up to the brim with boxes you have to obtain yourself. Add a flat rate cost of transport between the two prefectures, a mandatory insurance fee, and you are looking at upwards of $800-$1,000, plus a 2-3 day transport period. Oh, and as always, a ton of paperwork.
Cost aside, the psychology of moving out of this frozen wasteland is really messing with my emotions. I’ve always been a country bumpkin, living in a tiny hamlet for most of my life. This tiny town and all of the people here remind me so much of my past, it feels like I am leaving home for the second time.
The most devastating thing is that the ancient, wooden house that has looked after me over these last five years is being torn down after I move. Unlike my last two apartments which I fell completely in love with, I have mixed feelings about this.
In a prefecture where winter lasts 6 out of 12 months a year with an incredible amount of snowfall, this tiny, wooden shack has put me within inches of death numerous times. In summer, bugs dominate the floors, walls, ceilings and take over the inside of this PC.
In spring and autumn, the obnoxious fumes of nearby rice field pesticides and burning crop smoke fill every room. It really has been an adventure living here, and while it’s been a roof over my head, I am a little glad that by tearing it down means whoever was going to move in just avoided a very gruesome fate.
But the house isn’t the only thing that is breaking down after I move. My heart is, too.
Five years ago I bought a little, red, Subaru Pleo in order to survive living far away from, well, everything. I passed my driving test when I was 17, and hadn’t driven once since I came to Japan at 25. My mentors helped me pick out the car, re-taught me the basics, and luckily, since the UK and Japan have almost identical driving rules and regulations, I could drive again.
This little rust bucket quickly became part of my family. I nicknamed it after the Touhou character Chen.
Without Chen, I would have never met my fiancee, or the hundreds of other friends I made over these last five years. Without Chen, I would have never been able to survive all those winters, safely travel to other schools, or even make it to interviews for new jobs. Chen is the reason I was able to stay as long as I could, but last month I had to let her go.
Chen was old. Super old. Almost 20 years old and had broken down more times than I can remember. Some of you might remember, last year I had an awful accident where one of her front wheels came clean off by simply turning a corner! She would never survive the trip down south, let alone driving around there without a huge amount of repairs. So, one last time, I cleaned her up, got her fully repaired (something I could never afford), and sold her to my mechanic, who is going to remodel her into a rental car that local customers can use when their car goes in for repairs.
Saying goodbye to your first car is almost like saying goodbye to a dying family member. My friends tried to help me get over it by telling me that Chen was never the car itself, only the spirit of the car we all believed in. But nah, that’s bullshit.
Chen was my friend. My little, rusty, broken, dilapidated friend, and I’m going to miss her like hell.
I said I would try to keep this entry short, but I also said I would try to make a webcomic and, well, here I am a year into hiatus! I move my butt down south on Monday. After I unpack and buy a bunch of furniture, everything should be back to normal. Only this time, my dream will have come true. Here’s to a new chapter of my life in Japan!