Chasing Cherry Blossoms
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Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Only Yesterday

It’s almost time…! In one short month I’ll be back home and my JET experience will be over. Just like that. It’s so strange to think that after two years living and breathing Japan, I’m going to wake up one morning and, like a dream, it’ll suddenly all be gone. It feel like only yesterday that I stepped off the plane in Tokyo.

It’s no surprising revelation that my JET experience has been defined by the people who I’ve spent it with. A lot of these people have been my Japanese friends in Ainan and beyond, but, in all honesty, it’s going to be my fellow JETs whose loss is going to be the biggest casualty. The longer I’ve stayed here in Japan, the longer I’ve found that once minor everyday irritants have become fairly big annoyances. I’ve no doubt it’s because of simple overexposure. I’m sure if I were to return to Japan at some point in the future after some time away, I’d lose my sensitivity to such grievances once more. I think back on how I first viewed Japan when I arrived, and it’s kind of sad how much the gloss of living here has worn off: there’s still a lot I love about Japan, but equally a lot of what was once endearing and intriguing is now just annoying and tiresome.

That being so, I guess you can say that, across my whole two years as a JET, the more my outlook on life in Japan changed, the more I re-gravitated towards my foreign friends. When I first arrived in Tokyo, I was quick to make friends with my fellow JETs, of course, but when my infatuation with Japan was at its strongest, it would be my Japanese friends locally who I’d hang out with more. Over time, as that infatuation waned and the gloss on Japan faded, I came back to where I’d initially found myself and began to re-invest time into hanging out with my foreign friends once more. Over the past six months in particular, I’ve grown really close to some of my fellow JETs here. It’s a bit sad, I guess, that my relationships with my Japanese friends may have suffered somewhat in the process of my disillusionment with Japan (though I don’t think they have greatly, it’s just that we see each other less frequently), but it was never really a conscious phenomenon. The pressures of living in a culture so different from your own are such that you just naturally gravitate to the environment in which you’re most comfortable: for me, that’s been my English-speaking friends.

…and it’s those friends who I’m really going to effing miss when the time comes to pack up and trot along. It’s not like it’ll be my first time saying goodbye to a bunch of people who have been hugely important in my life, but maybe that’s why it’s so sad: I’ve done it before and I know what to expect. The truth is, when JET’s over, it’s over: we’re never going to be able to get back the unique circumstances that keep us all so closely-knit in the present. We’ll go back to our lives, onto new projects in new places, and, however much we try, it’ll be a struggle to ever be as close again as we are now. Obviously that’s not to say I’m giving up on my friends the second I get home: I really do hope that, however much geography may keep us apart, my closest friends here will remain my friends for life.

As for what comes next, the future makes no guarantees: we’ll just have to see when we get there. In the present though, one thing is sure: whatever happens, wherever we go from here, nothing can take away the memories of the time we spent together, living like fools on that crazy Japanese rollercoaster ride.

(The pictures in this post are all from a Ghibli film called "Only Yesterday"; my favourite scene comes at the end when the main character Taeko - who's been wistfully struggling with thoughts of her past, asking herself whether she's been true to her childhood dreams - faces her uncertainty head on. In doing so, she's followed by crowd of her own childhood self and classmates, who are ultimately pacified by her decision to embrace her new adult self, mischievously whooping and cheering her on as she steps into her future).
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Anonymous Rachel said...

this was a tough read. its going to be impossible to be here another year without you, and saying goodbye just may kill me.
but until then, lets keep on keepin on.

July 6, 2013 at 5:56 PM  
Blogger stranger-in-seoul said...

DON'T EVEN. It's my party and I'll cry if I want to.

July 7, 2013 at 12:35 PM  
Anonymous Rachel said...

Can you start a blog about your life at home? I need something to read while i'm bored and avoiding work at school. THANKS FRIEND.

September 24, 2013 at 3:51 PM  
Blogger stranger-in-seoul said...

I DON'T HAVE A LIFE AT HOME. Okay, for you, I'll write something. Soon.

September 24, 2013 at 9:33 PM  
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