January 3, 2013

NRT to LAX: Final Thoughts

Greetings from Kraftland,

I said my farewells to Japan "yesterday" (what day is it?) after spending a fantastic final day with my dad, Aziz and Grace and the Disney parks. Much in the same way that soldiers and astronauts must be debriefed and reintroduced to their normal lives after a long journey, so too did I have to ease the transition from Japan to America, and the best way to do that was obviously at Disneyland.

Before saying sayonara, I woke early and travelled into Shibuya to see Kaorina. It was the first time I had been in the area so early in the morning, and because it was right after New Years, the place was empty; if the streets weren't so impeccably clean, I believe some tumbleweed may have blown past. It was eerie, the mixture of emptiness and the realization that it may be years until I travel back to Tokyo, but it was a new year and time for a new chapter.

It was never explicitly stated but should now be quite obvious: what was initially supposed to be a one-year trip complete with a job, apartment, and something that resembled language study has instead become a three-month adventure that served a very different purpose. I made this decision just over a month into my travels and while it was hard not to have feelings of failure, what I ultimate concluded was that the "why" that drove me to Japan was different than the "why" that materialized once I was there. I had wanted to give myself something to do for a year since my post-graduation aspirations were not defined and I thought that one year abroad sounded like a good way to structure my time. What I discovered though is that I really just needed some time for self-reflection and to reset my compass.

When the reflection was done and the compass reset (by furiously making a figure 8 motion) I realized that while I loved Japan and was making great friends and learning new things, it was not the place I wanted to be and teaching English or any other job that a non-Japanese speaker could hold was not how I wanted to spend a year of my life. Again, hard not to feel like I had failed as my initial goals were not met, but the things I learned on this trip were so important that I now have very few, if any, feelings of defeat.

January 2, 2013

89 in 89: Recap

So, how'd I do?

Let's first discuss those uncompleted goals

4.            Be able to recognize 50 Kanji characters
  By my count I learned 30, so not quite, but still 30 more than when I arrived!
5.            Be able to sing the Japanese National Anthem
  I know the lyrics, does that count?
6.            Be able to understand afull-length Japanese film
  I saw dubbed Frankenweenie w/o subtitles, but I was still pretty lost
7.            Be approached for a photo withover a dozen Japanese school girls
  How did this not happen every day? On all previous trips to Japan this has happened. I'm
  telling myself that I've just assimilated into the culture to the point where they don't
  recognize me as an outsider
8.            Be asked for and able to give direction
   This happened often but was never interesting to write about, so completed! 
11.         Be on Japanese TV
   I can't find the footage of me at the Frankenweenie fashion show, so until then...
17.         Drive a moped
   I once drove one around the Fred Meyers parking lot in Canby, does that count?
18.         Earn a Japanese nickname
   Catherine calls me "Hiding Yawn Face" since I'm constantly trying to stifle my boredom
   with what she says... I suppose that's less Japanese and more Native American though
24.         Find a job & a one-year visa
   I attempted this goal at Gaba but am ultimately happy to say I failed
29.         Get a custom-made suit
   I ended up finding a place online that is in LA, so while it's not completed yet, the
   initial emailing and scheduling started in Japan. I'm cheating and calling it a success
30.         Get paid in yen to do something