Friday, December 08, 2006


Wow, a mid-week post! Strange. I've kept ol' SushiandMapleSyrup on a steady diet of weekly posts lately, only blogging after the weekend activities have been completed. This is a huge change from when I first came to Japan and everything was new and exciting.

I've really noticed this change of pace in the last few days as I have been going through each and every single post I've made so far and tagging them for cross-referencing so I can more easily find things I've talked about. For example, a post about a day at the Oyama Fireworks Festival would be tagged with: Japan, Oyama, Fireworks, Train, Cooking, Photography... or something along those lines.

So far, I have reviewed my first 5 months in Utsunomiya. The last post I tagged tonight was one I posted in the early hours of October 2nd, 2005. Little did I know that the day ahead would be of such importance to me. That night, I blogged about my bicycle being stolen and promptly returned by the police, I mention my first dinner at Source which was really quite tasty and I comment that I'm finally heading up to Nikko with some students the following day. That was of course the day that Yoshiko caught my eye. A year and a couple of months later, here we are happily married, and filling out paperwork for our move to Canada which is fast approaching. Amazing.

In the 5 months of blog posts I have sifted through so far, I have noticed many an interesting thing. First, my typing\English skills have improved drastically... just by skimming the posts looking for content, I was picking up mistaks all over the place. (that one was left there on purpose by the way, lol) I can also clearly see my progression from the wide-eyed (though not as wide as some) newbie to Japan to the more realistic, grounded gaikokujin that I am today. I think that has always been a big part of who I am. This has been one hell of an experience, one hell of a ride, and I am happy not to have gone through it all only looking at the positive, "politically acceptable" sides of Japan.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that my experience here kind of plateaued for me quite some time ago. Having Yoshiko has really been the driving force for my staying in Japan for so long. I've reached a point in my Japan experience where I find things to be relatively stagnant from a Japan-related perspective. Quite some time ago, I found the safe middle-ground where I could go on about my daily life very smoothly, and have thus had very little motivation to try and advance my situation, whether that be by studying more of the language of attending community\social\work activities. I've been taking the middle road lately, which is great because it's easy, but certainly not all that exciting.

The feeling I will be left with when I leave Japan is that Nippon and I enjoyed a love-hate relationship. You see, realism has always been at the core of who I am. Japan, with it's bronze-covered concrete telephone poles, concreted rivers, islands in the ocean built by blowing up mountains ranges, artificially created lack of space, salarymen in suits walking around with pink teddy bears hanging out of their pockets, is far from the reality I am used to.

While I have an amazing wife, enjoy teaching, have fantastic students, have a good employer and have been able to experience some amazing things, Japan has also been somewhat of a disappointment to me. Outdated business practices that people obey without question, the constant string of people telling me how unhappy they are with their work/school/relationships and yet no one able or willing to do anything about it, the people who feel they have to hold up some fake exterior lest people assume they are a horrible person/worker, I have a hard time swallowing all that. I especially find it annoying when people get on their soapboxes and try to explain the reasons for everything and how it really is the best way in some half-baked effort to justify their existence. If this is the life you have chosen to lead for yourself, all the power to you, but don't expect me or anyone else with half a brain to follow along and "gambatte" just because that is what society here expects us to do. The bottom line is that Japan is a fascinating place with a myriad of social, environmental and political problems which are amazing to study and learn about, but I am now at a point where I don't want to learn any more... and yet I cannot close my eyes to the things which surround me, nor really do I want to. Looking back on my posts from 18 months ago, do I miss those days of wide eyed wonderment? Kind of, but I wouldn't trade the experiences which have hardened me for anything in the world.

Thankfully, I have plenty to keep my mind off these issues. In a mere 2 weeks, Yoshiko and I will be heading to Cambodia. In January, I plan to start hitting the ski slopes as often as I can. In 2 months, I will finally be moving in my my beloved wife. In 2 months and 1 week, my contract will be over. In 3 months, my parents will be here and we'll be travelling West Japan together. In a little over 4 months, I will be back in Canada, building a new life for me and Yoshiko. Exciting times are ahead..... I say bring it on.

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