Back In Japan

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Just your average home-cooked meal in Japan.

日本に戻った

And it feels good.

A Month

It’s been a month since I last did a post. In that month, I’ve managed to pack up, get on a plane, land, and actually really settle into a routine in Japan. I’ve been keeping up a pretty normal schedule for about two weeks now. I’m really into keeping a schedule, so it feels good.

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My workstation. #kotatsu4life

I’ve been more or less successful at getting work done since coming here. Certainly, my nights are less productive then they were at home. I tend to spend them with my girlfriend and her family (which usually means a lot of TV) rather than by myself. But between the hours of 8 and 6, I have a pretty good thing going.

Last Friday, I visited my old town and went to the graduation ceremony for the elementary school kids. Nobody except for a few teachers knew I was coming, so it was a pretty big surprise. Everyone looked happy to see me, which is always nice. But all that playing with kids and running from place to place really tired me out. Thankfully, the elementary school teachers invited me to a drinking party, so that really evened out the night.

So I’ve had events, but most of my time has been here, in this house in the countryside, without a car and with little money. And it turns out, that’s been very effective at keeping me productive.

My Budget

In spite of this trip being about 3 months, I gave myself a tiny budget to work with.

100,000 yen. Or about 900 USD.

With an exact trip length of 88 days, that means about 1100 yen per day. $10 a day.

What makes all this difficult, is that things like the train ticket to get from Tokyo to Miyagi are about 10,000 yen. More than a week’s budget. So already I’m starting off at a loss. And then there’s the hotel / onsen I stayed at with my girlfriend for her birthday. Worth it, but that was about 15,000 yen. Already, within a few days of arriving in Japan, I was out 1/4 of my budget. No regrets, but certainly the financial adviser in me was sweating.

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Some of these purchases seem stupid out-of-context, but they made sense at the time, I swear! I needed the last BoxBoy game!

What makes all of this doable is that my girlfriend’s family is amazingly kind, and they’ve essentially put me up for free. Free lodging. Free meals. And even if they couldn’t, I’m blessed to have a lot of people who would put me up as well.

That doesn’t mean I won’t pay them at all. Certainly, if they become my family, I’m expecting to help them out for the rest of their lives as well. And Japanese people live a long time, so it’s quite the investment!

Even if my girlfriend and I don’t get married, I’d still like to repay them in some way. What they’ve done for me is more wonderful than I have words for.

These Feelings

Gratitude aside, it’s been interesting coming back to Japan. When I got off the plane, it was reassuring to know that I hadn’t forgotten how to speak or write Japanese. Sure, I didn’t remember the 鷹 from 大鷹沢, my current address. But I had no problems using Japanese in any practical sense. Even most of my old coworkers commented that they were surprised that my Japanese hadn’t deteriorated.

It has, of course. But not in any huge way. 7 months isn’t even that long to be away, honestly. And video games like FFXV and Persona 5, as well as talking to my girlfriend in Japanese occasionally, helped maintain my level. It’s nice to know that my Japanese isn’t as fragile as my Chinese or Spanish was.

After arriving in Tokyo, I met up with one of my best friends who lives in Japan, and he asked me a funny question:

“How does it feel to be back?”

I actually didn’t know how to respond. Good, yes, that much was true. But it didn’t get at the bigger point.

“It feels normal.”

Japan had been my home for 3 years. More than 10% of my life. Getting off that plane, I didn’t feel like I needed to take pictures. It wasn’t new. It just felt like I was coming back. But I never hated America, either. I love both of my homes, and they both feel normal. Relaxing.

That didn’t stop me from taking pictures of the first few meals I had, of course.

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This was delicious. That chicken tempura was where it’s at.

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And this was even better. But I’m a sucker for 定食, so it wasn’t even a fair contest.

Nor did it stop me from taking pictures of the view at the hotel we stayed at.

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Although all the best pictures are on my girlfriend’s phone.

And I took this photo because I figured it did a good job of showing where I was living.

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Ah, Japan. A little broken. A little cold. But overall, an amazing place to live.

But I wasn’t taking pictures like tourists do. Or newly arriving JETs. I wasn’t feeling lost or confused. And nothing anybody was doing struck me as odd.

It was all just… pleasant.

It’s good to be back. I’m happy here.

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