Coming to Japan helped my writing. It helped me understand what I needed to do as a writer in terms of meeting my reader and her needs. Now that I’ve taken what I’ve needed from Japan, I want to leave. Without a doubt, this country is beautiful. The people kind and hospitable. The food delicious. The culture poised and steady. Like a perfect square glass sitting on four pillars. I definitely feel the old meeting the new here, hundreds of years of history meshed with crazy modern beats. As a visitor from the West, I’ve experienced a strange and magnificent world that never ceases to astound me.
But my soul struggles to hold it together now that I’ve passed the sixth month mark of my stay here. Japan is beautiful, that’s true. But depression, sadness, repression, and brokenness choke the air here. Sometimes I feel like I’ve stepped back into 1950s America with the old fashioned uniforms of the train conductors, sea of black suits, and housewives doing laundry every early morning.
The conformity is strong here. Even the hipsters have their own rules. And the rules are hardly broken. Now, I don’t live in Tokyo, but a small town in the Aichi prefecture and that could be why I feel so out of place here. But even when I visit the big cities, I can’t shake off the pain from my shoulders or brush aside the tears soaking my sleeves.
The people here need a hug. Someone to say, “It’s okay, be yourself and release everything you’ve got bottled up inside your chest. ”
Before, I sometimes thought that maybe I was an empath. Coming to Japan has convinced me that I am. The people here want more out of life but they can’t or won’t do anything about it. So shouganai (しょうがない) prevails (the philosophy that a current situation can’t be helped; nothing can be done) and it allows everyone here to get through their dreary work routine until retirement when they can finally enjoy life. It’s what helps them live so long, too. It works for them.
But I find the scheme, the script, all of it, so constricting. Like being in a jail cell. My spirit can’t stand it any longer and I wish more and more to leave as the days go by. Sometimes I don’t feel this way. As I enjoy the peaceful landscapes and the sounds of carefree children playing by the river banks, safe and adventurous, I smile, a wave of bliss washing all over me, and think: Japan is beautiful. But that’s all I think. I can’t seem to find the words to say more, which is disturbing for this writer.
I should’ve probably visited this country instead of moving here to teach ESL, which will be my last year of doing so. I’m done supporting myself and my dream to become a published writer through teaching English. Five years is enough.
I can’t regret coming to Japan. My brain says I do, but my heart doesn’t because deep down I am grateful. In some ways, I had to come here to make my dream of visiting the country come true and to fully understand who I am as a person. Some of what I’ve discovered isn’t pretty at all. Some parts are more encouraging though.
At this moment, I really don’t feel anything. Japan’s shouganai attitude is rubbing off on me, but I don’t want it to. Screw shouganai. I don’t want to be resigned to my fate even though doing so would ensure I’d live a longer life. I’ve spent too much time already fighting against fate, conventions, restrictions, and so on to shrug my shoulders and let life happen. I make life happen. That’s how I’ve decided to live even if doing so is hard as hell.
I’m reminded of the lyrics to a DJ Okawari song featuring Brittany Campbell called Brown Eyes:
“Save me from this place. I’m so empty like my heart has been erased.”
Although the song is about a broken heart and betrayal, these lines resonate the most with me about my current situation in Japan.
Hear the full song here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HOIaEbm4vgs
Have you ever lived somewhere and felt something was wrong despite all the beauty surrounding you? Would love to hear your thoughts!