Ten years ago I hopped on a plane heading to Tokyo to start my life again on a different continent for the second time. Today 10 years later looking back is simply wonderful, because in no way I regret the decision to choose Tokyo as my home. After living in Los Angeles (California, United States of America) for about 6 years, plus being exposed to how much the US society is changing after the 911 incident, the time felt right to follow my heart and move to the city I was so badly homesick for: Tokyo.
As it was not my first trans-continental move, I felt better prepared on what I might have to face. As my preparation I got a place to live and a job lined up, but after having given notice to my then employer that I will not extend the yearly contract, the company I was supposed to work for in Tokyo decided not to hire me at the last second. Here I was in Los Angeles without a job in Japan or my present location, having sold off or given away as much as possible of my possessions: Should I take the risk and jump into the unknown or try to re-establish myself in a known environment???
As you can guess, I took the risk and jumped into an unknown future. Getting a job and rebuilding my life in Japan was not easy at all, but worthwhile to do. For sure I learned my lesson that although I had adjusted to a different culture in the past, redoing it in Japan does not mean that I am better prepared for or that I can speed up the process. Adjusting to a local culture takes at least a year, no matter what.
Looking back now, let me list the top 3 best and worst experiences of living in Japan:
Best memories/plus points:
1. Found a home with heartful friends and the best hubby on the planet (!), a place where I feel accepted as a foreigner, plus Japan is giving me much freedom to be myself without too many questions asked
2. Although I complain from time to time about the climate, having so much sunshine in Tokyo is just wonderful. I cannot help but feel happy and optimistic.
3. Actually a constant process: Being forced to reconsider my viewpoints or perception on what I perceive as “correct” daily. There is not a day going by when I am not learning from Japan or the Japanese society to keep my mind open and consider a totally different viewpoint as “correct”, even though it might be completely incompatible with my own view of what is “correct”.
Worst memories/minus points:
1. Realizing how naive I have been about personal safety and health, because I expected someone to look out for me in a worst case scenario (March 11, 2011). Lesson learned: There are limits on what a country or society can do to protect its citizens, I have to do my own share as well. Safety and health protection of myself and the loved ones is my job!
2. Being laid off overnight from my dream job, exactly 2 days before moving in with my partner, now hubby, facing the situation of ZERO income for the near future. Lesson learned: Being truly grateful for having had the chance to experience my dream job. Looking back now, although the “plusses” of my dream job were great, considering all the drive needed to make it work, plus the responsibilities took a toll on my personality and health. I had paid my price to fulfill a dream of mine, but learned it is not worth for me. Further being forced to live off your savings solely has changed my approach to financial security.
3. Sometimes it can be hard to remind myself that I am a visitor in a foreign country and that unless I am a citizen of the country, there are topics or viewpoints that can be only discussed as local nationals. What I can say in our own four walls is not always appropriate outside.
Overall I am very happy for the 10 year anniversary in Japan. Tokyo is my home and a lot of Japanese culture got permanently absorbed in my heart. For sure I am open and curious what the future will bring.
Brought to you from a very happy Sibylle Ito (伊藤シビル)