Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Five Years in Japan

Five years ago today, I moved to Japan.

I cannot believe it's been that long, as it seems like I boarded that plane yesterday. I remember what I was wearing (a navy sweater dress and black tights), what I ate on the plane (a meal featuring a side of satoimo -taro root- which became one of my favourite foods), how I felt at the time (terrified, excited, sad, hopeful), my first few weeks spent living in that tatami room in Nagoya, staying out too late at karaoke and eating conbini sushi, and forging friendships that would help shape my experience in Japan.

Fast forward to five years later, things are completely different. Japan is home, I've built a career here, I met incredible people who make me feel like family. I've had wonderful opportunities here in Japan, perhaps the kind I would never have come across had I stayed in Canada. I traveled all over the island, tried so many foods and activities, and I somehow grew into a different person- or rather, came back to my roots.

Truth is, it was an unstable (how many times did I move?!), stressful (hello, paperwork and missing visas) and lonely journey (so, so incredibly lonely at times), but it was all worth it. I could never have imagined just how amazing it turned out to be, and how lucky I am today. I just feel so thankful and I try to remind myself daily of all the goodness Japan sent my way- especially at those times when I feel like I'm done, it pulls me back in.

I remember how torn I felt deciding whether or not to go to Japan, before I left; my heart was saying yes but my mind knew it was a risky leap, especially at my age (in my late twenties), which meant abandoning a career, a home, and leaving my family and friends behind. Little did I know my career would instead thrive (with lots of hard work and horrible jobs in between), material possessions do not matter at all in the end, and I would never, ever feel regrets about leaving- no matter how bad things got in Japan at times.

I would like to say, if you dream of doing something similar, go for it!!! You will never regret it. I often get emails from readers who ask me for advice about living abroad and making the move, and it makes me so happy, because I know just how fulfilling it will be and I fully encourage them to pursue it. It's never too late, really. Being away from your family and missing your friends' weddings is one of the most difficult parts, but home will always be home. I miss home every day, but no matter where I decide to live, I think that I'll always miss one or the other.

And thank you for reading my (somewhat random) musings about daily life in Japan, I appreciate every message and comment so much (even if I'm not always so good at replying quickly).


circa 2009- I wear less makeup now...

13 comments:

Johanna said...

This makes me soo happy to read! When you left for Japan, did you go there fot school or how did you get a visa? I studied in Tokyo in 2010 (only for three months) and it's one of the best experiences of my life, and me and my bf has been back there every year since (and a trip planned for april 2015). We really want to move to Japan for at least a year, but it's just the visa issue... hmm hopefully we'll figure it out. We're also in our late twenties, and reading this gives me such hope! (feels like everyone who leaves Sweden for Japan nowadays is like maximum 20 years old! So much younger than we were when we went there 4 years ago)

All the best to you and happy "anniversary", greetings from Sweden!
http://tokyoyo.se/

Johanna said...

This makes me soo happy to read! When you left for Japan, did you go there for school or how did you get a visa? I studied in Tokyo in 2010 (only for three months) and it's one of the best experiences of my life, and me and my bf have been back there every year since (and a trip planned for april 2015). We really want to move to Japan for at least a year, but it's just the visa issue... hmm hopefully we'll figure it out. We're also in our late twenties, and reading this gives me such hope! (feels like everyone who leaves Sweden for Japan nowadays is like maximum 20 years old! So much younger than we were when we went there 4 years ago)

All the best to you and happy "anniversary", greetings from Sweden!
http://tokyoyo.se/

James H. said...

Congratulations on the milestone.

I can't remember how I landed on this site but I've been reading it for about a year now.
I've been thinking about moving to & working in Japan too. And so reading your entries has been interesting. It's also interesting to read about how you feel about Montreal, seeing as I live in Montreal too.

All the best for your future.

gtg007w said...

Congrats.

Sometimes I do think of leaving it all and moving back to Japan, but it's such a different place from what I remember 22 years ago. It'll take me just a few weeks or acclimatize back, so I'm not too worried about the communication and environment, but am not entirely convinced I'll feel at 'home' per se. That said, reading about your introspective is very inspiring and I admire you for taking such a leap. Always a pleasure reading your posts, it's one of the few ways I keep connecting my memories of having grown up there.

Jess and Emma said...

Hey, I'm new to your blog. That's amazing that you took such a leap of faith. I'd like to live abroad at some point in my life and maybe even build my life in another country. I think doing something like this is the perfect way to learn about yourself and really grow as a person. Thanks for inspiring myself and others :)

Emma

Nina said...

Loved reading this. I'm hoping to move back to Japan once I graduate. Don't know how long I'll be there but I hope to continue to grow like I did when I studied abroad. Thank you so much for posting this! I loved reading it.

philly said...

Happy Anniversary, Vivian. My heartfelt wishes to you for a beautiful and happy experiences of the country which has captured your heart.

And to the young-uns in their (late) twenties, wondering whether to make the leap, consider this. I know a Canadian woman who sold everything after a big bust-up of her personal life at age 51. She went for her dream: moved to Japan, lived there, and unexpected surprise (!) snagged a lovely Japanese hubby and now lives in both Canada and Japan. How sweet is that?

Late 20s? Pshaw! Age is in your mind.

thisbeijinglife.com said...

Wow five years- congratulations! That's amazing that you've made Japan home for that amount of time now. Life has really changed for you in that time too- different cities, different jobs. I can't wait to hear about it all in February :-) :-)

kitten-nao said...

Hi, I just wanted to say that I love reading your blog. Noticed that it's a bit different from other foreigners' living Japan blog in good way.
Hope you keep writing about how you feel in this country.

Kayla Laura said...

5 years!! That is an amazing accomplishment.

Like many of your readers, I too have thought about taking the leap to move to Japan.
I just recently returned from a trip to Japan with my husband and daughter, and my husband (who is from Shizuoka) is quite determined to make the move early 2016 now.

I am thrilled to go with him, and yet somewhat hesitant. We do have a young child (she just turned 2!) and I am just starting a job that could, if I stay in Canada, be a very good career (and pays way more than anything, I feel, I could find in Japan with my limited Japanese skills).

But still, reading your blogs and words of encouragement make me feel that you are right; material things don't really matter in the end.
So I welcome this upcoming change with open arms.

Keep writing!

Tanya Geddes said...

Got the same Hello Kitty card holder> <. I miss Japan every day although am loving London now. Thanks for the inspirational read. I also believe, if you want something you can get it, it just takes hard work, lonely times and sacrifice. X

Tanya Geddes said...

Oh, and I'm coming to Japan for a month next year (August or September). I'd love to hang out if you're about, x

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