One year in Japan

Today marks the first anniversary of our arrival in Musashino. A time for reflection and not a little thankfulness that everything seems to have worked out ok – well, so far at least. It was a tumultuous year of change and upheaval for everyone. For the girls, getting used to living all together under one roof; for me, adjusting to a new way of life and a new culture. Looking back to last August and my return to the UK to finalise the house move single-handed, my posts from that time bring back all too clearly what a desperately hard time it was for me personally. To be honest, I don’t know how I coped with it. But I did, and I have no regrets; I believed then that we were doing the right thing, and I’m even more certain of it now.

My concerns about whether I would be able to settle here have (almost) evaporated. I love Japan with a very real and visceral affection that seems to grow stronger with each passing month. Of course, there have been frustrations and upsets, but for the most part I am very happy to be here, and I genuinely have no desire to go back to the UK with all its problems.

I’m just trying to think about the highlights of our year here. I think Xmas last year was wonderful – all together in our own house for the first time. The family New Year trip to an onsen in Ito City was great fun.  Competing in the Tokyo Iaido Championships was a thrill; visiting Yamanashi prefecture, staying at a wonderful onsen and driving into the Minami Alps made a spectacular change from Tokyo’s concrete vista. Interspersed with these highlights have been numerous small pleasures and surprises; a tasty new dish, a wonderful shrine or unexpected splash of greenery discovered nearby.

But I think the greatest joy has been the warmth of the people I’ve met here – Japanese and gaijin. With the exception of miserable Mr. O who lives across the street, our neighbours have been faultlessly hospitable and welcoming to this lumbering gaijin. I joined a Japanese language class run by our local council in April. At first, it was very, very difficult and I almost quit (which is very unusual for me) but I stuck with it and have been rewarded with some wonderful new friendships with people from all over the world – as well as a vast improvement in my Japanese skills. Our teachers are both wonderful – patient, kind and encouraging but also persistent and very “genki” – hmm, enthusiastic – about our progress. The course culminated in a chaotic ryori (cooking) party in which all the students had an hour to knock-up a representative national dish. Well, I can tell you – the food was out of this world…curries, Thai, Chinese, Russian, Pilipino, Bangladeshi – an absolutely marvellous evening.

Looking forward to the next year – well, I can’t really guess what might be in store. I hope to further improve my language skills, contribute something to the society which has accepted me (more or less) into its midst and just do my best to create a happy home for everyone.