As part of my New Year’s resolutions, I want to stick to a writing schedule. Just to change things up (so I don’t get bored writing the same thing every day and decide I hate what I’m writing), I thought I’d take Sundays to write from a journaling prompt. They’ll probably be a bit rambly, since I’m just looking at my list of prompts and picking one and not really thinking about it before hand. But I’m hoping it’ll give me a focus, as well as a chance to do something besides story-telling. So, I’ve gathered a few prompts, and I’m starting now.

prompt: If I could live anywhere in the world . . .
[from The Writer's Devotional, Amy Peters]

Look, I don’t have to be subtle about this, do I? It’s Japan. It’s always Japan.

It’s not that I’m unpatriotic. It’s just that I love Japan. I loved living in Japan. I loved working in Japan. I loved merely existing in Japan. No, I didn’t have all the little luxuries and conveniences I’d gotten used to in the States, and sometimes the language barrier was larger than I would have liked, but I loved Japan. I would not have minded one bit raising our daughter in Japan. It was what I wanted.

How can I explain how much I loved Japan? I loved it despite its downsides, its infuriating bureaucracies, its set way of thinking. I would be seen first as a tourist, and sometimes only as a tourist, and if people knew I lived there, they would assume it was only temporary. Even though I knew, within six weeks of living in Japan, that I wanted to stay as long as I could. They asked me if I was homesick, and the answer was always no. I did not miss the States. Not once. For so many reasons.

Maybe it was the independence that caused me to love Japan so much. For the first time in my life, I had a job that I loved and that paid all my bills. I lived comfortably on my own, with enough money and vacation time to travel when I wanted. The only limit was my own curiosity and adventurousness, which never waned when I traveled. I did not let my lack of Japanese language skills stop me, and most people appreciated that. Living in Japan taught me to seek out my boundaries and test them, to push myself to accept and explore places and ideas I’d never dreamed of when I lived in the States.

I had such a sense of safety while living in Japan. Once, an Australian female friend and I walked the streets of Tokyo after midnight, half-drunk and trying to make it to Ueno to catch the last train to my home station, from whence we walked another 15 minutes before crashing at my apartment. I would never have done that in any city in the States, but in Japan, it did not concern me. I would not have done it alone (mostly because I do not drink alone), but while I lived in that apartment, I regularly got home from work well after 11pm. I was never the only person walking home from work at that time of night, and though I hated it (I later moved closer to work, so that I had a mere 10-minute bicycle ride to travel), I never felt anything less than 100% safe.

There are so many little things I miss about Japan. I miss the toilets that never clogged and the bidets that came with them. I miss the karaoke boxes, where you could abscond with a few close friends and star in your very own concert. I miss the shochu, a distilled beverage that when mixed with carbonated water and some flavoring makes the awesome chuhai, easily my favorite alcoholic beverage ever. I miss the traditional foods made fast and convenient, the huge bowls of ramen, the sushi bars with conveyor belts, the tonkatsu restaurants, the yakitori and the yakinuku. I miss local trains and how easy it was to get from place to place without having to get into a car. I miss the cherry blossoms and the red maple leaves. I miss the sight of Mt. Fuji from my front door. I miss the friends I made, the students I enjoyed teaching.

I miss the innocence I had in Japan. I realize that’s probably a big part of it. I knew so little of grief and bereavement then; I knew nothing of loss. It doesn’t seem to matter that Japan was where Lauren died. It was where she was conceived, where we dreamed of our lives with her in it. It’s no wonder that I associate Japan with happiness and contentment. Since returning to the States, life has been about wanting what we can’t have, about missing our daughter and learning to live life without her. It’s hard to imagine how life in Japan would be now, without her.

It would be nice to go back someday, even if just for a visit. But I get the feeling that, if we went for a visit, we would just want to stay. It would be so hard to resist.

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