Beneath the Mask – The scrawls of an emerging adult in a foreign land masquerading as an instructor. A rebellious persona hoping to take your heart.
here we go again
Monday, August 19, 2019 – Rain
Today, I finally moved to Tokyo from a tiny town called Fukushima which I had called home for three years.
It’s wild. Things definitely aren’t the same. Or maybe they are?
Here I am again, in my world, just like three years prior, to record my musings, reflections, and ultimately vent whatever feelings, thoughts, and emotions that I’m generally unable to express w/o a proper audience.
No doubt, I’m already overwhelmed.
Three years ago, when I first moved to Fukushima, there were so many people who I had the pleasure to be under their care since day one, even if I didn’t know it at the time—the BOE, the teachers, the townspeople, prior ALTs, the JET Program, etc. This ensured a so-called smooth transition to what would be my first escapade into the land of Japan. Albeit rocky (I had to bike to the nearest museum for WiFi back then for two weeks), I had had a ton of support and resources at my disposal. Either way though, I struggled, I flopped, I cried. To prevent my successor from feeling the way I had my first month, I stayed a week past the end of my contract to help her build rapport with all those I had the pleasure to come to know in Fukushima. Though likely overwhelmed, I know without a doubt that she appreciates the act, and that those who I tasked with her care really will do (and are doing) the best job possible. She has so much support, even if she may not see it right now. 4,000 people (though depopulating) in a warm, homey town.
Meanwhile, in Tokyo, here I am. One within millions in a suburb called “Kitami” in Setagaya Ward, 40 minutes from the heart of Tokyo via JR railway, an area renown for its ideal living areas and with people constantly trickling by. The support and resources I had come to rely on in Fukushima to the point of taking for granted of are null. These are many things that kinda came with the package of moving to Japan under the JET Program: People who could empathize with your plight as hundreds flock to Japan at the same time with the same job, an already established living situation complete with rent, furniture (oh God, you don’t think of it until it doesn’t exist), utilities worked out, people expecting you (many with open arms), and many other luxuries. JET, although heralded as a first job for many, it lacks much of what is oft associated with the career world, namely, independence. From day one, you are shoe-into a spot that once was occupied from someone else. Work, life, and everything else is set into stone, an already established grind that existed decades prior. And people wholly rely on that structure.
I did too. So it came as a shock of sorts to me having to find my new job (through the bullshit that Japanese companies put you through), find my new apartment (after months of racism/discrimination), establish utilities, establish move-in dates, contact internet companies, purchase basic luxuries (e.g. groceries, toiletries, dishes, etc.), acquire furniture (everything from tables, chairs, fridge, washing machine, vacuum, even LIGHTBULBS), and everything one doesn’t typically think of when moving somewhere new. Luckily, most places are already furnished by the time a new tenant moves in in the states. Despite that, in Japan, when one moves into someplace new, you get literally the bare minimum. And perhaps that’s okay. I should be grateful to have a roof over my head, even if rent is literally five times of what I paid in Hokkaido and the places is ¼ the size of my previous place.
So here I am, in a nearby convenience store, Lawson, which I had the pleasure of living near back in Fukushima. And luckily, this Lawson is relatively close to where I live now. I couldn’t find a café open late to write this like I had preferred, but this Lawson, unlike the one in my previous town, has an “eat-in” corner. Honestly it feels a bit strange not seeing my students, their parents, and familiar faces running the counters like in Fukushima. But isn’t that obvious when moving to a new town?
Now, a quick pro-tip: Airlines can treat your luggage real shittily. I say that because in the three flights from Las Vegas to Tokyo, one of the airlines managed to lose one of two of my checked-in bags, and break my other bag. It’s no fun walking two kms (~1 mi) dragging a 22 kg (48 lb) suitcase through hilly areas in 100% humidity and 30 C (~90 F) weather. Heat stroke is a thing to be feared and had I not taken ample rest and drank sufficient amounts of water, I may not have made it to my new apartment today. But I made it, even if barely, complete with pounding migraine.
Through the frustration of today, I had much time to reflect. Unlike three years ago, I won’t give in to the influx of emotions and admit defeat. I’d like to end this entry with a few positive notes:
*People are kind. Whether they are supporting you from the shadows, or openly relaying how much you mean to them, many people are here for you. It has been a joy receiving messages from prior students, teachers, friends, and colleagues since this journey began. Getting a call from my favourite old man was a real treat last night.
*Cities shouldn’t be underestimated. I thought it strange that within the vicinity of my new place, there weren’t many restaurants, shops, etc. according to Google Maps. After some exploring, turns out there’s a wealth of places to be discovered. I found a McDonald’s literally a five-minute walk from my apartment!
*Always be grateful. Despite your circumstances, there are many things to be grateful for. Whether that be having money for a bite, or simply having the time to take a quick stroll around with a healthy heart, there are so many things to be thankful for. I’m simply grateful to be alive and on this new adventure.
Thanks for reading to the end, and hope to talk to you soon, dear reader. More posts to come!