sayonara (for now)

“You get a strange feeling when you’re about to leave a place. Like you’ll not only miss the people you love but you’ll miss the person you are now at this time and this place, because you’ll never be this way ever again.”
– Azar Nafisi, Reading Lolita in Tehran (2003)

People often ask me what I love most about living in Japan or how I’ve changed from living here.

I usually say that my ability to read people’s true meaning has improved. Whether by body language, subtle choice of words, or past history, Japanese people and the expats who love them have learned to soften their responses to either avoid offense or carefully craft their words to cut deepest. For someone who wears her heart on her sleeve, it has been a rich lesson in humanity to interpret these subterranean meanings and facial expressions.

Perhaps one day I will eschew the habit of extreme deference for the rough and tumble life of an aggressive New Yorker, or I’ll no longer bow to those who hold the elevators doors open. Maybe I will ease up on deflecting compliments, suggesting that it was the cohesion of the group that resulted in success, or apologize for the smallest inconveniences. A culture’s pervasive and everyday influence on you can go unnoticed until you’ve stepped outside it to reflect on the experience from a different angle. But somehow I feel that consideration of others and the knowledge that I am but a single speck in a pulsating mass of humanity, each of us who contribute to the beautiful undulations of its tapestry; these developed feelings are for the better. I know that my life in Japan has changed part of me forever.

post script: When I don’t feel like giving the long answer to the question of ‘what will you miss most about Japan?’, I usually say ‘heated toilet seats’. People seem incredulous at this response, but the truth is, now that I am relegated to the cold indifference of porcelain, it’s a real BUMMER. 😉

xo your friend alice

Location: Tokyo, Japan

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