Almost exactly five years ago, on September 1, 2011, I wrote the last paragraph below regarding my desire to return to Japan. Well, it’s finally happening – I am returning to Japan for a week. Better late than never, right? When I left Japan in August 2000, I truly believed I would be back within a short time, a matter of years at most. Of course, by attending college in Hawaii, I literally put myself as close as possible physically and culturally to Japan without leaving the United States, and my Japanese skills flourished as a result.
But then came marriage and a family and a large chunk of my Japanese skills and travel flexibility disappeared. The true test will be how easily my language skills come back while in Tokyo in a few weeks. I know Japanese is in my head somewhere, I just need to dust it off. Will I realize I missed the country as much as I thought I did once I’m there? Will it have noticeably changed in the last sixteen years? Will my desire to return again be just as strong this time when I land at LAX? I’ll report back next month.
It has been too long. I can’t believe that I left Japan in August 2000 and as of September 1, 2011, I have yet to return to visit – not even once. From 1998 to 2006, a good chunk of my adult life, I have identified myself partly as someone who was interested in Japan, its people, culture and language. Once people met me for the first time, it didn’t take long for them to know that I used to live in Japan and spoke Japanese fairly fluently. But since 2006, my Japanese speaking opportunities have dwindled as my family life has flourished. But I am still interested in Japan, although I have accepted that my career won’t revolve around Japan like I once thought it would. But that may not be a bad thing, as the country is not what it used to be in the world and may never be again. There are so many things in Japan, though, that I would still like to see and experience. Maybe one day I’ll be able to get back, if even for a short time, and experience life as a gaijin again. I still speak Japanese well enough that traveling throughout the country wouldn’t be a problem. It is just a matter of finding the right time and arrangement to be able to go back. My target Japan visit date is sometime in fall of 2013, two years from now. Unbelievably, it has been longer than I ever would have imagined it would have been. I just hope that this drought doesn’t continue for longer than I am imagining it could.