“The Day the Earth Moved,” my personal essay about the Great East Japan Earthquake/Tsunami/Nuclear Crisis from a Tokyo expat’s perspective, will be included in Adventures of a Lifetime: Travel Tales from Around the World, an anthology from World Traveler Press. Publication date is December 15, 2014.
And so, after one year turned to three turned to eight, at last R. and I are leaving our bento-box apartment in Kodaira.
Not back to Canada (sorry, Ma), the original plan, but to another part of Tokyo: one which will cut R.’s commute time; one where, waiting for us, there’s a four-room detached with skylights and second-floor terrace – and our nameplate at the door.
For eight years, this low-rent, 1+ bedroom apartment in a two-story walkup has been good to us. Sure, in a stiff breeze it tosses and sways like a ship at sea, but its carried us safely through typhoons and earthquakes.
Kodaira started as a compromise: both R. and I had roughly equal commutes of under an hour each way – not bad at all by Tokyo standards. And, as time went on and we spent more time exploring the neighbourhood, we started to find local favourites: the grillhouse with the weekend lunch special; the noodle shop with handmade, udon buckwheat noodles; the fish restaurant with tuna fried in garlic and soya sauce; the tea house set in a bamboo grove.
More than anything, what separates Kodaira from other parts of Tokyo I know is the Tamako Jidensha Do, a tree-lined bike path which links together train stations, parks large and small, cemeteries, even a model folk village and outdoor architectural museum. In summer overarching tree branches make a green tunnel through Tokyo’s liquid heat; in winter, on those rare snow days, it reminds me of Canada; in spring, a haiku of cherry blossoms bud, bloom, and die.
We might have stayed in Kodaira forever. But, first R.’s commute changed to Ginza, meaning that she now has to cross from the west side of Tokyo to the east every day, doubling her travel time. Then, the landowner’s traditional Japanese farmhouse was torn down and replaced by a 7-11. Where we used to be greeted with cherry and persimmon trees when we stepped out our front door, now we’re confronted by the back end of a convenience store.
So, times change, and we must change with them. We have become householders in another part of the city. I’m sure I’ll have more to blog about on that as we start our next adventure in Nerima.
… about other expats.
Expats, as opposed to immigrants, live a blessed life in places like Japan. While we are sometimes at the receiving end of discrimination and unwanted attention (the drunk Japanese guy who wanted to practice his English in the Indian restaurant where I stopped for dinner last night. I decided on take out), we also gain a lot of perks from our relative exoticism. I remember, when first arriving in Japan, and realizing just how sweet A.’s JET PROGRAMME gig was going to be, we told ourselves “It’s time to get out when we start to think we deserve all this.” Then again, that was 13 years ago and I’m still here….
Kate Sedgwick, at matadornetwork.com riffs on The Expat Dilemma. She’s based in Argentina; the same conflict she writes about exists in the expat community here in Japan — and elsewhere, if my experience in Korea is any indication.
Favourite bit: “I get it. We complain to relate. But I would really like to hear a little more about what it is you like because things could be so much worse.”