So far in my life, I have lived in five different places I’d consider as home. The first seven years of my life was spent in a condo in Taipei, Taiwan. I’ve lived with my parents for the majority, so wherever they are, it will always be a home for me. And wherever I am, with my boyfriend, that is my current home. During my time in Japan, I moved from the boons to Kyoto. That, I count as two separate homes because of the impact they’ve had on my life.
The 2.5 years I spent in Japan were very tumultuous. I left Vancouver because I felt stuck. Nothing ever happened, no one ever changed, and tried as I might to do or create something worthwhile, I was uninspired. I went to university to appease my parents and grandparents. The classes were humongous, and I didn’t join any social clubs or live on campus for the full college experience. Looking back, I can say that the whole five years I spent in UBC can be summed up as a gray blur of trudging from one class to the next, and skipping class to spend hours in the Student Union Building (SUB) with friends chatting, and getting away from the cold. I took a range of classes, all within the Arts Faculty, from Shakespeare and Classical Japanese, to Art History and Religion, I did it all. I can honestly say, the most significant thing I learned was not the religious undertone of C.S. Lewis’ work. It was how to think.
Japan was a chance for change. I felt I had crammed a lot of life in those two (and a half) years in Japan. There was a lot of drama, and new friendships constantly being built, then withered away as people went back to their countries. Japan was more like a port for us foreign English teachers; a place of rest; a comma. I had two very different lifestyles in Takatsuki than in Kyoto. I switched from JET to a private company called, Interac, which paid less but at least I was in the city. I went from living the single life (my boyfriend at the time was an ocean away, and we eventually broke up after a few months), to starting a serious relationship with the wonderful person I’m with now. My weekends changed from taking the train down to metropolis to shop and party, to ordering a pizza and renting a movie with my sweetheart, sometimes traveling to other cities.
I really only started to drink and party after I moved to Japan. The laws on alcohol consumption made more sense there. One can drink in public, and purchase alcohol in convenience stores and the supermarket, but, as a teacher, if one was caught drinking and driving–or biking–he or she can be fired. Imagine the damage a drunk driver can do in those narrow streets and streams of pedestrians. There was a wonderful thing in Japan called Nomihodai (飲み放題), which is an all you can drink event. In the summer, these events are held on rooftops of hotels, usually paired with all you can eat. This may sound like a dangerous idea to our sensitive, North American mind, but the drinking culture in Japan is very subdued, just as one would guess. I have never been harassed by drunk men, even in clubs (for another post), and I have never seen a drunken brawl.
I’ve been dreaming about Japan. That’s always how it starts; first, I dream, I reminisce, I try to take it apart and analyze it, a few days later, bam! I have a new post. The premise of these dreams are all pretty much the same. I’m back in my little hole of an apartment in Kyoto, and I head to wander the streets. Along the way, I get lost. I try to get back but can’t remember the names of landmarks, like that temple my street was named after. I don’t even remember my phone number. It’s dark… I always revisit in the eerie twilight. The language is slipping but, images of my neighbourhood, restaurants we often went to, downtown, are still so fresh in my mind that I can rebuild the scene and take a stroll around the city.