When I was eleven, I picked up a manga. This moment is fixed permanently in my memory with crystal clear clarity. I found it among the regular American comic books, the all of two manga available in Books-A-Million in Paducah at the time. I picked it up, just curious, and flipped through. “Inuyasha” held a slew of characters that I couldn’t quite understand, mainly because I didn’t quite get the setting or why the art style was so cartoonish and yet had so much fighting and gore in it. It fascinated me, mainly because I couldn’t quite figure everything out.
I ran up to my mom with it in hand, as well as “Fushigi Yugi,” the other manga about a girl who falls into a book and gets an amazing destiny (talk about wish fulfillment for a book lover). She looked at them, and her face went into the “thinking about it” mode I feared. She never bought my little brother and I toys or candy, but she always said yes to books. The problem was that manga weren’t books, technically, they were comics. I stated my case, pushing that they were books, not novels but graphic novels, it counted!
She caved, buying them at the outrageous price of $15 per book. I’m very glad she did, because honestly I’m not sure how my life would’ve turned out otherwise.
Fifteen years later, I’m typing up this blog in my apartment in Tokyo. It’s a small space, designed with a single person in mind, which I am so it works. For the reasonable price of about three hundred and fifty US dollars, I get this slice of the city all to myself. I’m farther out than most people like to be in Tokyo, but I prefer a quieter setting rather than constant noise. Besides, rent is always cheaper the farther out one goes from the central 23 wards.
I just finished reading “Tokyo Vice” by Jake Adelstein, a staple in any Japanese novel collection. His collections and experiences gave me a whole new perspective on Japanese crime and journalism. I had a passing fancy after reading it that I should try going down his path, but I brush it off almost as soon as I think it. I did fluff pieces for my university paper, and I suck at interviews. Nothing about my background would support a full time legit journalism gig.
All the same, it did get me into thinking about how I should be writing about Japan. I used to write about it in my first blog. However, back then I wrote with the intention of only sharing my experiences with family and friends. Slowly over time I expanded my audience, but I ended that blog after I left Ibaraki. Now I want to share about Tokyo, and show what I love and find frustrating about living here.
Then I thought about the comparisons between Kentucky and Japan, which are also numerous. My motherland isn’t really so much the U.S.A. as specifically Kentucky, where I was born and raised (despite my more neutral accent telling otherwise). When I lived there I struggled in different ways, which I’ll get into in other posts, but those struggles definitely helped me out when I moved over to Japan. In other words, I got a solid layer of thick skin on before I hoped over the Pacific and then some.
I thought moving from Ibaraki to Tokyo would be a cake walk in comparison to, you know, moving all the way around the world, but that turned out to have its own challenges. Ibaraki life was nice, cheap, and slow moving. Tokyo is awesome, pricey, and fast paced. The pros and cons of moving, just the act itself, was something I had to pinch a lot of ichiyens to do. Still, by the time I got to Tokyo, I figured all the hard stuff is behind me.
Instead, Tokyo threw, and continues to throw, many curve balls at me. Most days I think, “Oh yeah, I got this!” But then something will come along and knock me down for a beat. And then I’ll laugh and get back up. “Well, that happened.” The key to living abroad for me has been persistence and stubbornness. The land of the rising sun is no place for quitters, not if you want to live here full time and on a long term basis. Luckily for me, I come from a long line of super stubborn and bone headed people, so these aspects come naturally to me.
When it comes right down to it, nothing about my transitions were easy, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t worth the effort. I’m glad I chose to move to Tokyo, and I don’t regret leaving either Kentucky or Ibaraki. Kentucky will always have a place in my heart, but my love for Japan is just as strong as its ever been. I will miss my former homes in certain ways, but I know that for now Tokyo is definitely where I need to be.
If you have a subject you’d like to hear about from me, please put it in the comments and I’ll write up a post about it in the near future. Some topics might be easier to do than others, so please bear with me. I like to research and make sure what I’m writing is current and correct.