Karaoke. That is my reason.
Yesterday, for the first time in a long time (…two weeks, maybe?), I went to a karaoke place with some friends, some established and some new.
The friends I already knew are excellent human beings. They live together in a place walking distance from mine (that’s down a mountain, though, so…that should…probably be factored in). One plays guitar and one is a damn fine teacher with pretty impressive credentials, and they’re one of the sweetest couples I know. And they appreciate a good soul-baring game of Cards Against Humanity (my favorite card game and way to get to know new people). Yesterday, they were having a party in their newly-furnished apartment. …They moved in six months ago, but that kind of thing is pretty common here.
As I was walking home from karaoke at three in the morning, I started having Deep Thoughts and by the time I got home those thoughts had morphed into, PILLOW. PIIILLLLLOOWWWW, so no half-coherent blog update from me last night.
I saved it for now.
The walk from my friends’ place to mine can include, if one is creative, a shortcut through a shrine. It being three in the morning, the grounds were silent. But the shrine was still lit up. Intrigued, I took the photo up there and started thinking about the party and various things about living in Japan.
I think for many people, moving to Japan means a lot of transience. Most foreign residents don’t plan on living in Japan forever. Whether it’s because of the language barrier, the culture barrier, romance issues, etc., I think many people just find that life is trickier to navigate in Japan than it would be in another country.
There are a vast number of reasons foreigners don’t stay in Japan and they vary enormously from person to person. For example, one friend of mine lived here for two years and then felt she could do more good for the world elsewhere. One left because she was forced to. One was fed up with the glass ceiling for women. One didn’t want to teach English in Japan for too long and make herself unemployable, an unfortunate situation that many people who live here fall into.
More than half the friends I’ve met in Japan have moved home, which makes for some tearful goodbyes and some excellent travel opportunities in the future. There’s something really moving about meeting someone in a foreign country and then meeting that person again on their home turf. It brings out a very different side of people, and it’s always upped my affection for my friends to see them in their home element.
However, that element of life in Japan means a lot of people are coming and going, and that means that living here means living in a constant state of greetings and goodbyes.
When I was in Spain, the stylist who did my hair told me that he and his boyfriend lived in England for two years but only really befriended other ex-pats. When I asked why, he said, “Well, we made the mistake of having this conversation over and over: ‘How long are you here for?’ ‘Oh, just a year, probably,’ and then no one wanted to invest their time in a friendship with people who’d leave soon anyway.”
One of my best and dearest friends moved back home last year. We met about three years ago and she quickly became a fixed point in my life. Secure, funny, smart, and absolutely one of the warmest people I’ve ever known – and it was heartbreaking when she left. A year before her, I said goodbye to two friends who’d been my Japan Parents (roughly my age but wiser and more mature and adultlike than I am) and that was utterly heartbreaking, too. Recently, a friend I met last summer had to leave through a truly unfortunate bureaucratic situation, and even though we’d barely known each other a few months, I already felt very close to her.
Every goodbye I’ve said has been difficult in its own way. I can always visit them, of course, and Skype is a thing and so is social media and whatnot, so it’s not like a 1920s movie where I watched their steam train puff out of the station forever, but it’s still pretty rough on the heartstrings.
As much as it hurts to say goodbye, though, I see it as a good thing for two reasons: 1) it taught me that the true friendships will last regardless of time apart or distance between you, and 2) that heartbreak sweetens life.
The darkest moments of my life have been the ones I wanted to learn from most. Because even though I can’t always find something positive about a situation, I can find something to learn from it, and that’s positive enough in my mind to count.
…Y’know, crazy thing. This was going to be an entry about Japanese history. Where the fuck did those thoughts go?
Ah, well. Sleep tight, citizens of sweet heartbreak~