A day like today ten years ago I landed in Japan for the first time. Two of the questions I am asked the most since then are:
“Why did you come to Japan?” and “Are you going to be in Japan forever?”
The first question is usually asked by Japanese people that feel curious about what is so special about Japan to make somebody from so far away to come live here. The second question is usually asked by Spanish people or other foreigners that are passing by Japan and feel curious about what is keeping me attached to this place.
Record of my arrival to Japan in September 2004
I always struggle answering both questions. To the first one I answer saying that since I was a kid I was attracted to the idea of visiting Japan, I had always wanted to know the country that produced all the manga and technology that invaded our houses in the 80s and 90s. But, as a matter of fact, coming to Japan wasn’t really a conscious decision. I just received a scholarship to come to Japan and ended up here in Tokyo. If I had been granted a scholarship to go to the United States instead of Japan maybe now I would be writing something similar but with the title “10 Years in United States”.
Would my life be very different if I had lived for 10 years in another place? I don’t believe so. I think the location is a factor, but not the most important one. There are other factors that determine more strongly who we are and how we are. What I want to keep from the last 10 years is not how special is this city called Tokyo, it’s the people that I have around me, the experiences that I have gone through with them and what I have learned and created with them.
Other people say that the most important thing is “to be in the right place at the right moment”. I agree, but this statement is only said by those that were lucky enough to succeed or those who spend their lives in a continuous search to “be successful”. Tokyo was the right place for an engineer or foreigner in the 80s but right now there are much better places if you want to maximize your probabilities of “being successful”.
From the Japanese people I have learned to be more respectful and polite. To be more hard working and more patient, to be extremely punctual, to be more aware of the details, to be able to understand better a social situation without verbal communication. To be persistent, to better appreciate works of art that are apparently “simple”, to enjoy the food and get to know new flavors, to give priority to the harmony of a group of people before creating a conflict, to see the passing of time as something transitory reminding myself that the most important at each moment is the “now”.
With the second question “Are you going to be in Japan forever?” I struggle even more to give an answer. I usually answer with other questions: “For you, what does it mean “forever”?” or “I don’t know if I will be here forever but, do you think you will live in Madrid/London/New York forever?”. I don’t think I will live in Japan forever, in fact I doubt that I will write a post “20 Years in Japan”. Maybe I am wrong and I will be here in 2024 🙂 However I struggle planning my life more than an horizon of 6 months ahead, so I just never worry about it.
The only thing that I know for sure is that I am going to stick to my passion of learning and discovering. If this passion takes me to one or another place it will be ok, if not I will still be in my beloved Tokyo. Another thing that I will be doing in 10 years will be writing here. Through this blog I have been able to meet very interesting people and more than half of the friends that I have here in Tokyo came to my life directly or indirectly from this small place on the Internet.
Wherever you are right now, thanks a lot for sharing the ride and following this adventure with me!
Photo from 10 years ago. In a “Higgs Field” at CERN in Switzerland wearing a Japanese t-shirt.
Recent photo. In a “Rice Field” wearing a CERN t-shirt of a simulation of the discovery of the “Higgs Field”.