7 years in Japan

I arrived being 23 years old and recently I celebrated my 30th birthday. It seems like yesterday when I arrived to this place that looked so alien to me and now it feels like home. Did Japan adapt to me or did I adapt to Japan? When I go back to Spain I feel weird in my home country and when I return to Tokyo I feel like I’m at home. I arrived to Japan being a kid and in Japan I learned how to live in the world of adults, it could have been anywhere in the world but for some reason it was here. I can’t imagine how my life would be now if I had never come here, I guess I would be happy as well but my reality would be much different.

I saw the world from Asia, I traveled a lot, I visited places that surprised my imagination, I learned a language that changed my way of thinking, I lived in one of the largest cities in the world and every time it feels smaller and smaller but it still stimulates me with many new sensations. I worked and I still work with somebody that brought the WWW to Japan, with somebody that worked at Sony in the team that invented the Walkman, with simple people that built and are still building incredible things, with people from which I learn every day and I laugh every day at lunch time.

Our place and our job define most of our realities but what really defined my last years in Tokyo have been my friends. Friends that have been in Tokyo for a short time, friends that come and friends that go away, friends that come to Japan just because they want to see me, friends that I made in Tokyo and left, friends that I made in Switzerland, in California, in Australia and other corners around the world and later on came to Japan to visit me.

There’s nothing that makes me sadder than when loved ones start to disappear from the group photos that we usually take in Tokyo. People that when you are beginning to really care about, they leave Tokyo to follow their chosen life path, and I’m forced to start missing them.

I see photos from 6 years ago, I see photos from 3 years ago, I see photos from 1 month ago and I find the faces of Yanis, that now lives in Greece, Pierre that went back to Paris, with Alvaro that now works in New York, with Fer that felt in love with Singapore, with Ignacio that decided to travel around the world with his camera, with Ema that came back to Italy with his people, with Alain that went to surf to Okinawa, with Koto that went to San Francisco, with Adriaan that went back to the Netherlands to escape radiation, with Xavi that was only some months in Tokyo and then came back to Bangkok, with Carlos that every day surprises me with his e-mails from Madrid, with Johan that came back with his family in Sweden, with Sara that last week was still here with us and now lives in Manhattan…

I don’t only miss their presence in pictures, I also miss their conversations, their jokes, their smiles, their questions, their explanations, their doubts, their rants… I admire all of them. Each one of them unique, each one of them irreplaceable.

Many of them came and left, but also many of us are still here, and many new friends are starting to share a new path with us, and we are sharing it with them. We are a global generation, a global family, Internet makes us feel closer to our friends wherever we are, however planes are still as “slow” as 40 years ago.

A generation of those that decided to pursue their dreams and conquer the world. A generation that knows what’s great and exciting about living in a global city like Tokyo, London, Paris, San Francisco, Singapore or New York; and that also feels the pain of getting to love people that you know sooner or later will leave to the other side of the ocean.

To my mother, who doesn’t know how to say me how much she misses me I promise I will try to get on a plane more frequently so that she can see me in person instead of through a screen. To those that left Japan I also promise that I will visit you wherever you are, even if I have to travel around the world several times; and to those of you that came to Tokyo to visit me, I promise visiting you as well.

To all my family and friends that I feel close to me even though they live far away; I would love them to be here with me in Tokyo or that I would be wherever they are. To all of them I dedicate these 7 years in Japan; it was not Tokyo, it was them that made all these years so special, it was them that made me a better person. I wish you all the best along the path that you decided to take. Thanks to you all and see you soon!

19.- The most important thing is not the place where you live but the people around you that you share your life with. Take care of them as much as you can. – From my 30th birthday post

8 Comments
  • Mike

    September 10, 2011 at 4:47 pm

    The Telegraph, Telephone, Television and (c-c-combo breaker) Internet have all made the world seem smaller and smaller. However they open up ever greater possibilities for international friendships and even love affairs. And these make you realise that actually, it’s bloody huge.

  • Travis

    September 10, 2011 at 8:58 pm

    Congratulations on making it for seven years! I’ve been thinking for a long time about wanting to go back to Japan to settle there for a longer time.

    But, I struggle with wondering how I would make a living there. There is always (hopefully, if it works out) the possibility of becoming a university professor, or finding a position with some American or Western-run firm or NPO that’s centered on Japanese art or history… But, all in all, I’m just really not confident that I can survive, let alone succeed, in the Japanese office culture. Outside of the office, that, I have done. Living in Japan as a student is marvelous, and I absolutely love it. But working….?

    So, I am curious what it is that you do that you have managed to stay for so long, and where it is in Japan that you live. I imagine I could find out the answers if I scoured through all your past blog posts, but as it’s not listed in the About the Author, I thought I might as well just save myself the time (lo siento!) and ask.

    Cheers!

  • David

    September 14, 2011 at 2:27 pm

    Really an inspiring post! I find myself in the same position living in Finland, while being Belgian. I made a lot of friends from different countries and I do miss their company sometimes. I live for 4 years here, and see my family a few times a year, although I’d like to visit more often. We chose this life, so we have to adapt to it. 🙂

  • Yanis

    September 20, 2011 at 11:15 am

    Man, that was touching!
    I find it too, hard to believe that it’s been so many years already since the first days at Japan.
    I still read your blog, and am proud of how it evolved (and you as well) in those 7 years.
    Until we meet again, keep doing what you do best!

    Cheers,
    Yanis

  • Sakae

    September 28, 2011 at 5:32 am

    It really is tough meeting new people with whom you connect and watching them leave out of the blue. But your life is that much richer for having met them I guess. Otanjoubi omedetou!

  • アレクス

    October 1, 2011 at 6:00 pm

    ありがとうございます!

    unfortunately i don’t speak spanish. but i want definitely to buy your book. you are a pretty good writer!

  • Pumba

    October 2, 2011 at 5:23 am

    I have to say that I found your blog by pure chance, but reading it brought many memories and feelings to the fore. I lived in Japan for almost 2 years, and although I had some difficulty in adapting to the social norms, cultural codes and conducts, and behaviors, I truly enjoyed living there. Interestingly, I understood and connected with a lot of things, but I always felt there was some sort of wall that was blocking my vision out of everything to make things completely clear. However, when I read your blog, what most impressed me was that I realized why I started blogging. I started it while living in Japan, to show Japan and my life in Japan to my other friends spread around the world, people that I’ve met when I lived in the UK and in the US. I realized that I started blogging to show my live in Japan to my friends in Portugal. Now, that I am living here, I continue to blog to continue to show my life to all my friends. Even if they are far away their memories are always with us, and those are memories and persons that we never want to lose. After all, it is the people that we know, knew and will know that will shape our own existence…as you so brilliantly wrote in your post.

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