A short extract of a post that features in my book about the Great East Japan Earthquake, The Teas That Bind:
Like Douglas Adams’ deadlines, recently the milestones keep making great whooshing noises as they go by. This is both my ninth month in Japan and my 200th post on ten minutes hate and, although it has been a mad rush of a week after the previous serene holiday temple wanderings, that seems to offer enough of a reason to stop and survey the scenery.
So already pondering my navel, this excellent post on the seven stages of gaijinhood* perfectly chimed with the mood. It also includes a handy chart, to map your progress on the descent to something even your closest friends will take pleasure in shunning. It was intriguing to wonder where I might fall.
On the one hand, I am happy to be a ‘wide-eyed wonderer’, still ticking off the firsts: first trip on a shinkansen, first visit to Kyoto, even (slightly shamefacedly) the first faltering steps towards learning some Japanese. Yet at the same time, perhaps not so wide-eyed.
Often I struggle to answer the question of why I came to Japan when people ask, because the reason seems quite mundane. I was tired of London and looking for something new, afraid of slipping into the dread routine and worried I would never make it out. People told me I was crazy to give up a secure job and although I know they were rooting for me, I don’t think even my best friends thought it would really happen until we were celebrating at my leaving do.
In spite of that, and even though just before I left the UK I was writing that Haruki Murakami was about 68% responsible for the whole adventure, maybe not having a clear obsession, with manga or martial arts or anything else, helped. Hopefully, my lack of a clear reason for choosing Japan meant that I managed to side-step some of the notions that set people up for rapid disillusionment soon after the plane lands. The real, if slightly dull, reason I came here was that I wanted to see it for myself.
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