Living here has taught me a thing or two about survival – not in the physical sense, but rather the ability to accept and even welcome a certain degree of emotional vulnerability into everyday life. Last winter, I was a newcomer in a foreign land, unemployed, and very, very cold all the time. By the time March rolled around, I wasn’t sure why I was in Japan at all. This winter, I have a job (not to mention wonderful colleagues), a cozy (read: 15 m2) apartment, and most importantly, a small sense of belonging. I’m still cold much of the time, but there are many other things to be thankful for.
Wherever one lives, it’s easy to lose sight of why one is there, or what led one there in the first place. The daily rituals of life in Japan are now familiar to me – when waiting for a train, I instinctively join one of the orderly lines that form on the platform, and the constant expressions of courtesy that define interactions here come more or less naturally to me. At the same time, I remain constantly amazed by this place – by the constant collision of old and new, by the minute attention to detail in the design of everyday objects, by the efficiency and precision with which infrastructural systems are built and run, and, last but not least, by the consistently amazing food.
When I went back to Brooklyn for the holidays, my initial relief at being able to speak my native language was swiftly replaced by a sense of claustrophobia, a feeling that the city had nothing left to offer me after eighteen years of living there. (Naturally, after a few days at home I didn’t want to leave!) So while there is little doubt that Brooklyn is where my heart belongs, I’m also content to let it wander for a while, to find new residences, even if they are temporary. Because even though I don’t necessarily fit in here, I am proud to call Japan home, for now.
Below, some of my favorite scenes and memories from the past year. There’s a story behind every photo. Just ask, and I’ll be happy to tell you about it.