Thinking of Home, and an Anniversary

Mt. Fuji at sunrise (December 2009)

I’ve thinking a lot lately about the idea of home and how it relates to belonging, to feeling rooted in a place.  It’s been a year since I left New York for Japan.  In that time, I’ve journeyed across this island as well as to more distant lands throughout Asia. Yet the more I travel, the more I long for a stable center, a place where I can return to, a community to contribute to and become a part of. Although the footloose feeling imparted by constant movement is exhilarating, it can also be equally exhausting.  Still, I know that 2011 will bring me to yet unseen corners of Japan (and beyond), and I couldn’t be more excited.

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.

Tram in Hakodate (December 2009)

Japanese keyboard (January 2010)

Steam from a hot spring in Suwa, Nagano prefecture (January 2010)

Traveling through Niigata (February 2010)

Snow-covered roofs in Kanazawa (February 2010)

Shinto shrine in Kanazawa (February 2010)

Cherry blossoms in Matsumoto (April 2010)

Spring in Matsumoto (May 2010)

Roof tiles in Nara (June 2010)

Chinese restaurant in Koshigaya, Saitama prefecture (July 2010)

Magome, Gifu prefecture (August 2010)

Summer’s last gasp, Nagano prefecture (September 2010)

Neighborhood festival organizers in Ikenoue, Tokyo (September 2010)

Approach to the Meiji Shrine, Tokyo (September 2010)

Fishmonger at Tsukiji market (October 2010)

Record collection at 瓦RECORD, Matsumoto (November 2010)

Christopher Willits at 瓦RECORD, Matsumoto (November 2010)

Street art in Nakameguro, Tokyo (November 2010)

Vending machines in Tokyo (December 2010)

Daio Wasabi Farm, Nagano prefecture (December 2010)

Courtyard of a traditional house, Matsumoto (December 2010)

Chuo line car at The Railway Museum, Saitama (January 2011)

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5 thoughts on “Thinking of Home, and an Anniversary

  1. Lovely Emma! While I have lived many places in the US and certainly haven’t traveled afar as much as you have, there are simply places that capture a piece of our hearts. The ability to make a home almost anywhere is a gift and I’m convinced we can be happy almost anywhere as long as we travel often! xoxo Aunt Alice

  2. Alice – Yes, you’re so right. Sometimes I feel like I’m betraying Brooklyn if I even admit to liking another place, but of course that’s ridiculous!

    Azusa – Thanks for stopping by! I’m looking forward to more of your delicious photography and recipes in the coming year.

  3. I’m a New Yorker as well… and in my fist few years, I felt exactly what you are feeling, oddly though, after more than a decade, home feels foreign to me, so much that it’s not home anymore, for one exception.. New York… I still can’t wrap my head around why I feel Home is Japan now, rather than the opposite, maybe since I have family here, friends… I miss New York more than anything.

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