Jade’s Escape from Japan

escape-from-japan

Jade’s Escape from Japan

So I went to Japan 5 years ago to escape the American recession and lifestyle as well as my mother and live out my dream of working in Japan. Now that my 5 years are up and I’m back in the States, life should be better…But there are tons of things people didn’t warn me about when it came to re-adjusting to my home country.

The Constant Stomachaches. In Japan, I became a vegetarian (from July 2014), and since my husband returned to the U.S. first, I could adjust my diet every month to a lifestyle teetering on veganism. I eliminated most salts, refined sugars, and fats from my food by planning, measuring, and cooking every meal, and in 4 months, I lost around 33 pounds (15 kg). The return to America cost me dearly–in a week, I gained 10 pounds (4.5 kg). Everything I eat, even without meat, makes my stomach flip upside down. And it doesn’t help that my husband isn’t considerate of my new eating lifestyle because he isn’t vegetarian. Maybe part of my stomachaches are from stress.

The Wonderful “Gaijin-ism”. Where I lived in Japan, there were few gaijin, or foreigners. When I did see a foreigner, my first thought was, “Gaijin!” That’s how few and rare foreigners are in Japan save for the heavily-populated cities. Back in the U.S., I had to stop myself from being surprised by “foreigners”. Everyone, including myself, aren’t foreigners, so I’m in the middle of re-training my brain to think, “People!”

The Unemployed and Dependent Adult. I had a job and an apartment in Japan for 5 years. Now I’ve got job history and a former apartment that’s already passed to my successor, but no employment or space of my own. I have to depend on my husband’s family before I can look to getting a place, and the job hunt for something I actually want–a position in the writing industry–still makes me ask for help from my in-laws. I’m suddenly a dependent, and it makes me feel small and unreliable. I thought being in Japan would make me more independent, but in returning to America, I find myself in a worse situation than before I left the country.

The Unhomely Home. I got no warning about coming home when you’re not really home. The U.S. doesn’t feel familiar to me anymore. I look at the people and the stores and the houses, and I just think, “I want to go home.” My Okinawan apartment and the places I frequented there pops up in my head, and suddenly I’m finding home to be a far away place in my memories. Part of this foreign feeling comes from my immediate family leaving California. I can’t see my mom or brothers, and it really makes me sad. With the ensuing stomachaches and uncomfortable lifestyle, I just want something familiar, something normal, and that was my family. When I want to eat my mom’s soup because I have stomach pains or I want to laugh with my brothers, I can’t.

The Lost Relationship(s). What kills me is the one thing I’ve left behind: missing someone. I made many friends in Okinawa, and even though I’ve said in past posts that Japanese people are hard to accept foreigners, the friends I made accepted enough of me to let me into beautiful and loving relationships. I just knew that when I got on the plane, I’d never know if I’d see them again. Sure, there’s email, but it’s not the same as facing them at a table in Mr. Donuts or Spicy Kitchen and saying, “How’s it going?” Craving someone’s words or smiles or stories makes me feel as if I’ve lost something really precious in my life.

7 Useful Websites to Survive in Japan

 

Imagine getting an invitation to your welcome party and a co-worker hands you a map to the location. You don’t think to ask about the place or what do all the squiggly lines mean–not like you can if you don’t know Japanese–so when the time comes to go to the welcome party, you realize that you don’t know the way. But that’s only one worry from living in Japan. Japanese language resources, English books, organic products, and even emoticons are different in the Land of the Rising Sun. Thanks to the internet, you can simplify your needs while living in Japan.

 googlemapsGoogle Maps: In Japan, you can easily get lost. There are no street names, and multiple routes with the same number make finding a certain business nearly impossible. Good thing all businesses must print their ads with a map to their shop…right? If everyone relied on those 5-centimeter sized maps, no one in Japan would use Google Maps. My advice: stick to landmarks!

japaneseemoticons

Japanese Emoticons: Western emoticons are great, but Japanese ones are easier to read and have more pizzazz. Plus, each emoticon conveys the exact emotion I’m looking for in a tweet or email. \(^▽^)/

freejapanesefont

Japanese Fonts: If you’re learning Japanese or you make anything with text in Japan, this website is the best! You can download and install the fonts that actually write Japanese, not the gibberish you find on Fontspace. Just be on the look out for the fine print. Some fonts are licensed for non-commercial uses, which means you can only use them for unpaid projects.

bookdepository

Book Depository: Japan has a severe lack of English books that aren’t condensed readers for English exam takers. Some Japanese English-reading residents are fine with the scant choices of English literature at Toda Books and Book Off (they mostly have YA and best sellers). For those who want books without the expensive shipping fee from Ebay, Amazon, Abebooks, Book Depository is the best. They ship books worldwide for free. Are the books cheaper than Ebay or Amazon? No, they’re full price, but they’re brand new books.

iherb

iHerb: If you’re missing your beloved African soap bars or certain organic cookie mixes and you can’t get them from home, iHerb is the next best option. They have a flat $4 shipping rate to Japan and they sell organic and vegan household products.

weblio

Weblio: Japanese is hard. Even Google Translate has a hard time making Japanese understandable. Weblio is another translation website that offers a literal translation of the English and example sentences using the main verb.

Wunderground: Between June and October, Japan is plagued with typhoons and stormy weather. Reliable English-language weather forecast sites like Wunderground are few in total, considering that many are in Japanese. Still, Wunderground is a good place to watch any severe weather changes in the Western-Pacific region.