I’m Home! But Something’s Wrong…

I’m home again for the holiday season, and it’s been so great to see my friends and family in person — to be able to touch them and hug them and just be in their presence makes me happy yet…something’s wrong.

Since my first step off the plane, into the so obviously Canadian Pearson airport in Toronto, I felt a strange feeling, and it wasn’t the nervous bubbles of excitement I expected. This was a heavy feeling, and I couldn’t understand it or explain it, so I brushed it off.

It’s been a long flight, I’m tired and I just need to see my family in person.

And when I did see them, of course I was thrilled, but like a heartbeat the feeling was still there, and I realized with disbelief that I missed Japan.

Whoa whoa whoa…what the hell? I just got here! And yeah, I like Japan, but I have my problems there too. How can I want to be in Japan more than I want to be in my home country, where I was born and raised and that holds all the people I love most?

How peculiar. I noticed this feeling the first time I went home as well, a few days after the Earthquake in March during the nuclear scare. At the time I thought it was simply stress and depression. I didn’t know if I would lose my job, and I didn’t know if it would be safe to go back. But here I am, home again, among the festivities of the holiday season, and despite all the food and games and hilarious conversation, in quiet moments of contemplation, the feeling expands like the lengthening shadows cast by a setting sun. And it was only recently that I was able to understand and put into words what I felt. It’s the driving force behind my move to Japan in the first place.

I’ve simply outgrown my old life.

If I could use one phrase to describe the feeling it would be, “boxed in”. And this feeling seems to ooze like sap from everything familiar here. Taking the train brings back old memories of going to work at a stressful job every day.  Though my apartment in Tokyo is a minuscule studio, I don’t feel confined the way I do in my old room in my parent’s house. I love them and I’m grateful for the support they’ve given me, but I’m so over hearing, “wear your slippers! The floor is cold.” And, “You should drink more water, it’s good for you.” I wanna live in a world where I can prance around in barefooted glory. There’s something about being back that just feels depressingly mundane at times. The contrast between my codependent life in Canada, and the independence I have in Japan is so huge, it’s further confirmation that I’ve made a good choice.

And yet…

It’s also once again brought to light a problem that stalks most expats: what do I do after Japan? If I don’t want to come back to this old life, then what’s the next new thing? (And there will be an after Japan, because although this country has its charms, I don’t want to stay here forever).

I’m curious to hear about what it’s been like for other expats going home. Did you too feel like you were “over” your home country? Or was your reunion all sunshine and rainbows and joy?


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32 Responses to I’m Home! But Something’s Wrong…

  1. Cathy says:

    Hmmm….27 or 28 years old? Geese, that says something that I can’t exactly remember! But by the time I made my decision, I was really ready to go. And yes, adjusting back took time, but moving to a new place helped. I have other friends who moved back after 5 or so years (some less, some more)- and it’s worked out for everyone (not without “glitches,” but that’s life, right?). We just visited Japan for almost 4 weeks- who knows, maybe we could live there again, but I missed the social freedom of the states during my short time there (this probably has more to do w/ me now being a member of a Japanese family (“oyomesan”) and having to deal with my in-laws expectations of me, especially while we were visiting). But that’s another story…. I did enjoy hanging out with our kids and old friends, enjoying urban life in Tokyo, and eating lots (and lots and lots) of yummy food!

    • zoomingjapan says:

      Now that I’m all packed and ready to move (within Japan) I feel like I could as well just go back home. Strange.
      I already decided to try something new in Japan for 1 more year and then go home. I do feel ready to go VERY soon anyways and as I’m already 31 it’s about time if I want to get my own family “one day” .. *sigh*

      Thanks for sharing! ^-^

  2. Cathy says:

    I know what you mean; before my last year in Japan (when I also moved), I had the same kind of feelings (and it didn’t help that I was moving to an even more rural area- Kyushu). Good luck with everything! Enjoy the rest of your time in Nihon; you’ll know when it’s time to go and have your next big adventure.

  3. Emsk says:

    Sorry, am posting rather late. My degree is in art, which means I’m not super-employable, so I knew I’d be teaching English when I got back to the UK. However I didn’t want to teach ‘comedy’ English, so applied for a job at a business language school. Meanwhile, I was looking into furthering my art career back home, but artists always need a back-up, of course.

    I returned to London in June 2008 after having spent eighteen months there. And I couldn’t have been happier! Not that I didn’t like Japan – quite the reverse, but as you’ve said here it did hold its problems. Mine were food-related as I’m a strict vegetarian. Although I could eat whatever I wanted at my apartment, it was a pain when I went out to eat with friends or if I just fancied a snack. Back home everything is marked with a V if it’s suitable for veggies.

    However, though it may not have helped, it wasn’t the thing I was glad to get away from. I hated my job, partly because of some of the rules and regulations (which one shouldn’t complain about, given thats it’s Japan, but some still made my eyes roll a bit!), but mainly because I had one foreign co-worker, a young American guy, who did everything to ostracise me and a group of Japanese women who did absolutely nothing to support me at all, even though they knew how he treated me. It may seem ridiculous, but when you’re in a small school one person’s crappy behaviour can make all the difference. It wasn’t my imagination either as my replacement, a lovely guy also from the US, quit 3 months into his contract because of the atmosphere at work. Meanwhile, 3 weeks later I was working for a great company back in the UK. In short, I was over the moon to be back.

    This sounds like a a huuuuge whinge and I’m sorry to do that because I was also genuinely sad to leave my Japanese and foreign friends, the culture and the art career I’d kick-started (I had 3 exhibitions and sold some work in Japan). But unfortunately work can be a big part of your life when you’re in another country, given that it’s them who are sponsoring you.

    As I said it was through no lack of love of Japan that I was glad to be home, just circumstances. When I got home I started becoming ‘homesick’ for Japan and making Japanese friends and learning more of the language. I had every desire to return – which I did 3 weeks ago, staying with a new friend in Tokyo. And this time I had the time of my life, meeting new people, visiting new places and zipping up and down on the bullet train with my Japan Rail pass.

    I love your blog and hope you’re having a great time in Japan! I discovered yout this morning.

    • Amanda says:

      Thanks for reading Emsk! I’m lucky in that so far I have no substantial complaints about my job — just that it gets a bit repetitive, oh and the pay could be much better and there isn’t any room for advancement. Uh, actually I guess those are substantial complaints lol.

      Wow it’s great you were able to kick start your art career while you were in Japan. I have this feeling there is something other than English teaching I should be doing too, but I’m not sure what.

  4. Beryl Gregware says:

    A very usefull article Thank you very much I hope you will not mind me blogging about this article on my blog I will also link back to this post Thanks

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