The comments section for one of my recent posts was pretty active over the weekend. It seems as though I may be leaving the impression that I don’t understand the difficulties I’ll be facing, especially in the initial years after moving to Japan. Although I admit freely that I cannot know precisely how things will unfold once I get there, I have made every effort over the years to build a good solid base of helpful contacts in our community, and through plugging into virtual communities such as the old GP/CL community which is now moved over to our Inaka Life Runboard community, I have learned vicariously through many of you.
In addition, I spent a good deal of time talking in person to our friend freeB, who experienced a myriad of challenges in Japan, which finally caused him and his family to decide to return to the US (although I think they still hope to return to Japan some day). I also met the lovely couple over at Gaijin Farmer, when they were here in Portland earlier this year, and they were kind enough to share some of the challenges and issues they face on a daily basis.
I know full well that the blogs and forum postings don’t paint the “full picture” and that underneath the veneer of happy, simple country life there are a myriad of problems, issues, and dramas that play out behind the scenes. That’s OK. I come into this expecting it to be extremely challenging (it may very well be the hardest thing I’ve ever done—physically, mentally, and emotionally), but at the same time I come to it with a passion for achieving my goals that I believe will allow me to find ways to overcome those challenges.
And I know I haven’t really talked much about my background, but I have some important assets that I think will help me in this new life:
- I speak Japanese Fluently. I imagine that’s not a surprise as I am sure many, if not most, Gaijin in the countryside speak at least with some fluency. In any case I never felt i needed to mention it previously. I’m not trying to brag or anything, just providing some context for those that have never met me. But when I say I’m fluent, I mean, I use it in business and at home with my family every day, I don’t have to really think about it in my head, I don’t have a noticeable accent, I am perfectly capable of using colloquialisms, and am intimately familiar with the local dialect. Now I’m not saying my Japanese is “perfectly native” of course, I can’t read or write Kanji very well, and obscure technical terms and high level vocabulary may evade me. But I can certainly handle myself in day to day business and personal affairs. I won’t need TLG to serve as translator.
- Related to the above, I did live in Japan for about two and a half years, and have spent a lot of time in TLG’s hometown, made a lot of friends and personal contacts there. I am known, and my arrival is anticipated by many in the community who are in a good position to help me begin, and have stated to me and TLG their willingness to do so. Is that a guarantee of success? Hell no, but having the support (if only moral support) of a community is HUGE.
- I have TLG, who I am not exaggerating when I say is a Master Networker. She’s amazing, seriously. She has this remarkable ability to attract people to her, and maintain close relationships over long periods of time. To give you just one of many, many examples of this, just yesterday we were talking on the phone and she tells me, “Oh by the way, I spoke with my old middle school friend whose father is the head of the local agricultural board, and traps boar and makes Sumi with our uncle. He said he’d be happy to help us in any way he can…” Yeah, um… that’s what I call awesomesauce.
- TLG already has a job that produces enough income for us to live comfortably at least until I can establish myself and start contributing on the income side. But again, the goal being to gradually reduce the need for cash income as much as is practical. The good thing is that she prefers to be out and about whereas I much prefer solitude so this new scenario is much better for us.
Now none of that will mean anything if I don’t show myself to be a good, contributing member of the community.
I know full well that I’m the new guy, and I’ll be expected to conform to the ways of the community. I will have to tread carefully, and always be conscious of the feelings of my neighbors. I will have to be humble in action and word and deferential to the older established members (my Sempai). I will have to show that I am a hard worker and I will be very generous to those who have helped me, however little, in the past. I will have to participate in local events, everything from preparing for festivals to clearing weeds along the roadways. In essence I will have to engage and invest myself completely in my new home. This I am glad to do.
I will not show up like a wrecking ball, ignobly shouting my high minded ideals on a bull horn to all around me, while doing as I wish without consideration for the opinion of the community. I know that will get me nowhere. I will earn the respect and trust of my community before I assert my own ways of doing things and I will tread lightly. It will take time, perhaps several years, before my goals are reached.
I won’t be dishonest, of course. I will tell my neighbors frankly, “I have many ideas that I would like to try, but first I want to learn from you.” And if asked, I will discuss with them in detail what I want to do. And if they express doubt in what I suggest I will simply say, “Well, it’s only my idea. Perhaps it will not work well, but I would like to try.” I will be patient and allow this to happen at whatever speed the community can accept.
That will be my approach. I hope this gives some people an idea of where I am coming from and where I intend to go, and for those considering similar moves I hope it gives an idea of some of the things that need to be considered. From those of you who are already living in the Japanese Countryside, I will gladly accept any and all advice you’re willing to give in the comments section.
Thanks for reading.
Edit: After writing this I saw this post by one of my favorite bloggers. He captures pretty well the challenges of trying to do something different in a community with an established way of doing things.