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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Getting Ready To Leave Japan

It's July of 1993, and I am about to complete my third year - then the maximum possible stay on JET in Japan... three one-year contracts, provided it was acceptable to both parties.

In preparation for my leaving Japan, my bosses at the Ohtawara-shi Board of Education (OBOE) realized I would NOT be able to get everything on board an airplane without going broke paying for all that extra weighty Japanese souvenir stuff I had purchased in my travels - so they got me some help.

They helped me find a packing and shipping company, whereby one man would come over to my apartment and carefully package up everything I own less one suitcase and one carry-on in paper and bubblewrap, and then ship it via shipping container to Toronto, where it would then be delivered to my parent's house in Toronto.

It cost around $800 or more dollars, but whatever. Gaijin come to Japan to make money, and I certainly did that.. even managing to save money those last three or four months thanks to a lot of extra-curricular teaching I did to adult students after work.

My bosses didn't mind. Others weren't as lucky, and were told to cease and desist - then again, my bosses weren't going to utilize the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme after I left, choosing in stead, or rather having a sister city English teacher foisted upon them by the Mayor (still, after 25 years, the mayor... Mayor Sembo) with St. Andrew's of Scotland.

I had 150-year-old ivory carvings, cherry wood ukiyo-e of several hundreds years of age, manga, kites, scrolls, postcards, photographs, gi-normous puzzles in frames, books, pottery: bowls, cups, vases; chopsticks personally carved for me by the Emperor's official chopstick maker (it was a good bye present); a Japanese kyudo (archery) bow, arrows and, models, wood carvings, brochures, magazines, all my writing, letters received, postcards, telephone cards... traditional Japanese clothing, toys, a kyudo music box that was 2-feet tall, video tapes sent to me by my family - most of them I left behind for the next person. My samurai swords, ninja stars, stuff I bought traveling outside of Japan in Saipan, Thailand and Malaysia (some jewellery); two keyboards (electric piano/synthesizers) and a clarinet, and maybe a half-dozen dinosaur fossils and more plant fossils. Oh yeah... a plethora of gold coins, and 400+ year-old coins, and an okay stamp collection that I had put together.

I made arrangements for my aquarium and fish, my bonsai trees - all to stay in Japan.

It was shocking to see how much stuff I had... but all was carefully packaged and all made it safely back to Toronto some six weeks later.

My collection of Japanese items was and is eclectic.

Oh yeah, I also walked away with over $10,000 in cash, deposited safely in my stretched wallet... not bad for a guy who lived every day in Japan to excess.

I made sure that while I was in Japan, I went about as first-class as I could afford. If I wanted to eat smoked duck, I did. If I wanted a steak, I did. I did spend a lot of money every week to create, from scratch, a killer chilli con carne for myself and whomever wanted to some to dinner. I always had a full fridge, a stocked liquor cabinet and fresh flowers in the place.

I had done laundry every two days, ironed immediately afterwards, vacuumed far too often where I think I became obsessive. Dishes were washed every night, hand-dried and always put away.

Basically, I kept a clean apartment, and did the same for myself.

I ate well and lived well, and never suffered for want of HAVING to save my money. I earned it - I spent it.

When I traveled, I stayed at a youth hostel with Ashley once - and never again... it was nice, clean and expensive hotels, as it was a vacation... not some bloody excuse to rough it like the Japanese did 200 years ago, or to save money like some poor schmuck who has student loans.

Screw it! They paid me well, I'm going to buy what I want, when I want, without ever having to starve or borrow money.

I can't say that attitude was born of me being older than those around me. No, they were more mature, more responsible and all saddled with student loan debt.

See? There was a good reason for me to have avoided that by doing five years of university and two more of college while living at home.

I really did have a wonderful rife/life in Japan, because I wasn't afraid to spend my money and allow myself to be reasonably sated.

Yes... I could have walked home with far more money... but why? I just would have spent it in Toronto... now... spending it in Japan on Japanese things... here in Toronto, in 2015, it remains much more of a conversation piece.

Tomorrow... it's back to Noboko and what we did next.

I will, however, break up things with the odd mention about school, seeing as how I was an assistant English teacher in Japan for three years... the whole good-bye stuff.

Andrew Joseph

1 comment:

  1. Having so much stuff in Japan just means that you have embraced its culture far more deeply than you think you did. I would love to see that 150-year-old ivory carving, that ukiyo-e, pottery, bowls, cups, and those chopsticks! Very rare can you get something from him as a present. You have so much memories of Japan to take with you, and saying goodbye must be pretty hard.