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Monday, July 4, 2016

Thoughts About Leaving Japan

Vincent had me take a look at blog written by a young woman on the JET Programme who is leaving Japan after three years on the programme.

Despite having read her blogs multiple times over the past few years, I feel as though she had a negative experience in Japan... despite her (in my opinion) oblivious claims to the other.

You can read her stuff in

Friend and reader Vinnie asked me if I felt sad about leaving Japan.

I wrote back and said:

I was ready to leave, but not ready to leave. It was the worst (and best) month of my life. It was the realization that I was going to lose... and lose big.

I had been on such a high for four years (last year of journalism school included) that I never ever expected I would walk away from Japan as a loser.

Matthew was married to a Japanese woman. Jeff was married to a Japanese woman. The two guys who had sat beside me that first evening when the new Tochigi-ken AETs went out for a dinner in Tokyo in 1990. Both married to Japanese women... and I was about to lose the game.

I know it wasn't a game. I had told Matthew about being left out of the Japanese wife sweepstakes... and while I made light of it, I know Matthew was smart enough to see right through me and know I was hurting.

I wasn't giving up on Noboko... I don't lose. I'm Andrew freaking Joseph. I don't lose anymore. I haven't been a loser since coming to Japan... I'm still in Japan... I'm freakin' Ferris Bueller. I can't lose!

I told myself this. It was the only way I could keep from hating the last month I spent in Japan.

Nope. I was going to enjoy every single minute of it because I knew in my heart that I was going to win Noboko and I would spend the rest of my life with her in Japan, if necessary.

I'll say this again, for those that don't recall: Noboko was afraid to disappoint her father who didn't want her to marry me for fear it would upset his job promotion chances. It would have. Maybe. Maybe not. I don't know.

All I knew was that I wanted Noboko to come and visit me in Toronto. Just for a vacation. I figured that if she did, she would see how much my family would just love her. My friends, too. How great Toronto was/is... and she would want to be with me.

It sounds childish. Now.

But it was all I had left in my fragile eggshell mind.

I had figured in my head that if she would come and visit me in Toronto - to go against the grain of her father's wishes - I would go back to Japan and live there forever to be with her... to convince her father that I would give up everything I knew to be with HER.

All Noboko had to do was agree to a simple visit to Canada.

Those last few weeks with Noboko... when I was with her... I felt like a winner... and yet, I knew there was a chance she and I were doomed to failure.

But I refused to accept it.

It made the last few weeks with Nobuko good.

Nobko was Japan.

As for any saddness I felt when saying goodbye to students or teachers... I felt none.

It makes me sound like a cold bastard, I'm sure, but it wasn't like that.

As strange as it seems, when you go to Japan on the JET Programme, everyone knows it's a temporary thing. You don't get too close. Plus... it's Japan... unless you know someone from grade school, I doubt anyone even knows your first name.

It's a Japanese thing.... and while I am quite aware that I am not Japanese, I had adopted that Japanese attitude.

No... no problems in saying goodbye.

Except that every time I did say goodbye to someone or some school, it meant I was that much closer to losing Noboko.

She was my marker. Above water or below it.

And I can't swim.

Happy Independence Day.

See ya later,
Andrew Joseph

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