Friday, July 17, 2015

The Kodoku

More often than not, I find myself reflecting on my life in Japan so far. Most of the time, I feel like I'm losing rather than winning and that thought, of course, causes me to push for *why* I would be "losing." 

It's weird. I always felt alone in the US, and when I knew I was going to move to Japan, I accepted that I would be alone here, too. 

Monday to Friday, I go to work. I think i have a pretty good relationship with my coworkers...we can joke and generally enjoy the presence of each other. Twice a week after work, I go to the homes of two different girls and talk to them in English for an hour. The girls seem to enjoy meeting with me, much to my surprise. Most weekends also involve English lessons with students of varying ages, six year olds through adults. 

Everyone is nice enough to me, but I can't help but feel terribly lonely here. Some of it is me and some of it is Japan. "Would things be different back home?" If I am honest with myself, the answer is a resounding "no." 

Go out and interact with the world through work, but as soon as the day is done, I disconnect from society. There's no connection to anyone or anything. I walk down the streets and sometimes I have to ask myself if I'm there or not, awake or asleep. 

Pick up some shampoo and body wash and get into line. Before I reach the register I've got my point card in one hand and my wallet at the ready. Half the time, the woman (and it's almost always a woman) who rings up my items looks at my face and grows tense. I can read her thoughts, "I don't know what to say in English." And since foreigners are always going back to their countries, she doesn't ask if I have a point card or if I need a bag. She mumbles the total and points to the digital total.

And so, with a strained smile, I place my point card in the try with my money. I get my change, say "thanks" and then move on to other stores where the same scene is played out until I get home. Most of the conversations I have outside of work or English lessons are something like this. At home, I turn on my laptop and the TV, start a load of laundry, organize some things...and before I know it, it's 2am.


  1. //"Would things be different back home?" If I am honest with myself, the answer is a resounding "no." //

    But with your drugstore example, you've just illustrated one way that things WOULD be different if you were back home. Your everyday transactions wouldn't result in visible panic and fear on the faces of the cashiers and other employees you interact with. That seems minor, but it's huge in how it impacts how much you feel at home in a place and how much you feel like you belong. At least that wouldn't happen in the US and you'd feel more like an ordinary citizen there, someone who belongs, which can affect loneliness tremendously.

    I've been/am in your place in my time in Japan, and it's a big reason why I decided to just leave. That and I seem to keep having workplace issues here and I'm sick of trying to work like a Japanese person in corporate Japan.

  2. That's an interesting why of looking at it, that I never really thought about before! Now that I think about it, I've kind of accepted that in Japan I don't talk to the people at the register like I do back home.
    That's one of the things my friend brought up as to why she doesn't want to live here and left after two years.