Reflections before moving to Japan

skyseeker/Creative Commons

I’m an American moving to Japan and while I’m very excited to go overseas, I’ve still got a lot to process. For the past month, I would tell people that I’m going to Japan, which made the prospect seem very far off. By using the word “going,” I meant, “eventually” — as in, a month, two weeks, then one week just to put it off my mind for a while. Just a few days before my trip, I still couldn’t fully process the situation; I’m going away for a year to a completely foreign country. I am filled with an overload of thoughts and questions as I make this major transition in my life. 

First off, I don’t know any Japanese. It’s not absolutely essential that I learn the language but getting around the city will most likely be challenging. I’m most concerned about getting lost — which tends to happen even when I’m in my hometown, and not being able to ask directions will be a problem, for sure. Also, Japanese culture contrasts Western practices in many unique ways. For example, I keep hearing that the Japanese are very polite — does that mean I need to start practicing bowing? Offending people is one of my primary fears. What if they start bowing and I don’t bow correctly? What if they don’t bow but try it on unsuspecting foreigners to see how foreigners react?

Because I’m a foodie I also imagine there to be sushi everywhere. I love sushi so I’m pretty excited to have access to all the authentic Japanese sushi I desire. I just wonder if I will get tired of it after I gorge myself on it for the first several months. I also wonder what else there is to eat besides sushi and noodles? Also, something I’ve learned from my extensive internet research is that fruit in Japan is more expensive. So since fruit is more expensive, should I give that up? This might be the excuse I’ve been looking for my whole life to validate my poor health decisions.

Although I do have some serious questions and expectations, some of my other queries aren’t so serious. I think about the ways my life will be different but I’m also plagued with random thoughts such as, am I really doing this? Maybe I should start packing. Will I get really homesick? Of course I will miss my family and friends in the U.S. but I wonder how I’ll deal with it once I’m far away. A random expectation I have is that I will become a unicorn. Japan isn’t a very diverse place and all my Asian friends have told me that people will stare at my blue eyes and white skin. I hope this isn’t really the case because I don’t like attention in general. But maybe it won’t be such a big deal.

I can’t wait to explore different parts of Japan and take in the beautiful surroundings, especially during springtime when I’m told cherry blossoms are in bloom everywhere. I can easily see this being my favorite part of Japan. The last thought I have as I get ready to fly for 11 hours is that I know I’m going to learn a lot. Everything will be new to me — language, culture and ways of life. I’ll learn not only about people in a different part of the world, but I myself will learn and grow. And that’s what I’m most excited for.