I rest my fingertips lightly on my glowing keyboard. time to meticulously carve out a blog post. 「久しぶり」 I say to myself, one of the japanese words I have down pat because I say it constantly. if only I said all japanese words constantly, I would be fluent by now. my year 2.0 in japan is beginning, apparently. I haven’t seen much from my bedridden state. the 31st of december 2014, I came down with a debilitating flu, rendering my body heavy and unstable.
I’ve scrolled through my instagram feed with varied levels of envy as people snap photos of their firsts of the new year. first food, first trip, first memories of 2015. I know my year will begin soon, I’ll catch up. I lay on my side and pull the covers up to my nose and imagine what is in store for me in the coming months. 2015 will be great, if I could just get out of bed. my spirits are high, this isn’t the end. I’m not kicking myself for not washing my hands enough during cold and flu season, because kicking would require energy I don’t have. to feel so weak and useless is so frustrating. it only reminds me to motivate myself to keep active so I won’t feel like this again when I reach 80.
lying awake at 4am stiff and unable to sleep, I think back at 2014. what an emotionally juxtaposed year that was. from aimless depression to near enlightenment. 2014 was concurrently the lowest of lows and the happiest and most content I’ve ever been in my life.
I had an urge to be apart of something. I figured that’s what we are meant to do, as creatures we all conglomerate towards each other with varied similar interests, longing to belong. searching for soul mates, deep friendships, meaningful relationships of any kind, we humans crave it. as appealing as being hikikomori sounds, they’re still communicating to others via the internet. realizing I had no community, I felt obligated to join the bigger picture somehow.
I met a friend involved in the tokyo art scene as an aspiring art director, working at galleries. suddenly some opportunities arose and I decided to push myself to accomplish something. what, I didn’t know. I knew I needed deadlines or I would never get anything done. everything else was up in the air. I kept putting off picking out what photos I wanted to submit to the independent artist exhibition. a week extension, a week more procrastination.
I finally forced myself to view my collection. I picked out what I was drawn to, and narrowed it down. I picked similar color tones and an atmosphere that made me feel a vague nostalgia. the images began to tell a story together. they were taken over the span of a year, but together they told the story of an alternative future world in one day. they were of mundane images of tokyo, that japanese people ignore every day. I was fascinated with the city as an outsider. I thought my story could show that tokyo isn’t always what it seems, that if you change your mind, there is another universe right in front of us. I liked the images on their own, and I liked them even more as a storyboard to a sci-fi anime from a past future. such as a retro 1950s nuculear family prediction that we have already surpassed (2010 and no flying buicks, sorry, ’50s) I named it “retro neo tokyo”. a new tokyo future from the past. an alternate story telling of tokyo. to make the mundane exciting, to bring attention little details that I hoped japanese people could look at closely and re-examine.
I lost myself. where was I for 6 months. I remember being on top of that 12 story building, watching the first sun rise of 2014, resilient thoughts of hope, unwavering inspirational images flashing through my mind. “this is it, this is the year everything goes right” I told myself. everyone said similar thoughts aloud, and I believed them.
somewhere I lost myself. it’s half way through 2014 and 6 months I spent without a job, aimlessly floating, forgetting what I was doing hour to hour, day by day until it become month to month. a collection of empty days, lined up like dust-covered beanie babies. whats the point. I imagine sand running through my fingers as a clear representation of where my time went. what did I accomplish? my memory is shrouded. I went to Seoul, ok. I came back to Tokyo and waited. and waited. waited 6 months total to receive my visa I applied for in January. nothing could start, nothing could begin. not without the visa. I had to look through my instagram feed to double check if I did anything. apparently, I did some things. saw some people, ate some food. that’s a relief. why do I feel like I am sitting here with nothing to show? 6 months, I could have studied Japanese. I could have watched more movies. I could have gotten into shape. all that time, what did I do? all the things I want to do but was too listless to do it day to day. a collection of moldy, moth-eaten, polyester pointed-collar clothes from the 70s. worthless.
as I walked home drunk, I was already conjuring up the exact sentences I wanted to type on my glowing keyboard. my brain began to predict what I wanted to say 20 minutes before I reached the ability to present my thoughts to the internet. I narrated my present for the future, but now I forget what was so great about it at the time.
I live a new life where drinking is the norm nearly every night. This happens because I befriended cute bartenders, japanese acquaintances, go clubbing, stay out all night, have access to cheap convenience store alcohol and live with a writer/ex-tokyo socialite who’s somewhat source of inspiration and socialization is whiskey. it’s also our part-time side job to get paid to drink. I have never drank so much in my life. I’m writing this drunk, although I feel of sound and mind (because I like to think I built up a tolerance) and have no idea when I have actually drank too much anymore until someone tells me the following day that I was really loud the previous night (excited, probably) and I discover mysterious bruises on body parts I don’t recall coming into contact with hard objects.
I’m here. I’ve been here for nearly two weeks now, yet I’m still out of order. Have you ever tried to explain to someone an incredible vague dream that was almost too hard to put into words? Over explaining one simple concept just still couldn’t portray what you saw or felt while you were having this dream? The type of dream where you say:
“Then my friend appeared. but it wasn’t my friend, I couldn’t see their face. actually, they looked like someone I’ve never met, but in the dream I knew it was my friend.”
Seoul is a familar stranger to me. In combination with the other types of dreams wherein you can’t speak or hear a communicable language back and forth, that is what Seoul has been like so far. the vertical signs, the dark haired masses and small shops feel like Japan, but something is different. oh, it’s a whole ‘nother country and culture! I can’t help but compare things without accepting them first, but I’m still new at this. isn’t that what people naturally do though? compare and contrast what they know and what they begin to learn? everything I know about Korea is through pop music, dramas and vengeance films.
a year ago today, I was in Tokyo. My life was great, although a challenge. I made my biggest dream come true of all time, I was living in Japan. Devin and I were only there a measly 6 weeks when the Sendai earthquake hit. we meant to stay at least 6 months. after the earthquake, explosions, tsunami, radiation, black-outs, food hoarding and general uncertainty, we had to leave the dream behind. a week later we left tokyo. 30 hours at the airport–the last place I ever wanted to be–and then back to Seattle.
I had a long list of things I wanted to accomplish while I was there. I barely knew Japanese, but was just thrilled to wake up everyday and just BE in JAPAN. It was a very difficult route to get to Japan in the first place. I didn’t have a job, and I couldn’t teach English without a university degree. I found out I was allergic to tatami mats and we didn’t have very much money to spend on things like “heat” and “food”. I had a hot water bottle to put in my futon at night to try to stay warm. I ate triangle rice balls every day from the convenience stores. I was poor, cold, with limited funds to ride the subway and hustlin er’ry day to try and find work. but as far as I was concerned, I was living the dream! I was the happiest girl on the planet, in my mind!
I have never felt connected to a huge disaster before, even when they happened to America. I’m not sure why, I have plenty of empathy to go around. I’m not even sure just by me being there the day of the 9.0 earthquake, connected me in a way, because it was on another level I felt so heartbroken over what happened. I felt like an outsider (which I literally was) but I felt there was nothing we could do but get out of the way, I suppose.
every day after the earthquake was hundreds of aftershocks. some over 6.0 more than once a day. It was an adventure, to say the least. I saw the infamous Shibuya Crossing look like a ghost town. no one was at the crossing and all the giant skyscraper video screens were turned off. I am pretty sure very few people will ever see it look like that in their lifetime. bizarro land.
I can’t believe it’s been a year. it’s always interesting to think where you were a year ago today. or 2, or 3. time and life is linear, but I’m rarely ever thinking of the present. I’m always being nostalgic or thinking of the possibilities of the future. I think things are going pretty well right now, but all I want in life is to get back to Japan!
Growing up in the Seattle area, I have had only 2 earthquake experiences. both went something along the lines of
“is this an earthquake?”
“it is confirmed an earthquake-what is the best thing to do?”
…earthquake over before your thought process can finish. 20 seconds, tops. the 8.9 (9.0?) earthquake that hit japan was nothing simple to describe, but I’ll do my best to tell you how that day personally unfolded.