Published: November 11th 2006July 20th 2002
Nearly a year has passed, quicker than I ever imagined possible, and after a brief interlude at home I return to embark on a second year of adventures. The first year, it goes without saying, was a time of first; some could only have only happened in Japan, others were universal. I bought my first car, lived by myself for the first time, drank sake, had a full-time job, visited a leprosy village, celebrated New Year’s on the beach, conducted my errands in a foreign tongue, traveled by the fastest train in the world. It has been a quite successful year. I made friends, both Japanese and Americans, improved my spoken Japanese beyond my expectations, traveled to nearly a dozen major cities in Japan and beyond to South Korea and a memorable three weeks in Vietnam. That is not to say there weren’t difficulties. Living in a farming and fishing village of a couple thousand of people with close to zero English ability hours away from major cities as the only Westerner does take its toll. I never really experienced prolonged culture shock, but the loneliness is difficult to endure at times. My town shuts down for the night at 8 PM and I am usually left alone with my American videos and spaghetti dinner. A goal for next year is to learn how to cook better, something Japanese perhaps.
The year ends ironically with more stress than I have experienced up until this point on account of a change in Japanese law. The international driver’s license, which I obtained prior to coming to Japan officially expires on July 28. I was expecting to be able to renew said license when I go home next week. Unfortunately thanks to the Japanese government, renewal is no longer a possibility. Instead I am required to procure a genuine certified Japanese drivers license. Guess what that means? Yours truly has to take the driving test in Japan, probably multiple times because the authorities are notorious for failing people for the slightest infringement. Needless to say, I am not looking forward to that cultural experience but it awaits me nonetheless soon after I return from the States.