Hello, Japan, My Old Friend

Three months ago, I returned to Japan. It’s been six years since I was last in the country and 10 years since I first arrived. 10 years! A whole-ass decade. Time really does fly. Was I having fun, though? That’s debatable.

I learned a lot living in New York, that’s for sure. The city is everything everyone always makes it out to be: exciting, inspiring, stimulating. But it’s also exhausting. You constantly have to be on your toes, both literally and metaphorically. You’re also competing with millions of other people: for work, for housing, for space. And on the bad days, it gets hard to justify spending so much money just to exist in a place. Especially one that’s dirty, smelly, and overrun with rats. Until you make it, of course. Then you get to experience the glamorous side of NYC. But is the race to the top worth it? Only you can decide.

Six years and one pandemic later, I resolved to get off the hamster wheel. New York would always be there, I mused, but I wouldn’t necessarily if I stayed. The hustle will suck the life right of you, if you let it. And I was already a shell of my former self. 

So where to next? I had no idea.

On a particularly bad day, I was scrolling away to distract myself and suddenly an ad for the JET Program popped up. A strong wave of nostalgia hit me and I smiled as the memories came crashing in. I began thinking about all the good times that that Simone had had. What would she think of where we were now? 

Wouldn’t it be funny, I thought, if I applied again and got in. A decade later, exactly. Representing the second country of my dual nationality. It was as if the universe was speaking directly to me at that moment. And as unhinged as it all sounded, something in me told me to listen.

Anyone who knows anything about the JET program knows how long and tedious the selection process is. It’s also notoriously competitive with an acceptance rate of just 25%. And having already been lucky enough to participate once, I didn’t think my chances of getting in were very high. Still, I didn’t have much to lose. So, I went ahead and downloaded the forms.

Four months later, I got an email. “Congratulations!” read the first line. And four months after that, I was on a plane to Tokyo. 

And now, as I write this from my new home in Yamaguchi prefecture, it’s been almost a year since I submitted my application. And I still can’t quite believe that I’m back in Japan. Everything feels so familiar and yet so strange all at once. 

I don’t know exactly where the adventure will take me this time, but I do know that I’m excited to be sharing it with all of you again. 


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