Jun 29

Why Japan?


I’m back on track today after finalizing two days of negotiations on the sale of our property. Selling property is right up there in the Top 3 on the stress scale.

My last blog gave you an overview of why I wrote a kid’s book. You might now be wondering how I came to live and work in Japan. The idea came early in 1994, hatched out over a bottle of wine. Let us count the many ways that wine figures into all great decisions!

I was living and working in Victoria, B.C. as on-site manager for a retirement hotel. A few months prior to that job ending, I had what I now call my first “Japan encounter”.  A government official came to visit our residence hoping to learn more about retirement options for seniors in other countries. Japan’s population was edging towards 25% over the age of 65.  With children moving to the large cities, parents were often unable to move with them due to the extremely small apartments.  For the first time in its history, Japan was seeking alternatives for this “abandoned” population (their word, not mine!).  The second encounter was meeting a woman who’d just come back from a year in Tokyo.  The last encounter was with a couple who lived part-time in Japan and Canada.  I became friends with them and over time they convinced me to come live and work in Japan. They assured me I’d have no problem finding work and they would arrange for a homestay until I felt comfortable to go out on my own.  I took the three Japan encounters as confirmation that this was the path I was to take.

Once my job ended, I started attacking my “to do list”; sell the house, have a giant garage sale, and decide when to leave for Japan. I couldn’t make the departure decision until I’d sold the house so I waited.  Not much interest and no offers.  I was getting nervous.  After the listing expired, I put out my own For Sale sign thinking I’d give it a try.  September flew by.  On October 1st I was beginning to wonder if this would happen.  I wanted to leave in November which is one of the best seasons in Japan.  I decided to take the plunge and made my plane reservation, departing November 14th. Two days later the doorbell rang.  I opened it to find a nice looking couple on the doorstep.  They’d just moored their sailboat after several months on the water and were interested in buying a home in the area.  They asked if they could look at the house!  Days later the house was sold.  I hosted a huge garage sale which provided me with some needed cash.  I gave my daughter custody of my art.  My last night at the house, empty with the exception of an air bed and some candles, was full of nostalgia. I loved that house and was feeling sad to leave it.  But my excitement was palpable. Was I nervous? You bet. But I was 50 and felt that if I didn’t embrace this opportunity to travel and live in another country I never would.  Even though I didn’t speak, read, or understand the language, I felt confident that I’d get by somehow.  I let out an audible sigh, wondering if I’d get any sleep that night.

Sitting in the gate lounge I glanced up, looking at a large mirror. I spotted myself in a sea of Japanese faces. It was quite surreal. Just then my name was called on the loud speaker. I walked to the desk. The agent told me that they’d overbooked economy and would I mind being upgraded to business class? Mind? Are you kidding? Pre-boarding was called. Irasshai-mase (welcome) chirped the Japanese flight attendants. I nodded politely, found my comfortable seat and settled in, noticing that there were only a handful of others in the cabin. I ordered a much needed double gin and tonic to prepare for a 10 hour flight to Nagoya, with a 17 hour time difference. I remember sleeping for a short time, drinking more gin, eating tasty meals, and watching a movie. Then the announcement came. “Ladies and gentleman, we are approaching the Nagoya airport; prepare for landing.” I raised my window shade and looked down. I could see Japanese letters written on top of buildings. I took a deep breath. I was here. This was real. I gathered my belongings and was first off the plane. My friends were waiting for me. I smiled broadly at the cabin attendants. They bowed and thanked me profusely for honouring them with my presence. I’m going to get along just fine here, I thought.





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