When you think of Japan, what do you think of? It's probably a mess of things: anime cartoons with gigantic eyes, robot technology just shorting of a flying car, cherry blossoms, and Godzilla are just a few, am I right? Huge technology, big cities, fast trains, and men in suits.
What you're thinking of is Tokyo, but as friends have commented, thinking of Tokyo when you think of Japan is like thinking of Times Square when you think of the USA. It's such a small, although visible, chunk of the country that seems to serve to give a distorted impression of the country.
What I'd like to introduce you to is the Japan I am getting acquainted with.
This Japan has mountains covered in dark green forests extending up to meet the sky.
This Japan has old temples made of stone and graveyards that have aging flower on the thin tombstones.
This Japan has no wireless internet.
This Japan has the smell of the ocean when you step out of your apartment.
This Japan air-dried laundry, and barbershops with red and white rotating barber poles.
This Japan has no subway beneath the streets.
This Japan has no Apple stores and one Starbuck's.
This Japan has large orange crabs scuttling in the middle of the street.
This Japan bugs the size of your hand.
This Japan is rural, slightly wild, and beautiful. It has jellyfish stuck in the sand on the beach awaiting the tide coming back in. It has gas stoves and no oven. It has old ladies who will stare at your tattoo and get amazed at the bold American.
But it is also beautiful. As I told a friend the other day, while Shimonoseki is huge, it still feels like a small town. I feel like I am living in Oxford again to some extent - I can and have to walk everywhere, up and down sidewalks and hills, past fields and through tunnels. I shop at the dollar stores, and feel the burn in my arms when I walk the twenty minutes from the grocery store to my house with two plastic bags of foodstuffs. I have the confusion of figuring out the bus system and knowing that I will get lost at some point. But I also have the feeling of safety, of security, of this being my home now.
Japan is not nearly as efficient, technological and "advanced" as most people think that it is. Where I live is much more akin to South Dakota than to NYC - it is a conservative area, very resistant to change, and very family oriented. It has taken the rural and made it a part of the city, something I am well at home with. It has maintained traditions, both good and bad, and its people are friendly and forgiving of errors.
And for the next two years, it is my home. It's hard to believe this is my fourth week here already. I've settled into a routine of teaching, grading and cooking my own food. I'm learning how to get around, and I've made a few friends. My alien registration has come through and I'm officially a foreign resident. I'm planning vacations, setting up student loan repayments and bank accounts, and making a life for myself.
Never in a million years did I picture myself here, but now that I am, it's good to be home.