To Stay or Not To Stay

Trip Start Jul 25, 2009
Trip End Mar 29, 2015

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Flag of Japan  , Aichi,
Sunday, January 24, 2010

So the question of whether to stay in Japan for another year or not, and where, has been on the forefront of my personal dilemmas over the past couple months. I never thought it would be such a difficult decision. Before coming to Japan, I envisioned for myself a good three years without hesitation. I saw myself falling in love with the Inaka (which I did), and with Japanese culture (which I did), but I never thought there would be so many options and opportunities that would come up that would tug me this way and that. Life and culture in the city, or the quiet, friendly and everyone-knows-everyone down-to-earth country lifestyle? Music, girls, and all the conveniences of the metropolis, or the homegrown, home-made dishes and festivals that make up the days and weeks of the rural...

It was a tough call to make, since I've made some great friends out here, have a great job that doesn't demand too much of me and can be equally rewarding at the same time (you get how much you put into it), and I'm just 'settled' in.

The other half of it, the young, energetic, throbbing part of me that always seeks change and challenge, has been screaming out to just 'get out'. Move to a city, even if you take a huge pay-cut, or can't find a job or a place to live at first. Heck, I'd survive. Maybe some would criticize, but I think most would admire the accomplishment itself.

I've been driving around the mountains here recently, asking myself the two major questions that oppose me. At their most simplified state, they are:
1) Do I want to stay another year in Japan; and
2) If so, what kind of life do I want to live?

The answer to the first was simple for me: I've put too much time studying the language, too much into the friendships I've made, and too many sacrifices to just walk away now. I know I can come back, but it would be under very different circumstances. YES. I still want to travel around Asia, which from Japan makes it a very easy task. This has been a major selling point for me.

The answer to the second has been and is more complicated that I thought. Before coming to Japan, I thought I would be very content with my position out here. And in almost every way, I am. Except, that I've succeeded too well in adapting. It's not a challenge for me anymore. Chopsticks: Mastered.
Language Study: It's coming along nicely.
Friendships: I've made friends that can only speak a few words of English; it's as much their efforts as it is mine, but I've bridged that gap.
Cooking: Regular routine of new recipes. Mostly Japanese, but I've discovered that I love cooking, and aside from the mess I make, I'm pretty good at it.
The Job: Although most jobs become routine in time, the teachers and students here are very gracious and grateful to reciprocate the efforts I put into teaching, and to do their best to improve. It's a great job, but lately thoughts on which career would be most ideal for me based on my talents and passions have sort of shaken the direction I want to take.

I want to become a musician and writer.

Easier said than done, but I've decided to sort of gear my future, time and plans around this endeavor. The problem with living out here is this: there are very few opportunities for me to play live to an audience, push my music for exposure, and discover new opportunities for gigging, forming a band, etc. The people have been really supportive and have included me in their festival performances, which have been great. I have more fans in Japan than I do everywhere else in Canada! But to perform a gig outside of the country here takes me about 2-3 hours to get there. I don't know how my Canadian pal, Andrew Scott, managed to do it from the neighboring town--almost every weekend. Amazing, really.

So, here I am faced with a vocational conflict. But there is one more thing that has tipped the scales: the beauty of this place.

I constantly find inspiration for new poems, music, and living just by driving around here, breathing in the mountain air. The people seem a reflection of this country lifestyle: they are hard, showing the signs of years on their faces like the river-wrinkles between mountains; they are free and natural, expressing their opinions openly and allowing friendships and good times to come into their lives; they are farmers, they are teachers, they are hunters, and they are family people.

I was hanging out by Toyone Dam today, which is just a breathtaking view, and I remembered some of these views from the camera lense of a Youtube video, watching them before I ventured into the depths of rural Japan. I compared my situation then to now, and I couldn't help but smile. I had so much I expected from Japan, yet I was never disappointed. The only disappointment, I think, is that I feel the need to move on as quickly as I do, which has nothing to do with Japan, its culture and its people at all. But rather, I guess a 'calling', if you will. Japan, like Ottawa, would be a great place to live a comfortable and easy life (if you can avoid giving in to working overtime!). But for the young minded and naive explorer, the attraction lies in new challenges, new cultures, and what might be over the next mountain ridge.

From all this, I'm sure it sounds like I will be leaving. But I don't think I will. Instead of swimming in the deep and swirling waters of possibilities, I'd decided to give myself a year to sort them out. Music will have to wait (at least in the conventional sense; I plan to do a ton of recording and editing out here); writing will have to gain form; and direction will have to gain clarity.

From this spot, with this job, I will have a world of chances to travel to various places in Asia, while enjoying the hospitality and unique experiences that Japan offers. I've looked around for other jobs, and although some seem very promising, I have enough reason to keep this job here, and happily.

I apologize for those at home who are missing me. I assure you that I'm missing you all too, but I also promise that I will return home soon, and safely, and with plenty of stories to share about a world so different from our own yet so familiar. I hope you too will be inspired to follow your dreams.

Enough cheesyness, I'm out.
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