How I ended up in Kanazawa, Japan
I moved to Japan when I was 20 years old and (rather) madly in love with a lovely Irish man whom I had met a couple of months before in Krakow where I spent some time for a European Voluntary Service. He had always been fascinated by the Japanese culture and it was his dream to spend some time abroad in Japan. He got his chance with the “JET-Programme” (Japanese Exchange and Teaching Programme) and for me it was a certain thing that I would support him with his dream, because that’s exactly what I would expect from my own partner.
If there’s one thing about relationships I really try to live after it’s that you should never keep somebody away from their dreams, especially when it is at such an early age and for such an important dream. The question was not how to make him stay, but how to make this one-year-intercontinental relationship work out.
I wrapped my head about it and got a little creative about my university schedule. Instead of studying 3 semesters of mandatory Polish language at my home university I moved to Poland’s capital Warsaw for an intensive language course and an internship. Three months in Poland helped me gain enough ECTS (Credit Points) to go on vacation for the other half of the semester – off to Japan I went.
Unfortunately, my boyfriend and I figured quite quickly that it would not work out between the two of us which was mainly also fault of our different perceptions of Japan. He loved it and had no problem, even enjoyed, being assimilated into the Japanese culture which was for me just too heavy to take. Living in a society where only a few sakes (rice wine) would loosen my acquaintances’ mouth and have them speak semi-
freely about their culture, their fears and their dreams almost killed me. I never felt more miserable than in this lovely little city of Kanazawa where I was quite an attraction but felt like a zoo animal at the same time. The fact that discussions never happened (because an opposing opinion would be too offending) and that youngsters lived through their days knowing that they did everything wrong just made me very unhappy.
Besides, my boyfriend’s lads back home told him that he’d be crazy to live in Japan waiting for a crazy German feminist and missing out on all the willing Japanese chicks. Somehow they hooked him.
When we broke up, three weeks into my almost 4-months adventure without any particular savings (since I had planned to live with him the entire time), I surely wasn’t happy, but luckily had already built up a little network of people who helped me get over the first pain and find a hotel to sort myself out (If you ever happen to get to Kanazawa – it really is worth a trip – don’t miss out on “The Cottage”. The owners are the most lovely people!).
Next thing I did was to book a flight to Taiwan, and then to go to Okinawa. This actually was a Christmas present by my then-ex – but I discovered the island myself and then expanded the trip to stay with some hippie-friends I made. Craziest and nicest people on earth who came to visit me a year later in Taiwan. There’s surely not a better cure to a broken heart than roadtripping a sub-tropical island in January.
After my adventure on Okinawa I went next to Hong Kong where I found myself within a strange group of travellers, half of them stranded, because they wouldn’t get their visa or working permit for China. And then from Hong Kong I flew straight to
Taiwan again, because I had fallen in love with the place and was also lucky enough to meet a young women who allowed me to stay in her second apartment in New Taipei City – for free. People keep saying “this or that country has the best people in it”. I say, if you are a kind and nice person yourself you’ll never have trouble finding even nicer and more kind people all over the world.
A few more words about Japan
Out there in the world are many people who are almost obsessed with the Japanese culture. I had friends in high school studying Japanese to understand their Manga cartoons and sushi has made a big entry into every (bigger) European city. So, mentioning that I have “lived” in Japan (if only for 2.5 months), makes many eyes beam.
When I left Japan I was extremly happy, because – as I said before – living there was tough for me. I experienced an extremly inequal, oppressive and closed culture where it was impossible for me to integrate – especially in the short time I was there, on top of all not being able to speak Japanese. Maybe I hastily judged Japan, maybe I did not (because the view people I found to chat in my small town shared – with or without Sake – my opinion).
Still, I had visited Japan 3 months prior to my “big” arrival – it was summer time, I didn’t have to struggle in a freezig apartment without isolation nor central heating and I had the luxury of just being an observing tourist. It was great. I loved it. I loved the looks of Japan, and the crazyness and all the differences.
I walked around as if it was a dream and it was fantastic.
I didn’t think too much about Japan at that time. How there is no gender equality, but sexism everywhere, and how there are crazy working hours, and how the suicide rate is so high, and how history books are being changed in the interest of the current politics (trying to blur war crimes of Japanese troops in the past). I just looked at Japan as a country among many with fascinating looks, full of live and packed with history. And I would recommend everyone to go and visit this country. But I would also recommend everyone to consider twice when you’re planning to move.