“The bizarre thing about me being in Japan is that I keep coming back here even though I associate it with a few unpleasant moments in my life. It was never Japan’s fault, but bad things kept happening back in Europe while I was here. 2015 was not a great year for me. More than 10 deaths in the family, friends of friends (and their relatives), and some people I went to high school with—all in one year! I couldn’t be there for them and I had to deal with it while in Japan, where people don’t really show their emotions outwardly and where I had few friends. I was like, ‘What the hell am I doing here?’ That’s why when people say their year abroad was the best year of their life, that there were no hiccups, I’m not sure I want to believe them. For me, my year abroad was more about seeing whether I could live here and not go insane.
“To balance things, I’ve always liked Japan for some reason, ever since I was a kid. I mean I can’t remember not liking Japan. There’s even a picture of me in a kimono when I was 3. Food played a big part; it’s one of the reasons I decided to study Japanese in the first place. I remember being jealous of a girl sitting next to me in a kaiten sushi restaurant (conveyor belt sushi place) when I came to Japan for the first time. She could order directly from the chef, including my favorite unagi (conger eel), which wasn’t on the conveyor belt. To this day, it doesn’t matter which part of the world I’m in, if it’s my birthday, I’m having Japanese food. It’s probably more than a minor obsession of mine. And at least now I can order properly.”
(Kirsty comes from the Netherlands and now works for a local magazine in Tokyo. She writes about places to go, things to try, and the people who make up this vibrant city.)