Life on JET

What I Realized After Leaving Japan

I really wanted to write about this on my blog sooner, but I needed a lot of time to process my million and one emotions. I’ve actually been starting and stopping this “Life After JET” post since September. I don’t think I’ll ever have it written exactly as I want it, but now that I’ve been back in Boston for over four months, it’s time to share the final chapter of my Awfully Big Adventure in Japan.

Leaving Amami

After Lesley and I did the sunrise Fuji climb, I flew back to Amami for one last weekend. It was Amami Matsuri (summer festival) and I really didn’t want to miss it. Especially because Ching forced me to but a yukata while we were in Kyoto (Hi Ching!) and I needed a good excuse to wear it before leaving Japan.

I guest blogged about the Amami Matsuri weekend over at Maranda’s Wind Through the Pine Trees blog. Maranda is a new ALT on Amami and she is lovely.

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They canceled the fireworks right after this because of a torrential downpour

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Spending one last weekend on Amami meant I got to see off Carson (our unicorn/fearless block leader/one of my favorite humans) at her airport goodbye Sunday morning, as well as my debate students at the ferry port Sunday night. They were headed off to the mainland for a practice debate tournament in Osaka. They made me a scrapbook of our year together and all the fun things we did in English club. I’m going to love it forever.

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Amami/Kikai ALTs at Carson’s airport goodbye

I left on Monday morning with a small crew of English teachers, friends, and even one student to see me off. It felt like just yesterday I was at the airport seeing off my predecessor and getting ready to start my journey as an ALT on Amami.

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My farewell crew outside the Amami airport

Confession: I cried harder saying goodbye to everyone on Amami than I did when I said goodbye to my parents and boyfriend on the morning I left for Japan (sorry mom.) I always knew I would be coming back home to America, but I won’t ever live on Amami as an ALT again. It was a different kind of goodbye.

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I’ll be back to visit, Amami!

My flight back to Boston wasn’t until Tuesday afternoon, so I spent Monday night in Tokyo with my good friend, Kazue.

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We stayed in an indoor camping facility near Asakusa!

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I finally got to try Hiroshima style Okonomiyaki on my last night in Tokyo!

Back to Boston

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I had to wait in line for over 4 hours to check in my luggage for my return flight…
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But at least I got consolation Pocky for the long wait?

So after 47 hours, 4 planes, three connections, and one Delta computer system failure later, I made my great return to Boston around 10 pm on Tuesday, August 9th. Japan felt like a fading dream at this point.

But my boyfriend was waiting for me at baggage claim with a mini Amami sugar candy because he figured I’d already be missing my Japanese home. It reminded me of all the kindness my teachers, friends, students, and people in the community had shown me my last few weeks on Amami. Did I lose it all over again? Yes.

I only had a week to rest and recover until my first day of work in Boston as a college and career advisor for skilled immigrants and refugees. I had started seriously looking online for jobs back in June, and I was offered this job on a WhatsApp call on the Fourth of July around 4 am Japan time!

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My office is about a 10 minute walk from the Boston Public Garden

Missing Japan
When people ask me “so how was Japan?” I’ve been saying that it was “magical.” I miss the banyan trees on the islands, free passion fruits from random obachan, the simplicity of life on an island, 500 yen yoga classes, singing karaoke until I lose my voice, my students’ laughter as it rings down the open hallways, and so much more. I even miss the things I used to complain about–like the guy who sold tofu early in the mornings and would whistle right outside my window and wake me up.

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The ways I miss Japan now mirrors how I missed New England my first few months away from home though. I longed for the changing leaves, long weekends with my family or friends, and whole wheat bread.

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But I got to see the fall colors this year!

What I realized
1) Gratitude is a beautiful thing. Whenever I’m wishing I stayed another year in Japan, I feel better when I focus on what I did rather than what I wish I had done. I’m just so grateful for the year I had on Amami Oshima. I said yes to everything (except for chicken sashimi) and did things I never imagined I would do (like scuba dive off of a coral island.) I couldn’t have asked for a better JET experience.

Photo cred goes to Yoda-San!

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Caught in between the East China Sea and the Pacific Ocean

I’m also grateful for my life now. I’m grateful to work in a field I am passionate about. I’m grateful for my family, my boyfriend, and my friends. And I have two small nieces and a nephew who finally know me as their auntie.

My mom sent this quote to me the week I was leaving Japan. It epitomizes exactly how I feel about moving back home, and I’m sure if you have a traveler’s heart, it will resonate with you too. Chances are you’ve read it before:

“You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of knowing and loving people in more than one place.”

5 thoughts on “What I Realized After Leaving Japan”

  1. Hi Becca, what a beautiful quote! And so true. I get that feeling every time I return home from holidays- especially Japan! I can only imagine how much harder it would have been after living there for a year. I think I’ve said it before but I’ve really, really enjoyed reading your blog! Glad you are settling back in at home- sounds like everything is working out for you :)

  2. Hi Chrissy! How are you? I really appreciate you reading my posts and taking the time to comment. It took a lot longer than expected to settle back in at home, but I am definitely on my way. :)

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