Ever since I was nine years old I’ve had an interest in Japan and the Japanese culture.
It all stated when a Japanese teacher named Makoto came to stay with my family one fall. We drove fifteen minutes down to the local university in our SUV and attended an international style dinner complete with cultural song and dance and met our guest.
He was a young English teacher from Niigata Japan coming to America for a few weeks on a cultural exchange program. It was my first experience with someone from another country and something I would remember for the rest of my life. We took him to a football game, cooked BBQ with him and my dad took him golfing and he gave me kanji for my name, cooked us curry and taught me some origami.
We kept in touch for many years afterwards but I stopped writing when I entered college being too busy with school and other things. In my second year of college I enrolled in Japanese classes and studied for a year in Japan and after graduation worked for the Japanese Exchange and Teaching Program in Okinawa for two years where I taught English to elementary and middle school students in three schools on an island of 5000 people, many of them farmers.
Before going home I took a trip through Japan and got to travel through Niigata and meet Makoto again. He took me to meet his father, a stoic war veteran sitting in his underwear and his so and daughter and after a great dinner I spent the night at his house.
Encouraged by the success of one summers adventures in Kyushu I decided to hitchhike through America and into Mexico where I continued traveling by bus down to Argentina and Chile before flying home for my fathers wedding and then heading back out to Iceland and England from where I started traveling again, this time south to Morocco. Altogether I traveled for one year and nine months before taking the plane back to Japan.
I got a job relatively quickly at a backpackers hostel and slowly got re-acclimated to working life in Japan. In September I found a job working as an English teacher and moved into an apartment with my girlfriend. I’ve been lucky to have a great boss and helpful co workers at my job. But I’m always looking to expand my horizons. It takes me one hour to get to work and the schedule often has me working 12 nonconsecutive hours a day.