Reflections on Tokyo and My Future

Walking through Den Den Town in Osaka last month, I reflected on a blog post I had read about the area. The author said she preferred Den Den Town to Akihabara because prices were lower, selection was the same (or better in some cases, she claimed), and crowds were lighter.
True, crowds were lighter. I found some things I hadn't seen before in Akihabara, but then again I wasn't really looking. Prices - well, they ended up the same when push comes to shove. But there's something the author forgot. Akihabara is huge, and not just by size. Actually, the land area that Akihabara and Den Den Town take up are probably about the same. Akihabara stores are built up, though. Go looking up a flight of stairs - go to the second, fourth, or even seventh floor, and there's a new store with a different selection.
Near Den Den Town is Tsutenkaku, the best place to find kushikatsu (a delicious fried food). But these days, there are plenty of kushiage (as it's named elsewhere in Japan) restaurants in Akihabara too. Not to mention Chicago and New York style pizza, curry, and more. Osaka has some baseball card stores but so does Tokyo - and a bigger selection. Osaka doesn't have amusement parks like Tokyo does.

And that's when I realized that there is no place on earth like Tokyo.
There's so much I love about being in Japan, and living in the Tokyo area. Tokyo is the big city. The transportation is ultra-convenient - trains run everywhere for about 20 hours a day. Each town in Tokyo has its own purpose and flavor and depending on my whims I can head somewhere else to spend the day exploring. Am I in the mood for baseball card hunting? I can take off to Takadanobaba, or Ikebukuro, or Nakano, or Akihabara. A bit of geekness? Nakano, Ikebukuro, or Akihabara. My favorite restaurants can be found in Kanda, Shibuya, Ryogoku, and Ameyoko or Akihabara (plus elsewhere). There are amusement parks nearby, plenty of gardens to stroll through, and great shopping, and almost half of the country's baseball teams reside in the metro area.

Tokyo isn't perfect. It certainly costs a lot to live here. My favorite amusement park in Japan is located near Nagoya. A lot of the foods I love are really expensive. Most of my stuff is in America. I live in a small apartment and sleep on a futon on the floor. 
After living in Japan for a year and a half, most of my sightseeing locations have been crossed off the list. Traveling around Japan and experiencing the country was my main reason for coming, and by the end of the year I will be able to safely say I've done enough (though hardly everything). I've managed to also see Taiwan and Korea, and I'm debating a trip around Southeast Asia for the New Year holiday. But with "aggressive" traveling for the rest of the year, I could theoretically be "done" with Japan.

But I've made friends here. And I feel more comfortable here than I do in America. I'm always the odd one here due to my appearance, but I think I'm more like the Japanese way of life: keeping to yourself, respecting others' privacy, and generally thinking more about the big picture (hive mentality) than being selfish. I think I would be happy living in Japan. 
But again, I think about my future here - I can't stay at my present job forever. I need a bigger salary and a better place. I have to decide how to handle all my stuff back at home. As a lifelong collector, there's a lot of it. What about my travel plans moving forward? If I had a wife (and kids?) my priorities would certainly change, but I'd really like to live in Europe and/or Australia for a while.

And what about coming back to America? This is something I've talked about with my mother a couple times. I don't know how I feel about living in the States again. For all that I love about America, there's too much crap happening every day. Stuff I experienced when I lived there. Right now, I feel more at home here than I did back in America (family and friends excluded of course). 
I still haven't decided what to do next year. Teach in Australia or Europe? Stay in Japan but find a job at an international school or university? Stay where I am for one more year? Or do I want to go back to America? The great question.

Random Japan Photos

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Random Japan, a set on Flickr.
It's been a while since I've posted, and I'm trying a different way of posting a group of photos, so I figure it's a perfect time to bring you a bunch of random photos I took around Japan. I don't know what this will look like until it posts, but I'll leave it up for you guys to enjoy (provided it works properly).

After viewing, I see that all the photo previews link to Flickr and there's a link to the set as well. There are 34 photos total, so clicking through to the set will let you see them all. What do you think of pictures being displayed this way? It seems good for showcasing an event or collection but not a series with commentary on each photo.

Until next time...