Today, January 9th, is the anniversary of my departure date from the U.S. to live in Japan. It started as just a year of teaching, but last week I celebrated my fourth New Years holiday in Japan.
Obviously, I like living in Japan! My location is an important part of that. Tokyo is only 45 minutes away. My favorite hobbies are well represented, and I can't complain about the most convenient, frequent, and reliable transportation system in the world.
I still eat a lot of Western food, but my tastes have broadened over time. I've eaten sushi and sashimi, several local variations of ramen and other noodles, practically every snack and sweet Japan has to offer, and even tried fugu.
I've learned to read hiragana and katakana and I can identify about 100 kanji. I can speak and write a little too, but I would say I'm somewhere around "survival" level.
I've made lots of friends and acquaintances both at work and outside of the office.
I have done a lot of travel. I've been all over Japan, from top to bottom, and I've had several international trips, too. Japan is a beautiful country that is packed with sights I love: roller coasters, baseball, history, nature, and cities full of hidden neighborhoods.
My travel has changed, too. This started before coming to Japan, but ten years ago I ran from place to place taking pictures. Now, I try to explore more, experience more, and try more. I look for local cuisine to get a taste for the region. I'm still a tourist, but the itinerary is shorter, so there's more time to enjoy the places I visit. I keep notes of things to do when I return, because just seeing the tourist hot spots leaves me wanting more.
I've grown a lot as a person. I'm still a kid at heart, but the shy, socially awkward guy I was five years ago is now much more outgoing. Japanese politeness and respect has rubbed off on me. I'm still American, but to quote the song, I think I'm turning Japanese... somewhat.
I haven't found a girlfriend yet. I guess that part of me hasn't changed - I'm no good at talking about my feelings, especially with women. Maybe things will change this year... but don't hold your breath.
My grandma passed away last month. We had a very close relationship and the past few months have been hard. I'm thankful that I was able to see her in June, when I went back home for a couple weeks. Now that she is finally at peace, I'm feeling better. But those of you who have lost a very close family member know that it's not easy. I have had support here from my friends and coworkers.
I'm going back to San Francisco for a week for the memorial service. It will be a bit of a family reunion, too, as I'll see my cousins who I haven't seen in five to six years.
Year five is full of unknowns. I will remain in Japan. In fact, I should be getting a new apartment later this year. I'll be moving out of the triangle!
I want to return to Korea in the summer, but money will be tight due to the San Francisco trip. I'd also like to see the Sanriku Coast, Kyushu, and more of western Japan.
I'd like to pass the JLPT N5 test, which has been a goal of mine for a couple years now. Also, I hope I finally can stay serious about losing weight.
Let's see if I can stick to my plans and have a good, healthy year!