I met my wife, I learned a language… sort of, the birth of my daughter, the death of my father in law, the death of my mother… long distance, run ins with the law, run ins with the yakuza, run ins with Jehovah’s Witnesses, all night dance parties, learned how to dance… really well, wrote songs, took lots of pictures, developed community, made lifelong friends, changed my thinking, had my civil rights violated, felt violated, questioned who I was, changed who I am, survived an earthquake, worked on an archeological dig, some other unmentionables, had surgery, ate, drank and was merry, raised my daughter, worried, laughed, cried, walked the city. I worked as an actor. Giant chess boards and chain mail and whisky, Bulgari meets La Dolce Vita airport scene, conversations with Hitler, commercials with Jackie Chan, red carpet with Jon Bon Jovi. I was a doctor, zombie, woman, FBI agent, a coal miner, a photographer. I came back unrecognizable… to myself.
I wasn’t a tourist or even a visitor. I was a resident. I lived there. It becomes a subjective experience. It’s mine. I invested and ingested Tokyo. I began to realize I brought baggage I didn’t intend to and began to pick up some new baggage along the way. Identity issues. There is constant learning and becoming. It’s not like taking a class where learning is compartmentalized. I was in learning mode all the time, learning about self. Live there and it becomes your life. When you have to deal with your own issues a place becomes home. That may conjure up all sorts of gushy happy feelings of home cookin’ but take another look. There is some curdling milk in the fridge and dishes in the sink.
Less like wanderlust more like marriage. Visiting for one to two years? Fine, the honeymoon, its magic. After the honeymoon it gets critical, then balance comes, hopefully, and you are at peace with it. If nothing else it is real not romantic. It’s much like the difference between the patriotic feelings when singing the national anthem and going to war. Most people travel to get away, from it all, including themselves. Although place becomes a part of you by living there, you do become someone else through the experience, I know that it is not possible to get away from your self.
I cannot speak of living abroad in general terms or clever anecdotes or leisure like a travel book. It would seem academic, general, quaint but wrong for me to do so. I wasn’t a tourist or even a visitor. I lived there. I could give you the two cent tour but I lived there. I didn’t live in Tokyo. I lived in Suginami ward of Tokyo. Not only that, I lived in between Asagaya, a writer’s haven, and Koenji, the birthplace of punk in Tokyo and home to a hundred used clothing stores. It’s personal. Stuff happened there, to me. I lived there.