When I left Japan in 2008 I kept saying I would come back, do it all again, I wanted to come back by myself and find my place in the big city of Tokyo but I just couldn’t see it: living as a single women in Japan is a challenge, a nightmare.
Would I go back there now and settle? Probably. It’s different now, I have Robb and he gave me more confidence and showed me that I didn’t need as much as I thought to be happy. So I would go back but I wouldn’t live in such a big city, not like Tokyo where you loose track of time, of yourself.
Now a bit of background for those of you who might not know me: in 2008 I was studying International Business in France and was required to do a 3 month internship in a foreign country. Where most of my class chose European countries, I was one of the few who decided to go far, to set myself a challenge. So I looked far, got offered an internship for an architect in New-York that seemed alright but I’ve never been a big fan of the US. Then came the offer from a firm in Japan, Tokyo, named Value Miners. It was about banks, softwares, etc… but really all I thought was: “Japan… That sounds challenging! Hell yes!”
At that time all I knew about Japan was that they were hard working, that it would look good on my resumé and some stuff about animes like Evangelion. So when I took my flight there in May, even after reading many books about this country, I wasn’t ready for what was waiting for me at the airport.
It was another world, it was just so hard to explain. It started well, I got an appartment near the company, something simple, I had a Chinese colleague which made me feel like I had some kind of an ally, another foreigner in the company. I started to make friends, meet some expats, meet an amazing Japanese woman who would speak French perfectly and then time kept going and it all went wrong.
I offended more people than I thought I would by not doing what they expected, offended many men by not acting like I should have according to them. The night of my birthday I offended my Mexican host by hugging goodbye a Japanese friend and received a text telling me he didn’t want to hear about me again, bam, 5 friends down. Offended my direct superior somehow and had to find an appartment by myself, without being paid, in the space of a week-end, all that still for my birthday. It all went down a terrible path. And somehow I wasn’t so depressed about it. Was it because my family was supporting me? Was it maybe because I just didn’t get it and it all seemed so surreal? I just moved on, kept going. I kept my 2 friends nearby and kept living the fast life in Tokyo with 2 women that were probably as lonely as I was.
One day we went for a night out with a couple of French guys and that’s probably when I actually understood what the life of a single western woman in Japan looked like. Those guys used a strong French accent and that was it, they could easily go home with a beautiful young Japanese lady. But when it came to a Western woman, the attention wasn’t the same. The stare, the look, the smiles, they were all there, but that invisible barrier between us & those men was strong.
What was it that was stopping those guys to come and talk to my beautiful friend, her & her gorgeous figure, those amazing blue eyes? Fear.
No I am not joking. I have asked many times and never expected an honest answer until one day in a bar. That barman told me clearly: you, Western woman, you are scary. You have a temper, you live under different rules, it’s just too much. Of course… Japan!
Japan, a country with so many rules, why would love be different? Why wouldn’t it be ruled by obligations like the rest?
I am not saying that you, ladies, won’t meet your beautiful Japanese man like in your favourite drama, I am only saying that this man will probably be a bit different from the norm, won’t be your average Japanese guy, because this Mister Average will probably look at you and think “Introducing her to my parents… Living with her temper… Teaching her my language… And how will I live with the shame?”
Okay… I’m overdoing it but you get the point. So that was it, my life was about meeting Japanese guys that would not dare to ask me out, having a drinks with foreigners that will look at the beautiful Japanese girl passing by and jump on the occasion to ask her out and 50 year old men that would offer me to get married so I could get a visa, my option weren’t looking good!
But then, again, I was only there for a couple of months and it didn’t matter so much then. All I like to remember about Japan is the kindness of the locals, the beauty of the country and the amazing culture. I will remember the old man that tried to teach me a bit of Japanese every time I came back from work. I won’t forget the people that were trying to get a glimpse of me passing by every morning. I will definitively not forget the camera crew that tried to film me because I was a gaijing and that I had to avoid in the little street of Tsukishima. I keep a happy memory of Tokyo and Japan, of the cultural choc, the amazing food, the traditions.
But Japan is a lonely country.