Students love to ask why. Why did you move to Japan? Why do you like Japan? Why did you become an English teacher? These are fantastic questions because they have such complex and wonderful answers. Although often the answer given is simple and short, this is simply because time doesn’t allow us to answer fully, to explain all of the reasons why. In writing however, time is measured in characters, and in the seemingly infinite universe of the internet we are free to take as many characters as we like. Here goes.
Why did you move to Japan? Students ask me this on a weekly basis, new students almost always ask me this, my neighbors and friends and random people I meet on the street ask me this as an icebreaker. An icebreaker? Why did you move to Japan is not a simple icebreaker-type question. How are you? What are you reading? Nice day isn’t it? Those are icebreakers. Why did you move to Japan? The simple answer I usually give is that my spouse is Japanese. This satisfies most people, but not me. Deep down I long to explain in detail the intricacies and the reasoning and the discussion that went into this decision, to leave my homeland and move halfway around the world to a foreign land about which I knew almost nothing and whose official language I spoke not a word of.
Of course my spouse being Japanese is the biggest factor as she represents exactly one half of our relationship. This means, however, that we have 2 choices of countries to live in and that we had to make a decision between them. How does one do this? How do we decide which of the 2 countries to live in? There are many different approaches to this problem, a problem faced by all international couples, and this decision is one which will affect years and years of your life. My family is in Canada, my wife’s family is in Japan. My friends, my high school, my childhood are all in Canada, whilst hers are in Japan. Whichever country we choose to live in will be a sacrifice on the part of one of us. Is this fair? Of course not, but couple make this decision every single day. To go back to the original question, Why Japan? I met my wife in university in Canada where she had studied for 4 years. Upon graduation we talked about our future and decided that it would be good for me to experience the life and culture or her country, as well as having the opportunity to get to know her family. I made a decision which is made by thousands of young graduates every year, I decided to go abroad for 1 year.
That was in 2006, and I am still here today. My mother hasn’t stopped asking me when I will come home, constantly reminding me that my original plan was to stay for only 1 year. During that first year my wife and I discussed our future and where we would live, and these are the reasons we came up with.
#1 We wanted to have children. We wanted our children to be multilingual and multicultural, specifically we wanted them to be able to speak both English and Japanese so that NO members of either of our families would be at a loss to communicate with them. We wanted our children to know that they had family on both sides of the ocean, family in both countries and with distinct cultures. This could be best achieved by living in Japan, where they have ample opportunities to learn both languages. English language education in Japanese is fantastic and easily accessible, and both of us speak English so it would be easier for us to teach our children English living in Japan than it would be to teach them Japanese living in Canada.
#2 I fit in in Japan. I literally fell in love with Japan the moment I arrived that cold mid-January day in 2007, and my love for this land and its people has grown every day since. Everyone in this world longs to fit in, to find a place where they are comfortable and can be themselves. For me, Japan was perfect. Don’t I miss my homeland? Sure, but I get to go back and visit from time to time, and sometimes my friends and family visit me here and bring a little bit of Canada with them. Also, I have ice hockey. Ice hockey in Japan you say? Yes indeed there is ice hockey in Japan, not 10 minutes from my door. I joined a team and play weekly. My teammates share their love of hockey with me every week and for this I am grateful. Despite being 7885 kilometers from home, I get to feel my country and my culture all around me here in Japan.
#3 I always wanted to be a teacher. Japan is a land of opportunity for teachers, and a land where teachers are hard in high regard. For me, this is the greatest place for a career teacher. Private opportunities, public school opportunities, higher education opportunities are all available to me, and in great numbers and variety. Nothing gives me more pleasure in life than helping students to achieve their goals, reach their full potential, and this land offers me just this. Nothing brings me more pleasure than watching my students become such great English speakers.
Even this more detailed explanation doesn’t truly do justice to the full answer, I could go on and on about how we made this decision and why I feel it was the right one for us. The reasons why are really key to understanding my life in Japan, and my love for this country. I hope this answers your question.