Today is the third year anniversary of the day I came to Japan, though it’s hardly a time to be celebrating. I’m surprised to hear the discussion among other expatriates regarding whether or not they will leave the country. I am equally boggled to have friends and family at home ask me if I won’t do the same. I can vaguely understand their impulse – here there is disaster upon disaster, earthquakes and tsunami and nuclear meltdown and radiation, shortages of food and gasoline and electricity. Wouldn’t it be more comfortable to be back in Seattle, where I know the language and expect the acts of nature?
But I can’t comprehend moving to a country that I would then easily be able to take myself away from. I’m not saying that I would never leave Japan under certain circumstances – but these are hardly that. Leaving now would be, as they say, “a permanent solution to a temporary problem.” (I’m not saying I wouldn’t leave even if I were paid – but I would have to be paid a great deal.)
The majority of Japanese people – the ones who are in the same circumstances as me, as well as the ones who are much worse off – can’t just leave the country, so why should I? Not that I’m anywhere at the level of a native citizen – I don’t think that highly of myself. I know that I am forever a foreigner here, and I am fine with that. But it wouldn’t be fair – it would almost be cowardly, to skip out like that. If I have taken everything beautiful from the country that I have, if I have hope of taking more in the future, I have to be prepared to suffer with it as well, to give something back.
For this to happen right at the end of my first three years – I know it’s tempting fate but I can’t imagine anything much worse happening in the rest of the time I have to live here. Everyone who felt this earthquake has said that they’ve never felt anything like it – I would guess that the next time it happens won’t be for a long time yet. Japan is not getting rid of me this easily. Even if it doesn’t want me, I am here. Three years, age twenty-five, and here’s to three times that more.