So I haven't written anything about Japan in some time (the country's name is in my blog title) so I wanted to write a sort of retrospective entry. It's been almost four years since I first came to Japan and a lot has changed in my life since then. Some great things, some not so great things. But most of all I've noticed both changes in how I deal with daily life in Japan vs. how I dealt with it when I first came here in 2009. Sometimes it's interesting to look back on yourself and see if it's in fact that you changed or is it the fact your environment has changed around you.
View of Myself
2009: 2009 Phil was quite a strange bird. I was anti-social, depressed a lot, and in general a pretty wishy-washy person. If I look back on myself then, I would probably not want to talk to this guy. I drank a lot then also, which I think contributed to my bizarre personality at times.
2013: 2013 Phil is a bit different. I have more friends in Japan now, but I'm still verging on anti-social. Most of my time I spend with my wife and I don't typically go out anywhere. I've long lamented not having many Japanese friends. I've thus become "that guy." The one that lives in Japan, doesn't know the language that much, and mostly relies on other people to take care of things for me. However, being that I'm aware of this makes me hopeful I can change. Every year is the year I'm going "break down and really study." I'm just too focused on other things though. We'll see how it pans out.
View of Japan
2009: 2009 Phil tended to look at Japan as this wonderful new adventure. People didn't know me here so it was a chance to re-invent myself. I did let myself down some in that I didn't re-invent myself in a good way. Again, I was "that guy." I think I viewed Japan back then as a country I'd never come close to understanding. The way some things work here surprised and baffled me at times. That comes with the territory of living in any new country though.
2013: 2013 Phil sees Japan in a whole new light. It's not a place to have adventures only. It's a place to live. It's my home. I don't travel as much as I used to, but I guess I don't feel I need to do that as much. I've seen lots of awesome places over the years living here. Now I've sunk into that "I live here" phase, where I take for granted that there are still so many things I could be doing more. Honestly, some days I don't even leave our apartment.
On the other side of the coin, I have a profound respect for the Japanese. After seeing the hardships endured after the Tohoku Earthquake, and how Japanese pulled together, it made me so happy to live here. I don't identify myself as Japanese, but I do strive to take the qualities I like (hardworking, polite, strong-willed) and apply them to myself.
View of the World
2009: 2009 Phil didn't know anything about the rest of the world besides what I watched on TV or read about. I still viewed the world as a scary and strange place that maybe a guy from Mississippi just couldn't handle. I remember after the rocket launch from North Korea that sailed over Japan, I panicked because I could never imagine how people could be so calm. I guess my life had been rather insulated until that point so I never had to worry about these kind of issues. Even back then, I viewed America as my one and only home and I was anxious to go back. I got in that lull of "nothing is familiar" and that caused me a lot of rough days.
2013: 2013 Phil is a bit different. It's strange, but since I've lived here a while, it almost feels like America is a foreign country to me now. I love America and it will always be my home, but I don't know, I feel increasingly distant to the way things work there. When I went home recently, I didn't experience any reverse-culture shock, but I did notice people in service roles were a lot more abrupt with me. I'm just not used to that now living in Japan. I'm not going to say all restaurants, bars, stations, etc. in Japan are all full of friendly people, but I'd say 99.9 percent of them are. It's just how it is.
With the threat of any kind of conflict with North Korea and the possibility of another rocket sailing over us, I can't say I'm as anxious as I was in 2009. These threats have happened so often that it's sad that if something actually does happen, no one is really going to expect it. I can't live in fear though. After dealing with radiation fears in 2011, I try not to let that consume my life anymore.
Overall, I try to enjoy my life here as much as I can. I'm not as adventurous as I once was, but that's due to me getting settled in. I still have so many things I want to do here and grow more and more. I still see Japan as my second home and will continue do so even if I leave one day.