I first came here 18 years ago on a
schoolboy rugby tour, but I' be lying if I said that I'd wanted to come back here ever
since then, even though there are some things about that time which stayed in my mind for
a long time after. What did persuade me to come here was that about seven years ago I was
teaching in a high school in Melbourne and, to be honest, it got to a point where I'd had
a gut-full. It wasn't a bad job, but for some reason I just knew that it wasn't what I
wanted to do for the rest of my life. So I went to night school and studied Japanese
part-time and through that I got offered a place on a teaching exchange program-similar to
the JET program, same contract except I was called an AET-down in Sagamihara. And that's
basically how I came to be here.
I think that the most difficult thing about living in Japan is always having to temper
one's frustration over things like, and this is not intended as a criticism of the
Japanese people or the Japanese way of doing things, the inflexibility that you sometimes
encounter and how the pace of change is so slow. You know, if you show your frustration in
the way you would in your home country it's not going to get you anywhere; doors are just
going to close on you. I've seen so many people who come through Tokyo who really aren't
suited to this place, who just can't deal with the way of doing things here, but there's a
lot to be said for the "When in Rome" thing, for your own good.
I guess the other thing I find really hard is dealing with mates that leave-mates being
both male and female-because one of the things that struck me after living here for a
while was how few real friends I had at home and how many I'd made here. If I was to leave
Japan tomorrow, I'd say that there would be about twenty people who I've met over the last
few years who I'd do anything for, whereas back home there are probably only two or three.
And it's not that I was "Nigel-no-mates" back home, it's just the friendships
I've formed here are much stronger than those at home. And I don't necessarily think that
this is because we're all here and we're all foreigners because there are too many
different gaijin circles for that to be true. For me the friendships have come purely from
the bar that I go to and the fact that I play rugby.
Without a doubt, the best thing about living in Japan is Andy's Bar in Yurakucho-it's
been my second home and I have met so many people there and sorted out every aspect of my
life there, as have hundreds of other people. Andy is the most generous and interesting
person that I have ever met and I'm sure he knows it; I'm sure he knows how people feel
about him. As far as I'm concerned he's more of a legend than any other foreigner living
If there is one thing I want to achieve it is to be able to speak decent Japanese. That
may sound like a pretty boring ambition, especially when you look at these people who go
backpacking through Hokkaido in spring and things like that, but not being able to speak
decent Japanese is at times frustrating and annoying. As far as work goes, I'm quite happy
to stay here doing what I'm doing for the time being. It's not that I'm ambitionless, but
there's not anything that I'm longing to do at the moment. This is the kind of job that
I've always wanted to do, so in a way I've already achieved a major ambition.
My plans for the future? Well I've got a job review coming up in three months so I want
to get through that and then I think five years or so here and if I'm not able to climb
the corporate tree here, I'd like to go back to Melbourne. I'm definitely not a lifer,
that's for sure.
James Myers spoke with Richard James.
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