Convergence Factor: Micro

Somewhere in Japan, Dispatch № 112: Documenting Silence

It is a privilege to stand in darkened places with a camera, nothing to do but remain still and wait, taking in your surroundings while light trickles in and accumulates on film. And here, tonight, it also feels like a responsibility. Soon, I won’t be able to stand here, first because it will be walled off, and then, just a little while later, it will no longer exist.

This area is around eighteen thousand square meters, contains about sixty buildings, and used to house a great number of local businesses. It is about to be leveled so developers can do what developers do. Down the center of it runs a narrow road lined with tea shops, doctors’ offices, beauty salons, and small restaurants. To the west, a photo studio, parking garage, bank, and greengrocer. To the east, an old entertainment area filled with bars, restaurants, and a pachinko parlor. Even the eight-floor office building at the corner closest to the station will get the axe.

Which is why, every night after work this week, and until I can no longer access it, I am photographing what is on the verge of disappearing.

All of this is done with a camera on a tripod. Doing night work in this way requires making long exposures—often at least two minutes and sometimes twenty minutes or more—and during those long exposures, I just stand near my tripod and wait.

You might expect it to be boring, but it isn’t. Rather, it’s a pleasant activity. It’s time in which I can just exist and observe, and doing the work that I’m doing now, that means making note of the details of a place that soon will cease to exist. I don’t know what they will build here, only that it will be different, and that I want to see what I can see here while I still can.

It isn’t just the businesses and buildings that are going away—it’s also the evidence of decades of human activity and experience worn into every surface. It fills the cracks in the asphalt and the narrow spaces between buildings, traces the branching ivy up the walls, and forms a dusty film on all the windows that will no longer radiate a warm glow late into the evening.

Some businesses from the area relocated and can continue their stories elsewhere, but some couldn’t manage the move and called it quits. Almost every building is empty now, almost every tenant having vacated in the last few weeks. A couple are hanging on until the very end, for just a handful more days, but otherwise it is all but completely deserted now.

This area has always been quiet at certain times of day, but now, at nine o’clock on a Friday night, when it would usually would be bustling, there is a hush over everything, a sonic vacuum that indicates not just a lack of activity, but a lack of people to be active.

My last outings to document this area are tinged with sadness. All the same, though, I’m happy to have a good excuse to spend some evenings making images in the way I love most, so that I can commit to memory this final silence.

And though these familiar streets will only know my presence a few more times, I will long remember that they were here, and will have the pictures to show for my efforts.

I am currently working on another post on this demolition and redevelopment that will be the first in a series on the topic for the project A Thousand Meter Radius. This will feature some of the photos I’m making on these outings, plus some others that I made during daylight hours. If you are subscribed to the newsletter or follow the site in your RSS aggregator, you will be notified automatically when it is published.

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Somewhere in Japan, Dispatch № 111: Local Evolution

In a recent ranking1 of the most popular places to live in the Tokyo area, only two of the top five are actually in Tokyo itself. One is in Kanagawa, to the south, and two are on the north side in Saitama City. One of those is Urawa, where I live, and while I certainly understand its popularity, it comes at a cost.

As demand for housing continues to rise, more and more houses and other buildings are being razed and the land redeveloped. The speed with which this is happening is accelerating. Urawa is already markedly different from when I moved here four and a half years ago. Tall residential buildings have sprung up all over, towering over neighborhoods that were previously only normal single-family houses and low-rise apartments.

What’s more, when houses are torn down, the trend now is to put up four or five new houses where only one stood before. Tall and narrow, they have a small footprint and a half-sized ground floor, owing to a parking spot under the house. They have hardly any space between them, occupying their plots almost completely.

It’s not that apartment towers and densely packed houses are inherently bad. They serve a purpose, and they wouldn’t be going up at such a high rate if there weren’t a strong demand for them (though much of that apparent demand may stem from the fact that builders find them to be a good source of profit). The difficulty is that, as these changes occur, they fundamentally alter the character of the area. And it’s not just because of of increased population density or the related additional strain put on municipal services.

No, it’s things like trees, and that they’re disappearing rapidly with new construction. When people have gardens, they often have trees. But when you’re in a condo or one of these narrow houses, potted plants are about the best you can do. Regardless of other changes, due to new construction alone, there are noticeably fewer trees in much of the city now than there were just three or four years ago. This is just one example, and not one I take lightly, given the importance of trees in urban areas.

Another example is the loss of more interesting styles of residential architecture indicative of times past. Houses only tend to last around thirty years here, anyway, so losing them isn’t entirely new. What is fairly new to the area, though, is that the new houses are largely of a consistent, extraordinarily dull style, with small windows and neutral-color cladding that’s meant to resemble tile. Some companies have a bad reputation, too, of building such houses hastily and poorly on spec, then using high-pressure sales methods to get them sold to people who might be better served by other options.

But I get it—people want houses of their own. I just wish it wasn’t taking the form of what amounts to disposable houses built in a style that I suspect few of their occupants would choose of their own accord, were other good options readily available.

And I know that most people moving to Saitama City aren’t coming because of the local charm (though they may certainly like the place). They’re coming because it’s an easy commute into Tokyo, the schools are good, the area has everything you need, and buying a condo or building a house is more accessible here than it is in much of Tokyo.

Relatively speaking, at least. It’s still not remotely cheap, and housing is getting more expensive all the time around here, for buyers and renters alike. It just happens to be a bit less ridiculous than other places. Property values, especially within a fifteen-minute walk of the station, are climbing to eye-watering levels.

I live about twelve minutes from the station, and I can think of at least a dozen nearby houses and other structures that have been demolished within the last few months. Most recently, the house of the elderly couple just across the street.

Which is precisely why I’m starting to worry about the future of my own home. Our landlords are old, as is our apartment, and it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if they were to sell the property to a developer. This would force us to find somewhere else to live, and with the way rents are increasing, it wouldn’t be an easy task if we wanted to remain in the same area. Not without paying significantly more, at least.

Though I dislike much of what’s happening to this place I love, it’s not all bad, and I’m trying to keep some of the benefits in mind. With all the new people joining the local community, for example, who knows what interesting individuals I might meet. Potential friends, clients, students, and others. A thriving local community also means greater opportunity for business success. The local economy is growing steadily, and there is ample opportunity to profit from it. My ticket out of teaching English may even come as a direct result of being where I happen to be and engaging with the people and their needs.

Still, I can’t feel good about some of the ways things are changing. I’m glad people want to live here—I think it’s a great place to be. I just hope we don’t lose too much of what has made this city such an enjoyable place to live. It’s not just a bedroom community, some unexceptional appendage of Tokyo filled with commuters and their families. No, it’s a place with great value of its own. Change is inevitable, of course, I just hope that whatever it’s evolving into is, overall, a better version of itself. Time will tell.

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Somewhere in Japan, Dispatch № 110: Blossoms

Though the calendar still reads February, we already seem to be emerging from a winter that failed to fully arrive. It snowed once or twice, never sticking much at all and melting within a few hours. And now, as buds are swelling and early blossoms are bursting forth, the bare trees of winter are poised to once again launch themselves into the ecstatic verdancy of spring.

Just after writing that first paragraph, I went out for a walk on my lunch break. While looking for plum blossoms to photograph, I began to receive news alerts on my phone. War.

I went to bed worried, and woke after a fitful sleep to see videos of explosions, airstrikes, and protests.

The pursuit of plum blossoms now feels trite. Frivolous. Unjustifiable.

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Somewhere in Japan, Dispatch № 109: Birds and Boars

Before I could consciously name it, I knew the woodpecker was there, tapping away on a high branch, several trees away and up the hill next to the trail. It was not loud, and you could easily have lost it among the other sounds of the forest if you weren’t paying attention.

It was about the size of a robin, but far away and back-lit, so I couldn’t make out the colors. I thought about my grandfather and his favorite bird, the pileated woodpecker, a bird with a seventy-five centimeter wingspan and a shock of crimson feathers atop its head.

When you grow up spending a lot of time out in the forest, you learn to interpret its languages. The sound of rustling leaves isn’t just rustling leaves, for example. Spend enough time in the woods and you develop a sense of whether it’s a bird or a deer or even a snake, and it happens before you can even turn your head to see.

Though the forests of Japan differ from those of my childhood, the old sensitivities remain highly valuable. When we go hiking, sometimes it’s hard to go with any speed down the trail because I can’t keep myself from noticing and pointing out every insect, frog, snake, and spider I see. And in the warmer months, at least, animals are everywhere.

In the winter, the forest is a much quieter place, but still full of life if you know where to look. When we went to wander around Hanno last Saturday, we mostly saw small birds, but also saw evidence of of small mammals and, in one area, wild boars had torn up a great deal of ground. Later, in a shallow river, an egret walked slowly, striking at intervals with its bill to catch small silver fish. Under the eves of a Buddhist temple, giant hornet1 nests hung pendulously, thankfully quiet in this season.

Spring isn’t far away now, and I look forward to the explosion of new life that will come in a matter of weeks, but am glad to have spent those quiet hours in the forest. Much is dormant in the winter, but not everything, and it’s always worth seeing what there is to see, appreciating what there is to appreciate, perhaps especially when there doesn’t seem to be much.

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  1. In recent years, it has become popular to call the Asian giant hornet “murder hornets,” but I will not do so, not now or ever. Even as an invasive species, I really don’t think we need to be popularizing any language that instills fear of the natural world. ↩︎

Somewhere in Japan, Dispatch № 108: Precarity

Please forgive the delay, and please allow me a bit of a complaint this week. I am tired and frustrated. I promise to have a positive post next time around.

Again, I have found myself in a malaise brought on by the pandemic and its ability to eliminate my work, endangering my ability to get by.

The last two years have made it abundantly clear that people in certain jobs are in a more precarious position than I think we often let ourselves realize. Besides being low-status and low-wage, life as English teacher is also one lived without a safety net. Employers regularly cut benefits and reduce pay to the greatest extent that they can get away with, then have the temerity to insist contractually that you not have any outside work.

Fortunately, some teachers they the option of teaching remotely. This has saved many people. Unfortunately, I do not have that option because I don’t work at an English school, exactly, at least not in the way that you’re probably imagining. Really, I am a childcare worker, taking care of fifty-plus kids every day, between when they finish school and when their parents finish work.

There is simply no way to do this job remotely, so when the school closes (as it did last week) because of infections in the student body, we cannot work and are not paid. When this happens, the mind goes to other possible income streams that may help make up the difference, other income streams that are prohibited by your contract but necessary to your ongoing survival.

You admonish yourself for having neglected them until you needed them and wonder why you have also for so long put up with a job in which you are forever making up for the incompetence of others and the broad failures of an industry that has no respect for you.

Of course, these last couple of years have been difficult for almost everyone. I get that. And I accept that I’m the one who took this job and am therefore complicit in creating these conditions. It’s a job (and line of work) I intend to leave as soon as it becomes possible to do so. But in the meantime, things are precarious and it’s exhausting.

Occasionally, I’ll hear from someone who wants to come teach English in Japan. And while it certainly can be an enjoyable and enriching thing to do, the precarity revealed by the pandemic and the decades-long slide into worse and worse compensation and conditions make it a hard thing for me to recommend to anyone.

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Somewhere in Japan, Dispatch № 107: Same Place, Different Day

Even when the weather is bad, I go out to wander and make pictures for thirty or forty minutes. Every working day, this is my lunchtime habit, a recursive practice that is exercise for both my body and my mind.

Because the available time is so limited, I can’t get very far from my school, and end up revisiting the same places many times. This makes it a challenge to uncover new details and to find new insights into the already familiar.

Creatively, this is good because it forces you to be more attentive and doesn’t let you get away with just making the obvious compositions. It forces you to work harder, to look closer, to be more aware of your surroundings, and to be more inventive in how you approach them.

It’s also good practice for life. We go home to the same place every day. Likely to the same office, too. We travel the same roads, shop at the same stores, repeat the same actions, day in and day out. But noticing less and less as you settle into the assumed mundanity of it all doesn’t mean it has to be that way, and it certainly doesn’t mean that there’s actually less to notice.

There is always something new to observe.

I practice this sort of engaged looking daily. Making pictures is part of how I choose to go about it, but that’s only one of many ways.

The important thing is in the doing, in the daily practice of paying attention and seeing what you can see. The more you do it, the more surprised you will be by just what there is to discover.

There is so much that’s been there all along, in plain sight, patiently waiting to be noticed. You just have to look for it.

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Somewhere in Japan, Dispatch № 106: Snow Bridge

The smell of snow has an inverse dimension to it, much like the sonic void that hums in your ears after a loud, prolonged noise suddenly ceases. The smell is also its taste, which I had forgotten. It came back to me suddenly from long before, delivered over the long wires of memory, when I remembered a moment snowshoeing in fresh, deep powder in a forest so quiet you could hear the collective whisper of snowflakes landing all around.

A heavy woolen mitten, encrusted with small beads of ice, carrying a loose handful of snow to my mouth to melt on my tongue and crunch strangely before melting back into ordinary water. And the taste of it, just like its smell, was as much absent as present, in a balancing act of being its own contradiction.

It’s more than ten thousand kilometers between Saitama City and where I lived in Ohio. And that memory was from a part of my life now far enough removed that it barely seems connected to my present. Instead, it belongs to a rail-thin teenager who isn’t sure what he wants to do in life, only that he loves writing, photography, natural science, and girls.

Decades have since passed, and I have settled in a different part of the world. Those interests remain largely the same, however, and the smell of snow, rarely encountered in this place, now acts as a bridge between present and past, between the man I am and the boy I once was.

A quick housekeeping note: in 2022, these shorter posts will be reduced to one per week, released on Tuesdays, and I’m aiming for fifty for the year. This is to allow me to focus more on quality than quantity with these, as well as to save more time and energy for the upcoming podcast, the new big project, expanding the site, and so-on. This is going to be a fun and challenging year.

Somewhere in Japan's main home on the web is at, where you can also sign up to receive these posts by email.

And if you like what I’m doing, please consider directly supporting this project for as little as $3/mo on Patreon. Click here to learn more.

After a short break from writing, I’ve made a new posting schedule for the short-form posts on my blog. Now once a week on Tuesdays, 50 for the year, to make space for the new project, which will appear in addition to these posts.

Somewhere in Japan

Somewhere in Japan, Dispatch № 105: A Perfect Day for Pounding Rice

Once again, I couldn’t find the place. This has happened every year for at least five years. My friend’s parents’ house is adjacent to a local elementary school, and I was by an elementary school, but the streets were all wrong.

For more than forty years, they have held a mochi party every December thirtieth. Glutinous rice is steamed on a wood stove and put into a huge mortar, where it is pounded with a heavy wooden hammer until it reaches a smooth, sticky consistency. People have drinks, pound mochi, eat mochi, and enjoy the late morning and early afternoon engaged in the sort of relaxed conversation that only seems to come after the year’s work has concluded.

And almost every year since moving to Japan, I have attended this party (though only after getting lost and having to ask for directions). This year, the difference was that I finally figured out the navigational problem: it turns out there are two elementary schools in the area, separated by a few hundred meters, and I had been using the wrong one as my guidepost.

Though I was sorry for arriving nearly an hour late, it was a beautiful morning, perfect for a meandering walk on quiet residential streets. The weather is, in fact, beautiful almost every year. My friend can only recall one time in all these years that it was ever rained out.

The scene was comfortingly familiar when I got there, though with fewer people than in past years. I said my initial hellos, gave the bottle of shochu I had brought to the hosts, and joined the party.

The air was cold and crisp, filled with the sounds of easy conversation and the rhythmic, sticky thuds of rice being pounded into mochi. Billows of steam and wood smoke mixed together and rose toward the unblemished azure sky.

NB: I was too relaxed and didn't do a very good job of documenting things (and honestly never planned to), but next year intend to do it properly, so look for that on the blog in a year.

And that's a wrap for 2021! Thank you so very much for joining me on this first, year-long writing project. To date, I have published more than 46,000 words, and it’s really only the beginning. In 2022, the podcast version of this year’s posts will launch, the Dispatches will continue (though at a lower frequency), and a whole new project will launch for 2022 and 2023. Expect an announcement in early January.

Somewhere in Japan's main home on the web is at, where you can also sign up to receive these posts by email.

And if you like what I’m doing, please consider directly supporting this project for as little as $3/mo on Patreon. The upcoming podcast version of Somewhere in Japan will be available to patrons before the general public, too. Click here to learn more.

Somewhere in Japan, Dispatch № 104: Possibility

Everything is going to work out. It’s gonna be fine. No, better than that—it’s gonna be great. This is what I think to myself, and for once, I actually believe it. And as these thoughts percolate, I am enjoying the view from the thirteenth floor of a very nice building in Tokyo’s Minato Ward. I am drinking champagne with a client in his home, ostensibly teaching English, and I can’t help but to chuckle to myself as I reflect on how, in certain ways, all of this seems so very unlikely.

Similarly unlikely is that, with less than a week left in the year, and with less than a week left for me in my thirties, I am feeling an uncharacteristic sense of hope and optimism—positive feelings I’m going to hold on to with everything I’ve got.

For some people, these seem to come naturally, while for others it’s more of a learned skill, and for others still it is distinctly a struggle. You can, however, learn to believe that things the things you want are themselves possible, even if you don’t feel that way at first. And to paraphrase Les Brown, before you can accomplish anything at all, step one is to believe it’s possible.

Getting married and having children. Quitting teaching English and doing creative work full time. Even just learning to hold space for my own happiness. These things have all felt impossible, so even getting to the point of truly believing in them as possible things in my life has been a struggle. But when you keep doing the work, you eventually make progress. It seems I’ve made some progress.

So, as I’m sitting here on the thirteenth floor, drinking champagne on Christmas Day in a situation that still seems quite improbable, I have to admit that much of my life is already pretty great and I’ve already come a long way. Lots of changes remain to be made, of course, but it’s getting there. I’m getting better, too, at remembering that, not only is the life I want possible, if I keep doing the work and I don’t give up, it will become more than possible—it will become probable.

Somewhere in Japan's main home on the web is at, where you can also sign up to receive these posts by email.

And if you like what I’m doing, please consider directly supporting this project for as little as $3/mo on Patreon. The upcoming podcast version of Somewhere in Japan will be available to patrons before the general public, too. Click here to learn more.

Somewhere in Japan, Dispatch № 103: Nothing for the Sake of Something

Walking in the shadows of tall apartment buildings two days after the solstice, the sun surprisingly low in the sky for the mid-afternoon. This is the second half of my lunch break, and I’m spending it walking on the narrow street behind my school. To my left runs a long row of houses. To my right is a chain-link fence, woven and fringed with weeds. Beyond it, a profusion of railroad tracks.

This is the only quiet time that I have between when I go to work and when I leave, and it is essential. After today, I have just three days more of work this year, Monday through Wednesday next week, after which I will have five days off. In those five days, I intend to do strikingly little.

In contemporary work culture, especially somewhere like Japan, it’s hard to take time off. And even if we can manage, it’s hard to put sufficient distance between ourselves and our work to actually relax, enough mental separation to truly rest and recover from the constant onslaught of stress and busyness. We feel guilty for not being productive. We feel like we should be doing something, mistakenly believing that resting itself is not a fruitful activity.

Often, we aren’t comfortable sitting back and doing nothing for a few days, even if it’s what we need more than anything else. We struggle to let go enough to genuinely disconnect. And maybe it feels like wasted time, but it isn’t. When we allow ourselves to take off the time that we need, and use that time to be quiet, be bored, be relaxed, and be kind to ourselves, we come back from it ready to be more productive, focused, and effective. Any theoretically lost productivity is more than made up for.

And so, between now and the five days off I have around New Year’s, I’m going to do my best to prepare, do my best stack the deck in the favor of rest, do my best to make it so that’s when I get to those days off, there is nothing left that I am actually required to do. I will do whatever I want, including doing specifically nothing at all.

Somewhere in Japan's main home on the web is at, where you can also sign up to receive these posts by email.

And if you like what I’m doing, please consider directly supporting this project for as little as $3/mo on Patreon. The upcoming podcast version of Somewhere in Japan will be available to patrons before the general public, too. Click here to learn more.

Somewhere in Japan, Dispatch № 102: You’re Doing Me a Favor

Now on their way to an acquaintance in Tokyo: a fountain pen and three bottles of ink, all packed carefully into a well-padded box. On top, a red shipping label used when sending a package chakubarai. When you do, the recipient pays the postage upon receipt. This extremely convenient service, provided by Japan Post, is instrumental in one part of my current efforts to downsize: giving things away.

While I don’t actually have a crazy number of possessions, and in fact have much less now than I had back in the USA, it’s still more than I want. Japanese apartments tend to be small, and mine is no exception. The cozy quarters are very livable, but they’re also very good at making it clear when you have accumulated more things than is ideal.

Some things, like stacks of old notes, will be examined, transcribed in part, then be recycled. Old clothing will be donated or discarded, depending on its condition. A handful of higher-value items will be sold. But there’s a large category of possessions that are neither worth the trouble of trying to sell nor of such little value that I’m comfortable with just throwing them away.

For these, the goal is to give away as many of them as possible. They still have enough value and functionality to be worth sending on to a new home.

Already, I’ve given away a half dozen old film cameras, a flash, a tripod head, two avocado trees, a couple old messenger bags, the fountain pen and ink, and a small variety of other things.

When giving certain items away, some people have wanted to pay at least a little something, especially for items with some market value intact. I would prefer nothing, though. And not because I’m trying to be generous or anything like that. No, my reason is actually selfish: it’s because I feel like, by taking these things off my hands, they’re the ones doing me a favor. And who charges for that?

Downsizing is good for me. I don’t need, for example, eleven different fountain pen inks. Six or seven of them, inks that I don’t especially like and rarely use, constitute physical noise in my home environment that contributes nothing of value. Sure, I could just pour them down the drain and recycle the bottles, resolving the matter in under a minute, but that would be a waste of something that someone else could derive plenty of enjoyment from. They deserve new homes.

Giving things away feels good. It’s a win-win, as I see it, and we could use more situations in life where everyone benefits. Especially now.

P.S. If you’re in Japan and might want some of the things I’m giving away, I usually offer them up on Twitter. There’s also a web page here where I will list things that are available (can’t promise timely updates, though).

Somewhere in Japan, Dispatch № 101: Festive

The line was simply too long, especially given that it was for baby castella. These bite-size balls of something like pound cake are one of the standard items sold from food stalls at Japanese festivals. And they’re delicious, but not that delicious.

The annual December 12th matsuri1 at Tsuki Shrine2 is usually a large and lively affair, though last year it was quite small by comparison, with limited admission and a prohibition on eating anything on the premises. The vendors were there, though fewer than usual, and you could buy what you wanted without too long of a wait, but you had to go somewhere else before consuming it.

That it happened at all in 2020, even in the limited, shrunken version that it did, is something of a miracle. For almost two years now, nearly all the regular festivals have, for obvious reasons, been cancelled.

This year the 12/12 festival was better, and though still only half the normal size, it was packed. What the intense crowds really showed was just how much people have come to miss festivals in their absence.

Matsuri are a well-loved part of life in Japan, across the country and throughout the seasons. People go to enjoy the atmosphere, the food, the games, and the company of others. Fireworks, too, sometimes, and a deceptively difficult dance: bon odori.3 And especially for natsu matsuri, summer festivals, some people enjoy dressing in yukata or jinbei.4

But for the last two years, this part of life has been off the menu, to the extent that I bought a new yukata in 2019, wore it once, and it’s been in storage ever since. People really miss the festivals, and I promise that’s not just me projecting my matsuri yearning onto the general population. To see the truth of it, you only had to see the people at the festival last Sunday, their joyful and enthusiastic demeanor, and the length of the lines they happily stood in to get the tasty but basically pedestrian foods usual at festivals.

Which brings us back to the baby castella.

When my partner and I arrived, we agreed on what foods we wanted to get, made a plan, and split up. We wanted baby castella, yakisoba,5 takoyaki,6 and karaage.7 She went to get the yakisoba and karaage, and I ventured off to find takoyaki and baby castella.

It took a while waiting in line, but we each got one item and moved on to getting the others. After standing for nearly thirty minutes in a different line that barely seemed to move, and the tiny cakes so very far away, she found me again and reported that the line for karaage was long. Too long. Impossibly long.

We agreed to give up and took our meager yatai8 harvest to the park to enjoy our food, alongside many other couples and families happily doing the same.

It was wonderful, even though we only wound up with half the food we wanted and would later go to the grocery to pick up the fried chicken we couldn’t get. The festival atmosphere was there, amplified by a collective sense of hopefulness that I hadn’t noticed before.

Here was something beloved, finally back within reach after a long absence, appreciated for its presence, even in this reduced form. It was something, and that was enough.

Somewhere in Japan's main home on the web is at, where you can also sign up to receive these posts by email.

And if you like what I’m doing, please consider directly supporting this project for as little as $3/mo on Patreon. The upcoming podcast version of Somewhere in Japan will be available to patrons before the general public, too. Click here to learn more.

  1. Matsuri, written 祭り, means festival. I’ll use both terms here for the sake of variety. ↩︎

  2. Tsuki Shrine is a wonderful shrine with an adjacent park that is near my apartment. I have mentioned both the shrine and the park a number of times on the blog, such as here and here. It is one of my favorite places. If you find yourself in Saitama City, I recommend a visit. View on Google Maps. ↩︎

  3. Quite difficult for me to get the hang of, at least, though many others I’ve talked with also find it challenging. Here’s a video of what I’m talking about. ↩︎

  4. A yukata is a lightweight kimono for summer, sometimes brightly colored, especially those worn by young women. Jinbei are a set of matched top and bottom worn in summer, with short sleeves and legs. ↩︎

  5. A sort of dish made with alkaline noodles fried on a griddle with cabbage and a little bit of meat, with a sauce reminiscent of Worcestershire sauce. ↩︎

  6. Balls of batter containing pieces of octopus, cooked in a molded pan that allows them to be made spherical. ↩︎

  7. Japanese-style fried chicken ↩︎

  8. Written 屋台, yatai most commonly refers to the vendors at festivals and similar events, mostly selling food. ↩︎

Somewhere in Japan, Dispatch № 100: Going Deep

The piles grow larger and larger the closer to the end of the year it gets. Mounds of burnable garbage, bundles of cardboard, stacks of old clothes bound with twine, old furniture broken down into pieces, sandwich bags full of old batteries—just about anything you can imagine, really, and the volume increases strikingly as December’s days run out and the new year approaches.

There is a customary end-of-year deep cleaning that, while not universal, seems to be an annual habit of many Japanese households. It is called Oo-souji, written 大掃除, with the 大 meaning big and 掃除 meaning cleaning. And while the term doesn’t actually indicate any particular time of year, late December is usual.1

From among the many reasons one might undertake deep cleaning at the end of the year, to me the most compelling is being able to start the new year fresh, with everything clean and all belongings in their place.

In years past, I haven’t been very good about it. I’ve never fully committed to it, though this year it’s an inescapable necessity. I have begun daily cleaning sessions, and am seeing some progress, but there is a long way to go. Two years of pandemic living and related depression have left my home in a less-than-ideal state of radical disorganization.

It isn’t fun to live that way and isn’t good for you, either. And I don’t know about you, but, especially as the plague at hand is still far from over, I’m ready for a fresh start in any and every way I can possibly manage, despite the circumstances.

For many of us, depression and clutter commonly overlap2 and feed into each other, multiplying the psychological burden overall. Cleaning serves to help us shed at least some of the accumulated physical and psychological burden. This is true regardless of the severity of either.

Sometimes you begin to feel better, and the clutter starts resolving, seemingly of its own accord. This is neither reliable nor predictable, though, so it’s important sometimes to attempt to address the mess proactively.

Of course, depression is thankfully far from a universal factor, and you may not have to deal with it. If not, be thankful. But in my own life, it is, and this is certainly a time for putting things in order.

In the coming weeks, the closets will be cleaned out, the stove hood wiped clean. The floors will be scrubbed and waxed, and every cluttered surface will be cleared. Excess potted plants will be given away, and a substantial amount of stuff that has been clogging up my life will be discarded.

I think we’re all hoping for a fresh start and a better new year. And for you part of preparing for that may be cleaning house. Or maybe it’s something else. Regardless, it’s time to get ready. Let’s make this next year as good as we can.

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Somewhere in Japan, Dispatch № 99: Decompression

A walk and a comedy podcast on the quiet back streets between the school and the station. No need to talk to anyone and no one to bother me. Alone time. This is how I decompress at the end of each working day.

That I wound up wrangling fifty-plus elementary schoolchildren daily is a product of circumstance: I needed a new full-time job so I could renew my visa, they needed teachers, and time was in short supply.

And though my title is English teacher, really I’m a child care worker who tries his best every day to get the kids to do their homework and engage in a modicum of English study in the few hours we have them. They come directly from school, and we look after them until their parents finish work.

I like the people I work with. The kids are mostly pretty great, too. It is, however, very intense during the time the children are present.

Very. Intense.

As with most jobs I’ve had, by the end of the day, I am physically tired.

What makes the job especially difficult for me, though, are the social and communicative aspects. I have to be authoritative, confident, and captivating enough to keep the students engaged and in line. At the same time, I am by nature a shy, quiet introvert, which makes the job emotionally and psychologically exhausting, as well.

I can do the job—I am up to the task, and even enjoy it sometimes. But it requires me to occupy a sort of persona at work, a version of myself with the volume turned up. It’s something I put on in the mid-afternoon and take off in the evening. Part of my uniform.

It’s not pretending to be someone I’m not, so it doesn’t feel disingenuous, but by the end of the day, the stress of it has built to where I need some manner of release.

If I fail to do something with the built-up pressure, I am sometimes not the most enjoyable person to be around after work. And who needs that? I don’t want to take that home with me.

So on most days, I don’t go to the closest train station, opting instead to walk to the next one down the line. It’s not far, just shy of fourteen-hundred meters and a little under twenty minutes on foot if you go directly there. I don’t go directly there, though, and prefer to take both a more relaxed pace and a more meandering route that roughly double the time and the distance alike.

By the time I get on the train, I feel a world of difference, and find myself able to be in a much better state upon returning home, better able to be a good partner.

Though this habit somewhat decreases the amount of time she and I can spend together in the evenings, it improves the quality of that time considerably, and that seems a fair trade to me.

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Somewhere in Japan, Dispatch № 98: Ode to the Kotatsu

Image kindly provided by @TBeanpod

The kotatsu’s a table that heats
Bringing comfort to legs and to feets
Our apartment is old
Its interior cold
But we’re happy in blanketed seats

With a click of the switch on the cord
One enters a toastier world
The element hums
Electricity comes
Down the line to add warmth below board

The strength should be carefully set
Too high, an uncomfortable bet
It’s radiant heat
And could cook you like meat
Or at least get you soaking with sweat

Almost nothing in life could be cozier
Though it will make you feel dozier
A great place to nap
With a cat on your lap
Few situations are rosier

They’ve recently lost popularity
As Japanese builders gain clarity
Insulation’s the new
Cool thing to do
So freezing inside’s more a rarity

But a favorite for me they remain
For the easing of wintery pain
If the song of the season’s
A cold one, I’ve reason
To sing my kotatsu refrain

Let’s talk about the kotatsu1, in case you are unfamiliar. It is a common sort of low table found in homes in Japan, often in tatami2 rooms. During the warmer months, it’s just a low table. On the underside, however, it has an electric heater, and during colder weather, one adds to the table something like a heavy blanket that forms a sort of skirt around the perimeter of the table.

Image of kotatsu heater by Hustvedt on Wikimedia Commons, used under CC license

Switch it on, put your legs (or whole self sometimes, if we’re being honest) underneath, and enjoy what is just about the coziest thing you can experience at home.

Though they could be a comfortable addition to many western homes as well, their popularity in Japan comes from the fact that Japanese homes in much of the country are notoriously badly insulated, perhaps not insulated at all. It’s getting better bit by bit, as people and homebuilders catch on to the fact that insulation is actually a great thing to have, but if you live in Japan, there’s still a very good chance that your home is very cold in the winter months.

Which is exactly the case with my apartment. We have a heater, but keeping the apartment warm all the time is economically unviable given how poorly insulated the place is, so the kotatsu is a very functional piece of furniture. It is also extremely pleasant, especially when paired with a hanten3 or heavy sweatshirt.

Besides being functional, the kotatsu has substantial cultural cachet in Japan and is a common seasonal reference point. My favorite example is probably Kotatsu Neko, a giant ghost cat from the manga and animated series Urusei Yatsura who loves to sit at the kotatsu (pictured below).

Though in the long run my partner and I intend to renovate an old house and fully insulate it, even if our home is someday toasty warm in the winter, we’ll still have a kotatsu. It’s just too nice a thing in the home to pass up on in the winter.

  1. View the Wikipedia article on kotatsu. ↩︎

  2. Tatami mats are firm, rectangular flooring mats covered in woven rushes, commonly used in traditional Japanese-style rooms. Many Japanese homes still have at least one tatami room. View the Wikipedia article on tatami. ↩︎

  3. A traditional garment that’s sort of a roomy jacket, padded with thick cotton stuffing, and with sleeves that come just past the elbow. View the Wikipedia article on hanten. | View google image search results for hanten ↩︎

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Somewhere in Japan, Dispatch № 97: So Much Shouting

Men in black suits stand there looking on, occasionally jotting in small, shirt-pocket-sized notebooks with ballpoint pens. Some have lapel pins. There are usually about a half dozen of them. Their affiliations and motivations alike are unclear to me. But they are always there. Always watching.

They are observing ultranationalists, who are broadcasting hate and propaganda ad nauseam over their PA systems, touting Japanese superiority and decrying the presence and influence of foreigners in Japan.

Every Friday, they are at my station with their van, which is in the usual style: emblazoned with slogans, festooned with flags, and topped with loudspeakers that are almost always turned up to staggering volumes.

Every Friday, like clockwork, and people walk by them like this display of weaponized bigotry is the most normal thing in the world. Well of course the bitter old man standing on top of the van is shouting angrily about immigrants. It’s Friday morning—what else would he be doing?

Privately, students and friends have told me how much they dislike the ultranationalists and, as I do, wish they would go away. They are also irritated by their presence and the volume of their messaging. However, even among those who wish they and their speaker trucks would disappear, there are rarely any ideas put forth regarding what could actually be done to address the problem. Instead, it’s just a lot of head-shaking acceptance and acting like nothing can be done.

They are simply and unceremoniously tolerated. Not once have I ever seen them receive any push-back whatsoever.

Last Sunday, a different group from usual was set up in front of the shopping mall, with a man around my age screaming about foreigners through a bullhorn. Hundreds of people streamed past, some looking annoyed, and the handful of black-suited men stood in reliable attendance.

Meanwhile, in the library on the eighth floor of the mall, a place that is usually a quiet and happy refuge, I could still hear him bellowing down below. My desire to look for interesting books evaporated, and when we left to go to the park, we went out a different door and took a route that only made sense in the context of wanting to avoid having to walk past the man again.

This is a regular part of life in Japan, and it is a regular reminder that no matter who you are, no matter how good of a person you sincerely try to be every day, somewhere out there someone hates you simply for existing.

It has been pointed out to me that, as a white American man, I’ve got it a lot easier with these things than people who are much more marginalized and discriminated against in Japan. And while this is absolutely true, it doesn’t exactly make me feel any better about racist assholes being able to deafeningly broadcast hate with impunity. It doesn’t change that I’ve been repeatedly threatened and harassed, either.

It doesn’t change my simply wanting it to be better for everyone.

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Somewhere in Japan, Dispatch № 96: In Small Doses

Happiness can be found in small doses if we look for it. The train this morning, for example, isn’t so crowded and for that I am grateful. There’s still about a zero percent chance of my getting a seat, but at least nobody’s elbow is embedded in my larynx.

Things get overwhelming. Problems seem impossibly huge. Things seem to get the better of us and leave us no time to recover before walloping us again. Sometimes we have a hard time finding anything to be happy about.

Some people say meditate. Some people say take a few days off and relax. Some people say to practice gratitude.

There’s a tendency for the active practice of gratitude to be most enthusiastically espoused by unforgivably chipper self-help types with capped teeth and generically named spouses.

This morning, Craig and I were giving thanks for the lovely new vinyl siding and it just set such a wonderful tone for the whole day.

Still, it does help to acknowledge and be thankful for things. It does shift your mood. Even if they’re tiny things and you’re struggling to find them.

  • These shoes are comfortable
  • The plum blossoms are lovely
  • That cat looks like it has a mustache

And then the little things remind you of other things. Bigger things.

  • I haven’t gotten the flu or even a cold these last couple of years
  • I like my coworkers and students
  • I get to live and work in the coolest place in the world
  • That cat seriously looked like it had a mustache

And maybe you’re still not all that happy today. But maybe that’s OK. I’m OK, you’re OK, and even if your office is flooded in a freak gravy-shipping accident, still tomorrow morning the sun will rise.

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Somewhere in Japan, Dispatch № 95: The Distance

It wasn’t about the can of chick peas that rejected being opened. That’s where the frustration was focused, sure, but as is often the case in life, the real problem wasn’t the problem at hand, and the outsized emotional response pointed to other, larger problems in which those feelings were rooted.

It wasn’t about the cat vomiting behind the couch or the flat tire on the way to work. It wasn’t about the spilled water, the broken flowerpot, or the burned toast.

It was about the distance. Everything seemed impossibly far away. Learning enough Japanese, quitting the soul-sucking teaching job, getting married, having children, seeing my family in the USA, getting a successful business off the ground, having the freedom to live my life the way I want, not feeling helpless in the middle of a plague.

Imagine lying on the bottom of a cold, clear lake, held down by an immense weight. You’re looking up through a hundred meters of water and can see the things you want floating up there on the surface, sparkling in the sunshine.

You can get there, you know you can, and you’re determined to do it. So you work every day, trying to free yourself from the weight that holds you there. And every day, small stones drift down through the water and add to that greater weight. These would be inconsequential if they were all you had to contend with. They’re little things of no real consequence.

But given the position you’re in, exhausted and fed up, they just add insult to injury, reminding you of how impossible everything feels.

Which is how it winds up that, when the cat vomits behind the couch, it feels more like he’s vomited on your life. And when that can refuses to open when you’re just trying to eat better, it feels as if every single smirking legume inside is mocking you for your incompetence.

And the hardest part of it is just trying to be kind to yourself in that moment. Instead of agreeing with the judgemental chick peas, opting to make a different salad. Instead of getting angry at the cat, petting him and remembering that he doesn’t have a single malicious bone in his fuzzy little body.

Taking a walk. Taking a nap. Visiting the shrine. Having an ugly cry to get some of that awful feeling out of your body. Doing anything but leaning into the heaviness and frustration that we are all carrying, perhaps now more than at any other time in our lives.

And that distance remains daunting, but it’s not impossible to bridge, and the best way to start spanning the gap is to try to act from a place of love, no matter how little we feel we might deserve it in the moment.

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Somewhere in Japan, Dispatch № 94: The Light

The light at the end of the tunnel is a strobe. Not the persistently pulsating variety you might find flashing in a smoky dance club, but a Swedish photographic flash mounted on a light stand, illuminating a carefully arranged still-life subject in a small studio in Japan.

When you realize that a dream, one that once compelled you into focused action, has all but totally withered away over many years of difficulty, you have a decision to make.

Option one: let it die. We change over time, as do our circumstances and desires. Sometimes old dreams are best let to pass on. We can replace them with something new that better fits where we are and where we want to go.

Option two: make some adjustments and bring that dream back to life.

Twenty years ago, back when I was in university, I intended to become a commercial photographer. And while I have never stopped making photographs in that time, I did let life get me down, and I let that dream nearly die.


Last Saturday, I invested in a set of lights, and I will use them to make good on the life and career I came to Japan to build.

These lights are not new, nor are they fancy. But they are very good, and they are mine. I am excited about putting them to use.

This will not be easy, and that’s fine. Ease is not of importance here. What is important is being true to myself and to the dream, in which I still believe.

If you’d like to keep up with me on this journey to transition from being a full-time English teacher to being a full-time photographer and writer in Japan, I will document everything and providing behind-the-scenes access to what I’m up to on The Official Somewhere in Japan Patreon, where you can become a supporting member for just $3/month. Please consider becoming a patron!

In 2022, I will also put more work and writing up on my long-term personal blogging project A New Life in Japan.

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Somewhere in Japan, Dispatch № 93: Uncooperative

In cities, we try to put nature in a box, to contain it in parks and flowerpots so that we can keep it around in a way that is convenient for us. We attempt to get nature, plants especially, to bend to our will. And, to their credit, they mostly go along with the scheme.

Ultimately, though, you can’t control nature any more than you can teach a cat to tap dance.

So flowers sprout from concrete, moss occupies the damp shadows, and vines consume abandoned houses whole, shrouding them in green, with creeping tendrils invading every crack.

If humans were to collectively vanish overnight, nature would take over everything again with surprising speed.

Already, it is poised to do so. It’s clear to see in the leafy margins of urban spaces, where the work of keeping fresh growth at bay has been neglected.

As much as human arrogance leads us to believe that we’re in charge, we are not. We may fight against the natural world, but we are only successful in disrupting and fouling up the system.

Nature was running the show billions of years before we arrived, and it will still run it long after we have exited the stage.

In the meantime, it would behoove us to take a kinder, more cooperative approach in our relationship with nature, to the benefit of all beings involved, human and otherwise. This seems, unfortunately, to be a hard sell.

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Somewhere in Japan, Dispatch № 92: Sitting on a Mid-River Stone

To sit and do nothing in nature is one of wonderful. To simply exist and observe, to notice the small things happening around you, to be aware of your body as an element of the landscape.

I chose to sit on a large, flat rock in the middle of a shallow river running swiftly with clear, achingly cold water. It took a few minutes to get out to it, carefully stepping from stone to stone, sometimes having to back-track, striving always to keep my feet dry.

Normally, our brain filters out most of what our senses perceive, so that we are aware of only a tiny fraction of the incoming sensory information. This is critical. If this didn’t happen, we would be constantly and completely overwhelmed.

What’s more, we so often struggle, trying desperately to overcome distraction so that we can focus. It becomes a behavioral default to pursue that state.

But we can benefit from practicing the opposite, too. To let go of focus, to try to perceive without grasping at the perception, to become a conduit for sensory experience and let the world flow through us without judgement.

Once I got out to my rock, I got comfortable and took a few deep breaths, in through the nose and out through the mouth. Then, settling in, I scanned my body from head to toe, becoming more aware of my body. From that point on, I turned my attention outwards, doing my best to inhabit my senses and take in everything I could, the doors of perception opened to the surrounding scene.

I saw what I could see, heard what I could hear, felt what I could feel, smelled what I could smell. I even tasted what I could taste, the cold mountain river imparting a subtle flavor to the air I breathed.

After a little while, I felt I had become almost slightly transparent. I was, for a short time, a vessel for that one tiny corner of the universe.

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Somewhere in Japan, Dispatch № 91: Stars and Waters

The high, thin wisps of cloud traversing the sky were matched by the steam rising from the water’s surface, dancing lightly in a breeze blowing so gently it would otherwise have gone unnoticed.

There were stars. So many stars. Stars in numbers such that their presence was jarring after many unbroken months of being stuck in the city, where skyglow reduces the number of visible stars so severely that you can often count them fully on the fingers of one hand. Where the sky should be populated with thousands of points of light, it is usually rendered all but entirely blank.

The stars are always there, of course. It’s just a matter of how many of them we can see. Up in the mountains, with surrounding peaks blocking light from elsewhere and the rural setting keeping other light sources to a minimum, their presence is practically confrontational. You are forced to notice them, and from there it’s easy to remember what a lovely thing a starry sky is.

But it’s not just beautiful. We’ve been looking up with interest since long before we were human, and when we look up at the night sky now, it may stir within us something ancient and deep, especially if we are in a quiet and attentive state.

Perhaps this is why it sometimes has a particular impact when hung above a hot spring, with the stars and moon reflecting on the waters in which we bathe. So it was at the onsen in Yamanashi last Friday night, when I sat half-submerged in the outdoor bath, steam rising from my torso in the cold air, and the space between sky and water reduced to a transparent membrane connecting the two. The water’s surface shimmered with moonlight. The stars seemed close enough to touch.

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Somewhere in Japan, Dispatch № 90: Sharp Enough

The odd patches of hair missing from my arm show I’ve been sharpening kitchen knives. If a knife cannot easily shave, it is not sharp enough, no exceptions. People who know little about sharpening sometimes take it as a mysterious skill, something almost magical. It’s not, though. It’s actually pretty easy to do, straightforward to learn, and can be a pleasant task among one’s various other household chores.

The knife that usually gets the most attention when sharpening is fairly inexpensive, a basic santoku1 I bought at Nitori2 on my first full day in Japan back in 2015. The blade is decent, especially for the price paid, but it gets the dullest just from getting the most use. And this time around, there was a small chip in the blade, so sharpening took a little more time than usual.

A few minutes with the #1,000 stone took care of the chip. A bit more time on the #3,000 stone got it and the other knives just about there. Finishing them up on a leather strop left all the blades very sharp indeed.

As sharp as they are, though, it’s possible to take the quest for sharpness muchc farther than this. And in fact, I have on hand the stones, compounds, and polishing films that would let me get the knives so sharp it becomes spooky. I almost never take it that far, though.

Why? Because it’s silly. For almost every application, it’s simply a waste of time.

As with many pursuits, with sharpening, there is a point of diminishing returns, after which further striving quickly turns the whole pursuit into a fool’s errand.

The benefits of developing the skill go beyond sharp knives. What I’ve learned from sharpening, especially learning good freehand technique with Japanese water stones, is largely philosophical.

Attention to detail counts for a lot, as does consistency, and both become supercharged by regular and deliberate practice. This combination, applied correctly to nearly any pursuit, can take you very far.

It’s possible to take it too far, though. When the pursuit of excellence turns into perfectionism, proceed with caution. If you sincerely enjoy chasing perfection and it doesn’t detract from other things in your life, have at it. But if running yourself ragged pursuing extraordinarily high refinements comes at a cost that appears in other parts of your life, ask yourself if it’s really worth it. And be honest.

A well-sharpened knife will help you make dinner more easily and pleasurably. However, an even sharper knife will make little or no noticeable difference, and the time spent chasing that nearly imperceptible uptick in sharpness may be more acutely missed than the finer edge is valued.

While excellence is worth striving for, beware the sense that excellent is somehow not enough.

  1. The santoku is a common pattern of general-use kitchen knife in Japan, best compared to the western French-pattern chef’s knife. The name itself indicates three uses, and shows its intended purpose of replacing the need for the three traditional Japanese knives used individually for cutting meat, vegetables, and fish. Read more on Wikipedia ↩︎

  2. A large home furnishings and accessories chain in Japan, not unlike a slightly scaled-down domestic equivalent of Ikea. ↩︎

NB: I’ll be going out of town this weekend for a cycling event and a bit of a recharge in the mountains of Yamanashi. I hope to write two or three posts based on aspects of this experience, so please look for those in the coming week or so. And if next Tuesday’s post comes out a little late, that’s why (just as the trip is why this post is coming out a day early).

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Somewhere in Japan, Dispatch № 89: Not Giving Up

Teaching English in Japan is a trap. That is, it’s a trap in the sense that it can be very, very difficult to get out of for people who want to stay in Japan but don’t want to continue teaching English. Some manage it, just as I am determined to do, but vastly more people fail to do so, either giving up and leaving Japan entirely or indefinitely languishing in one dead-end teaching job after another.

Initially, the lure of teaching is that it’s a relatively easy way to go abroad if you’re a native English speaker or someone with near-native language ability. It has allowed me to live in Korea, Taiwan, China, and now Japan, and for that I am grateful. These have been wonderful, highly enriching experiences.

However, I want to have an actual career, the sort that can grow and progress. Three simultaneous jobs that still have me living paycheck-to-paycheck is not a career, and it has no future. It is a situation that prohibits growth and prevents achievement of normal life aspirations like having a family or buying a house.

I depend on my job for my legal residence and work permission in Japan. That work permission specifically allows only one type of work. If I want to engage in any additional types of work, outside of teaching English, I have to request special permission from the government, which they may or may not approve, and which is limited to a single additional type of work only.

Granted, I would have an easier time of trying to transition to other types of employment if I had any desire to work for a large corporation, in which case I could just get another regular day job.

However, working nine-to-five for consecutive decades while your health and youth drain away, hoping to enjoy yourself in a retirement that you may not live to see is not a rational way to spend your life, no matter how usual a thing it may have become in society. It’s utter insanity.

But that’s also just the dominant system that exists, and no matter how stupid and unfair I find the immigration system, or how ridiculous I find the standard career model we follow by default, that’s just what is and my not liking it will change nothing. Like it or not, the constraints that exist are the constraints within which I have to work.

Exiting the English-teaching game to freelance or become an entrepreneur is a much more difficult thing than just getting a different full-time job, especially if you lack one of the visas that eliminates work restrictions and/or aren’t sitting on substantial piles of cash.

I am tired to death of teaching English. I hate it more by the day, and that’s sincere, not overstatement. I am burned out and then some, my past enthusiasm now a sad pile of cold ash withering in the corner. If it weren’t for the fact that I like the people I work with and I like the kids I teach, I’d have run for the hills a while ago.

Still, I remain enthusiastic about Japan and about building a career here based on creative work and entrepreneurship. There is a way out of this maddening loop, and I will find it. When you go halfway around the world to do your life’s work, you don’t let bureaucracy and exploitative businesses practices keep you from doing what you went there to do.

As long as I live, I will keep pushing. Failure is part of the path you follow, and the more difficult the path, the more likely failure along the way is. That’s something you just have to accept. It doesn’t change the overall goal, though.

It gets exhausting, at times becoming an incredible struggle. And when that happens, you rest a bit and try again, repeating as long as necessary to achieve the goal.

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