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Thread: Missing Japan

  1. #1

    Default Missing Japan

    I was in the JET Program for 2 years (2011-2013), and LOVED it. I made a ton of friends, both Japanese and international. My school situations were good, and I liked my city and apartment. Money was good.

    I moved back to the US mostly for my husband. He enjoyed Japan, but without a bachelor's degree he wasn't eligible for a work visa and was getting bored. We decided we needed to return to the US so he could work on his degree. I knew we would miss Japan, but I didn't think I'd regret the decision.

    Now, it's been 1.5 years. It's been a struggle. It cost ALL of my savings and pension refund to move back to the US and get settled. My new job is considered high-level, but it's lonely, unrewarding and doesn't pay enough to cover bills and groceries comfortably. I haven't made a single friend. I miss Japan and my friends there pretty much every day.

    I basically feel heartbroken, but for a place instead of a person. If someone waved a magic wand and said I could return to my Japan-life tomorrow, I would accept. My husband has even suggested that I do JET again while he does his last two years of university, but I've heard that JET rarely accepts the same person twice. Since I'm not fully bilingual (I'm ~NJLPT 4), I don't think there would be many non-JET work opportunities that would allow me to work in Japan, travel to Japan, or continue learning Japanese.

    Does anyone else out there struggle with extended reverse culture shock and crappy home-country economics like this? How are you dealing? Is it a complete fantasy to think about returning to Japan? Or do ex-JETs sometimes do it?

    (PS. I live in a small town with no Japanese community. I've made an honest effort to make friends. I'm looking for a better job, preferably in a med-big city.)
    Last edited by byakko; February 5th, 2015 at 03:18.

  2. #2

    Default Re: Missing Japan

    In your situation, I'd do something. Do you talk much to your husband about it ?

    It's been a year and a half, so I don't think you're judging it too quickly. You were in the US before, I'm not sure how long it should take to get back to your original lifestyle and all but you probably did live there for more than 20 years before (maybe that should help ? )

    You realize you're unhappy, you don't like your job, and it doesn't pay enough to support you comfortably. You're lonely and say you have no friend here.

    It's too late for this year, do you want to wait another whole year (and more considering the departure are halfway through the year) before doing something ? You said you miss it and your friends every day.

    I'm not saying your only solution is to get back to Japan but I sure wish you will do something about your current situation.

    I don't have enough meaningful experience to help you further and tell you what to do and what might work but,

    You are unhappy, you know it and there's visibly not much that will change soon to change that.

    That can't be healthy.

    Sorry for the downer reply, but I felt it was necessary.

  3. #3
    The Sun's Bird God..what? Zolrak 22's Avatar
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    Default Re: Missing Japan

    If you have the funds you could always try Interac.

    In fact, the chances of being placed in your old area are higher.

  4. #4

    Default Re: Missing Japan

    Thanks Gunjumero, you're right that I need to do *something.* For now, that something is applying to better-paying jobs in American cities that have young professionals I could befriend and Japanese clubs/communities I can participate in.

  5. #5
    read half. react. BifCarbet's Avatar
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    Default Re: Missing Japan

    It seems like you'd be a good candidate for Interac, I do have to agree.
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  6. #6

    Default Re: Missing Japan

    Is it common to miss living in Japan like this? More than occasional nostalgia, but less than major depression?

  7. #7
    Senior Member mothy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Missing Japan

    It really seems like the current situation is the problem. If where you find yourself now isn't a good place, it's natural that you would feel a strong longing for the last good place you were in.

  8. #8

    Default Re: Missing Japan

    Most people feel some regrets but the friends I've had who've since returned only miss it in a nostalgic sense, rather than really wanting to return. I think you're always going to miss some aspects of life here, even if you're thoroughly fed up with the place by the time you leave. If you left before you were ready to you're going to feel a lot of regret and doubts, certainly.

    There's probably a part of it that is looking through rose-tinted spectacles, bear that in mind. If you're constantly looking back to a nostalgic situation and comparing it to reality, you'll probably always find it lacking. I'm pretty nostalgic about my university days, but if I'm honest I found it quite stressful and didn't have a great time for a lot of it. Try and get into a more pragmatic frame of mind and think about your current situation. If you still think you want to come back to Japan then I think you should. There's no reason not to try JET, but try for Interac and scour the job listings (most require current residence, but not all), and do it soon.

    Would you be able to come in March, for example? A lot of schools have difficulty finding ALTs to start work then and you may well find a place willing to give you a pretty decent salary and handle getting your work visa, etc. If you are, start looking now.

  9. #9
    Gizmoduck - blatherskite Gizmotech's Avatar
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    Default Re: Missing Japan

    You sound like a friend of mine who was here for a year.

    Great life here, moved back home with partner. Partner split up 3 months later. Friend constantly whinging about how much better life in Japan was and how they wanted to come back... until they met someone new backhome.

    The real problem, their current circumstances blow, and they miss the rockstar treatment. Trust me, while life in Japan is great, the longer you're here the more that 2 year shine wears off. I'm finishing up my fourth year, and while there are great things here for me, they would only be really attractive to me if I wasn't doing anything good where I was. Most of the "friends" I met in my first two years don't talk to me anymore, which is great, because they weren't friends, they were foreigner sycophants. (That's not to say I don't have friends now, just that the quality of "friendship" is very different)

    Most of my friends who have returned home only vaguely miss Japan in that "wow, it was a lot of fun those 1/2/3 years". All of those people are in some way moving on with their lives in some way or another.

    Just out of curiosity, why do you have such a strong pull to the place? Why does having a Japanese community in any way matter to you? Has this fixation on the country been around for a very long time?
    Quote Originally Posted by Cytrix View Post
    Organising anything with ALTs is like herding cats on catnip

    Quote Originally Posted by Antonath View Post
    We Jeeperneez are express all emotion through money. Wedding is happy money. Funeral is sad money. Izakaya is friendship money. Girl-bar is almost-sex money. But babby-borning is bery happy money, as no babby in Japan. All babby is special so we is givings much money as presento for babby.

  10. #10

    Default Re: Missing Japan

    Quote Originally Posted by mothy View Post
    It really seems like the current situation is the problem. If where you find yourself now isn't a good place, it's natural that you would feel a strong longing for the last good place you were in.
    Mothy, you cut right to it! I think at least 80% of what's going on with me is probably just this.

  11. #11

    Default Re: Missing Japan

    Quote Originally Posted by Gizmotech View Post

    ...The real problem, their current circumstances blow, and they miss the rockstar treatment. Trust me, while life in Japan is great, the longer you're here the more that 2 year shine wears off. I'm finishing up my fourth year, and while there are great things here for me, they would only be really attractive to me if I wasn't doing anything good where I was. Most of the "friends" I met in my first two years don't talk to me anymore, which is great, because they weren't friends, they were foreigner sycophants. (That's not to say I don't have friends now, just that the quality of "friendship" is very different)...

    Just out of curiosity, why do you have such a strong pull to the place? Why does having a Japanese community in any way matter to you? Has this fixation on the country been around for a very long time?
    Gizmotech, you're spot-on, too! This is exactly the kind of perspective that helps.

    I *do* miss the rockstar treatment. Maybe it's just an extreme contrast-thing: going from a situation where work was easy and entire classrooms of children erupted in applause and excitement whenever I entered (every day, multiple times a day, for 2 years) to a work situation that is mentally exhausting and socially isolating.

    It's also true that I'm one of those people that's had an inexplicable pull to Japan for a long time. I took Asian Studies and Japanese in high school, and then was an Asian Studies major in undergrad focusing on Japan and fascinated with the karyukai. I wouldn't say I'm a Japanophile; I never got weird or obsessed about it. There was just that draw. I knew that historically, the Japanese culture placed a great emphasis on harmony and balance and wanted to experience how that infuses daily life there. After trying it, I'd say they're doing great on the harmony part but have totally lost balance by becoming such workaholics. (I'm fully aware that my JET status was key in allowing me to have a relaxed, 35-hr workweek instead of the crazed 7am - 11pm madness I witnessed.)

    As for the quality of friendship and community, that is one of the BIGGEST things I miss about Japan! I had friends knocking down my door to keep me involved in dinner parties, movie nights, trips to other cities, volunteering, everything. I have a tendency to be a 'lone wolf,' so this kind of community wrapping around me like a warm, caring blanket was very good for me. And I for it -- after my husband and I left, we got so many complaints about the holes we left in social and volunteering arenas.

    Another thing that cannot go unmentioned is the financial situation. I've been a studious yet social girl who got straight A's, went to university, earned a bachelor's degree, earned a master's degree, (now) has 10 years of work experience (with 5-star performance reviews) at renowned institutions... But my 2 years in JET have been the ONLY two years where I felt I was paid enough to not have to pinch every penny. At every American job I've held, I've been under state- or employer-imposed salary freezes, unable to even ask for a raise. I have serious concerns about the American economy and lack of opportunity for middle-class professionals (at least, those of us who aren't in the health sector or data sciences). When a well-liked high-achiever like me is still struggling so hard at 32 years old... It just makes me wonder, is it me that's the problem? Or is it my whole country's economy? If the latter, do I need to get back out??

  12. #12
    read half. react. BifCarbet's Avatar
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    Default Re: Missing Japan

    Quote Originally Posted by byakko View Post
    When a well-liked high-achiever like me is still struggling so hard at 32 years old... It just makes me wonder, is it me that's the problem? Or is it my whole country's economy? If the latter, do I need to get back out??
    It's not just you.
    Also, there's nothing weak or shameful about choosing a better quality of life.
    It's, of course, worth considering where you'll be after 1, 3, 5 more years on JET, though, and what options you'll have.

  13. #13

    Default Re: Missing Japan

    One of the things I'd like to point out is that in Japan you were unique. Being unique in the job market is a very good thing. Admittedly you weren't incredibly unique (lots of people go to Asian countries to teach English), but you were rare enough to gain perks simply for being you.

    Back in your home country you aren't unique. Even with all your experience and education, the job market is shitty enough that you'll be treated like everyone else. Honestly, as much as everyone says going back home and working in the "real world" is the way to go, you're far better off trying to make your way somewhere else where you have an edge. If you can find a steady job in Japan, I'd go for it and stay there, especially if you like the social aspect of it. By the sounds of it, your husband is perfectly willing to live there after he's finish his studies, so no problems there.

    The economy IS bad, which is why you need to be as smart as possible with what you do and where you do it.

  14. #14
    Senior Member mothy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Missing Japan

    The economy isn't great here either. I think OP needs to be careful. Her last situation was great but not all placements in Japan are. There's a decent chance they'll find themselves in a situation more similar to their current situation than their past situation.

  15. #15

    Default Re: Missing Japan

    Quote Originally Posted by byakko View Post
    .... and I liked my city and apartment.....
    Stopped reading after I read this. Up yours >=[.
    ⊂( ゚ヮ゚)⊃ Okinawa

  16. #16

    Default Re: Missing Japan

    Quote Originally Posted by byakko View Post
    Since I'm not fully bilingual (I'm ~NJLPT 4),
    Yeap, you're right. You're definitely not that.
    ⊂( ゚ヮ゚)⊃ Okinawa

  17. #17

    Default Re: Missing Japan

    Quote Originally Posted by mothy View Post
    The economy isn't great here either. I think OP needs to be careful. Her last situation was great but not all placements in Japan are. There's a decent chance they'll find themselves in a situation more similar to their current situation than their past situation.
    And to finish my 3 post rant. This. Completely this. What mothy says. You'll probably get an even more isolated placement. I know plenty of people who got killer placements..... And then I know two friends who got the middle of Hokkaido, having come from tropical regions, and are very isolated as well (not as much so as me, but still pretty isolated). If you do get into JET a second time, make sure you research your placement thoroughly and don't jump at the chance just because it's Japan. Just because it is Japan, doesn't mean it's the Japan you're looking for/remember. You know, different hoes in different area codes... or however that thing goes.
    ⊂( ゚ヮ゚)⊃ Okinawa

  18. #18
    Gizmoduck - blatherskite Gizmotech's Avatar
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    Default Re: Missing Japan

    Quote Originally Posted by byakko View Post

    As for the quality of friendship and community, that is one of the BIGGEST things I miss about Japan! I had friends knocking down my door to keep me involved in dinner parties, movie nights, trips to other cities, volunteering, everything. I have a tendency to be a 'lone wolf,' so this kind of community wrapping around me like a warm, caring blanket was very good for me. And I for it -- after my husband and I left, we got so many complaints about the holes we left in social and volunteering arenas.

    Another thing that cannot go unmentioned is the financial situation. I've been a studious yet social girl who got straight A's, went to university, earned a bachelor's degree, earned a master's degree, (now) has 10 years of work experience (with 5-star performance reviews) at renowned institutions... But my 2 years in JET have been the ONLY two years where I felt I was paid enough to not have to pinch every penny. At every American job I've held, I've been under state- or employer-imposed salary freezes, unable to even ask for a raise. I have serious concerns about the American economy and lack of opportunity for middle-class professionals (at least, those of us who aren't in the health sector or data sciences). When a well-liked high-achiever like me is still struggling so hard at 32 years old... It just makes me wonder, is it me that's the problem? Or is it my whole country's economy? If the latter, do I need to get back out??

    Okay, so now that I have some time I want to weigh in again.

    You were amazingly lucky to have that type of atmosphere to live in. Not everyone over here gets that kind of treatment, and it definitely depends on where you are placed. The foreigners around me are not such a massive group of friends, in fact we're quite isolated in our groups. We're even more isolated when you think that the 20 of us on one side barely ever talk to the 70 on the other side of the prefecture. Their community is entirely different, in that they are all close together in time and space, so things vary. Don't expect that warmth everywhere you go over here.

    I really kinda gotta ask. How are you 32, well educated, working at "renowned" institutions and not making enough money to feel comfortable? Are you not making 36k/year? Are you doing something wrong when you look for/negotiate your work and contract? Do you have a passive/pushover personality, or is your industry dirt cheap? I just can't understand how someone who is as "on paper" well off as you are is having problems.

    I'll say this, if you don't come over on JET (or even if you do it again) your situation is likely to be very different. You could end up paying 600$/month in rent, you definitely need to pay taxes this time (after 2 years, and there is no top up to cover the difference), it has gotten noticeably more expensive to live in Japan in just the last 2 years, never mind 4 since you originally came over (in my group I might add).

    If you come over here feeling entitled to a life you had before, it's not going to be any different than the life you have right now.
    Quote Originally Posted by Cytrix View Post
    Organising anything with ALTs is like herding cats on catnip

    Quote Originally Posted by Antonath View Post
    We Jeeperneez are express all emotion through money. Wedding is happy money. Funeral is sad money. Izakaya is friendship money. Girl-bar is almost-sex money. But babby-borning is bery happy money, as no babby in Japan. All babby is special so we is givings much money as presento for babby.

  19. #19
    Senior Member mothy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Missing Japan

    That reminds me, 4 years ago OP would have been on the old pay scale. So don't expect the same pay either.

  20. #20
    Feckless Manchild Otaku word's Avatar
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    Default Re: Missing Japan

    Quote Originally Posted by Gizmotech View Post
    ...it has gotten noticeably more expensive to live in Japan in just the last 2 years, never mind 4 since you originally came over (in my group I might add).
    word

    Quote Originally Posted by mothy View Post
    That reminds me, 4 years ago OP would have been on the old pay scale. So don't expect the same pay either.
    word

    Edit: MG and I have recontracted for the year, but we're making plans that will almost certainly mean this is gonna be the last time for us. In truth, we've both felt that we should have left earlier, because we the economy here has made our life somewhat less comfortable recently than it's been in the past... and we're both of the opinion that it's gonna get worse.
    Last edited by word; February 9th, 2015 at 22:47.
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