Japan, Two Years

This is your captain speaking.


Wednesday, October 17

I watched the US Presidential Debate before work. It was the town hall debate and quite a show. The atmosphere was electric and I couldn’t sit down the entire time. After the debate I visited the post office and sent my absentee ballot. I felt big and strong.

Did you vote?


Sunday, October 21

Sunday I was fortunate enough to join the company bus tour for the third time! (The first visit & the second visit) We revisited Kamakura (鎌倉) with a new group of students. By now I’m an expert on all things Kamakura related, but I planned the wide-eyed tourist for the students benefit. It was fun. I really do enjoy these opportunities.

After the tour I found Mari in Tokyo and we visited a cool pizzeria/pub, Devil Craft. We ordered up some Chicago deep dish pizza and a few microbrews. I’d highly recommending giving the place a visit.

Deep dish and a beautiful girl!


Friday, October 26

You may remember last month I visited the US Embassy in Tokyo to take the Foreign Service Officer Test (FSOT). It was a tough test! Much to my surprise I received an email on Friday morning. I passed the test. How do you like that? On my first attempt, without any studying too!

I’ve advanced to the next part of the years-long process of working for the State Department. Now I have a week to write six essays! Wish me luck!


Saturday, October 27

Adult Halloween Party!

I wore a flesh-colored, tattooed shirt and acted like a bad boy all night. Some of the students called me yakuza (ヤクザ). We had a good time eating Mexican food and drinking our fill. I led the crew to second party. I ordered a small beer and left early.

I forget, are there different sizes of beer in America?

Being harassed by the paparazzi.

Sunday, October 28

I woke up with beer breath. Showered, ate and out the door. 9 AM, back to work. The kid’s Halloween party. We’ve got to do a better job with our scheduling. Fortunately none of the staff was too worse for the wear after the party. We entertained the kids for a few hours and were tickled pink with their cute outfits.

I love these kids.

After the party I taught three children classes and spent two hours doing office work. I was a machine.

At five I was finished and changed into my civvies. Train to Tokyo. It was Lauren’s birthday. I met with Elisha and Lauren in Shinjuku. We visited a restaurant where you flash-fry your own food. We ordered all you can drink and filled up plates with fish, meat, veggies and more. It was so refreshing to be with my girls for a nice dinner. We changed places and had one more drink together before calling it an early night. I can’t wait to celebrate our Japanese anniversary with them again soon!

Elisha is a gourmet chef.


-A Warped Perspective-

“You’re going to go over there and you’re going to change. Some of the changes you’ll notice immediately or when you come back. But the most profound changes, you’ll never notice.”

My father told this to me shortly before I left America for Japan. It seemed obvious. Of course a person will change living abroad. And he was right. Through the past two years I’ve changed. I’ve matured a little. It’s hard to describe, the changes. I feel like myself but at the same time I don’t recognize the new me. The foundations of my character remain, but something has been changing. I feel… warped.

My perspective. How I look at things, how I think about and approach them has changed. Perspective is such a fundamental part of our lives that it often goes unevaluated. But I feel a shift in my own point of view. It’s both good and bad.

For example, people skills. Japan is a highly contextual society. It’s important for a person to sense everything in another person. Personality, attitude, desire & hesitations. I think my people skills have developed greatly. This is good. But I’m often quick to judge. This is bad.

Recently I was eating lunch with Mari atop a mountain. I had an extremely brief interaction with an American. However in less 60 seconds I knew all I needed to about the man. His voice, his words, his body language. He was curt and insecure. I could never have a friendship with a person like that. On the outside I remained friendly & cheerful but in my mind I immediately closed myself off to him.

This trivial episode in reflective of a greater shift I’ve made. I would never have had those thoughts two years ago. Am I becoming older? More Japanese? More skeptical?

The changes continue. I’m beginning to sketch an outline for my future. I’m thinking about a career, finances, relationships, locations. I’m beginning to understand some of the sacrifices that I may have to make. Sacrifice; that word wasn’t in my vocabulary two years ago. Planning the future can be extremely stressful. At the same time it’s fun.

The biggest test will be my eventual homecoming. The first time I can hug and talk with family & friends. That’s when I’ll see how far apart we’ve drifted. Just being in America may be a test. I may have lost my love for the country.

“No matter what happens, or what you do, you’ll always be my baby.”

At least I know I’ll have my mother’s love and support all along.


Part Two: Finished.

This entry marks the final in the second year.Thank you all for journeying with me another year. So much has changed. I wrote 26 blogs this last year. Yet while much has changed, much has also grown mundane. I go hiking a lot. You all know that. So I believe it’s time for another reformatting of my blog.

I have decided to stay one extra year in Japan. An extra year of growth and experiences. For my third year I will publish this blog triweekly. I will abandon documenting my adventures except for special occasions. I will instead focus on the culture of Japan. Or more specifically, the culture of Japan through the eyes of a foreigner.

Thank you so much for being with me in spirit. I’ll be back in three weeks for the third year! Peace and さよなら!

Rising / Setting


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About japanesealex

Alexander lived in Japan from 2010 to 2013. He is now pursuing a career in public service in Honolulu, Hawaii.

13 responses to “Japan, Two Years”

  1. kpacrossthepondKristin says :

    So true words and wisdom! I’m excited to find out how much I will change in my time abroad as well. I already notice some hesitancy in socializing with fellow Americans here. Somehow, we all seem so much louder and crass. And harsh sounding. I hope to adopt an adorable accent soon and I am working hard on not fulfilling the negative American stereotypes anymore.
    Good luck in your third year!!! My doors are always welcome for you to visit if you need a non-Japan, non-US vacation! I miss you my dear old roomie! On a side note, I heard the song “Alejandro” this week. Top-notch song. 🙂

    • japanesealex says :

      Hey KP! Good of you to stop by!
      Americans do tend to be harsh on the senses. But I think we both knew that before we lived abroad. Oh, and good luck on your accent. I know I sound like an idiot when I speak. Now I sound like an idiot, as opposed to before.
      Thanks for the luck! I’ll keep you posted with updates. And keep up the good writing. I enjoy reading along with your blog too!

  2. Key O'Keefe says :

    You have indeed changed – grown, matured but some of that is purely age related and would’ve occured (we hope) regardless of your physical location. It’s been such a delight to watch and get to know you better through your writing. I’m saddened your posts will be less frequent but guess that just means added anticipation. Congrats on moving to the next level with the State Dept and know your writing will make you a strong candiate in the next round.

    • japanesealex says :

      Thanks for following my journey, Aunt Key! I’ll keep taking pictures and posting them of Facebook so stay tuned. And I’m looking forward to catching up with you over a glass of wine one day!

  3. Max Wheeler says :

    In response to your question about beer sizes: Yes, sometimes. Usually you order a beer and they don’t ask for size, but some places ask if you want the big one. Most often though they don’t ask and give you a pint.

    I heard from mom about your test! Congrats! You do realize that you’ll have to come home for at least a day before you get shipped out somewhere else though right? I don’t think mom would be able to take it.

    • japanesealex says :

      Thanks for the beer answer. Although I think American pints are actually only 12 oz, not a proper 16. Right?

      Thanks for the congratulations! I’m still far from getting a job offer. But it feels good to pass something. And of course I’ll swing by Lincoln. The way it’s looking now it may be next December.

  4. japanesemiscellany says :

    I think a big part of it is age and maturing, I noticed a BIG shift in my priorities and thought processes when I hit my mid-20’s ….even as wise and as cultured as I thought I was it still still surprised me. Lol just wait till you hit 30, then it really gets fun! The stress…is just beginning but it feels good to start accomplishing some of those goals the were once so far away. Good Luck!

    • japanesealex says :

      You’re over 30?! I always had the impression you were in your early 20’s. I’m surprised! Anyways, thanks for the insight!

      • Japanesemiscellany says :

        Tut tut there…30 exactly. working towards a doctorate takes time lol!!! No gray hairs yet! But ur blog has been a welcome distraction. Thx

  5. claudia says :

    I don’t know if I can do every three weeks. You may need to skype inbetween posts:)

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