I left Fukuoka today three weeks ago, and it has taken me this entire time to feel that Sydney could be home again.
When I left for Japan almost exactly a year ago, I did not expect for Japan to twist itself so deeply within my psyche. Not just the people I managed to meet and befriend in Japan, but the lifestyle, the weird mix of convenience and tradition, the food, everything became an integral part of who I am. Maybe it was because it was the first time I had ever lived by myself without the support of family, but for the first time in my life, I was one hundred percent independent. And maybe this independence is what made living in Fukuoka so much more than living in Sydney.
I still think exchange was a two part experience for me, but I think that only added to my life overseas, and gave me an opportunity to try and feel and think about more things than if it had been one cohesive unit.
At the same time, with all the travelling that I managed to do during my time in Japan came a realisation that I did not just love Japan for just its pop culture or its fashion or whatever I had picked up over the years watching anime. I loved Japan for its people and its culture, for its traditions, its legends, its beliefs, and its contradictions. The kindness that its people showed to strangers, and its rejection of foreigners for fear of damaging their culture. Their respect for their own ancestry and their customs that help them pay their respects to their heritage. Their pursuit for innovation and technology while their society still relies on paperwork and cash as a foundation. The way that everything was built for maximum efficiency, but the people working it could be the slowest workers in the world.
And with all my observations of Japanese culture came also observations and realisations of my own culture and ancestry. Observations about the current state of mind in China, within the Chinese people. Strengthened beliefs about why Hong Kong will never really see itself as part of China. Realisations that Australian national pride comes in the form of telling everyone about how terrible Australia is and being proud of how terrifying Australia seems to everyone else in the world.
But in the end, any sort of self discovery about my own heritage was eclipsed by the love I found for the Japanese way of life, and way of thinking, and way of doing. I felt nothing walking through Fukuoka airport, until the plane started to move, and the workers bowed and waved the plane off, and I realised that this was the end of my year in Japan.
I would like to say that I didn’t cry, but at least I didn’t breakdown.
And for now, I’ll just keep dreaming in Japanese, until I’ve worked enough and saved enough money for me to go home.