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Stranger in Tokyo


My situation is not unique. I came here for love, I want to stay here for love. As much as I wanted to say that I like it, I would have never chosen this city in the first place. It was chosen for me; it was his lifelong dream to settle in this Japanese capital and I have to admit that I thought it was never going to happen for him. For us. But, like he did, you have to follow your dreams.

The long-distance marathon to get to this moment has been ever-lasting lonesome. We had committed to this relationship where neither of us would had the courage to take the first step. So, my solution was running away, to see the world instead. It has brought me many precious friendships and unforgettable memories. But, whenever I hear “Welcome to Amsterdam” or “Welcome to The Netherlands” it touches me. Nothing is like home. Nothing will ever be like home. Friends, family, my neighbourhood, the city, I will never get tired of it. Until last January. I was dying for a new adventure, perspective, culture, job, anything but good ol’ Amsterdam. I have a love-hate relationship with my home town. And there he was again, great parallel in life, standing on the horizon and lurking me with a proposition: Come live with me in Japan instead.

“I don’t travel because I want to leave my home, I travel because I need to know why I’m staying.”

It was a ticket and a mighty good reason to get out of my comfort zone. With a fair share of overthinking I said, yes. It might be the worst decision I’ve ever made, still, I never want to regret of things I haven’t done. Running marathons and other distances for 8.5 years were getting too exhausting, so why not giving each other one last chance to get this right? After 4 one-last-chances throughout this relationship I moved into his 20m2 studio. The fact that he was working 12 hours a day and 5 days a week, drove me insane in his little shoe box. I was having déjà-vu of these countless lonesome hours with a result that I refused to go outside, to explore the streets; my system had an error. I’d expected anything but this. I’ve been to this road before, yet my body rejected the new environment, my anthropological senses had failed me. All I did was complaining, moaning and drowning in self-pity. Constant anger blocked everything on my way where I was hiding myself behind my shades, hoodies and headphones. It’s as hard as I imagined, because I’m similar yet so different. I keep being confronted that I am an alien out of context: I am Asian yet I neither speak Japanese nor Mandarin Chinese. Also, I am holding hands with a white blonde dude on the streets. I came to realize how little I could succeed without speaking the language. Now I was the immigrant who seeked for something more. How will I ever feel home if I am not even allowing myself to enjoy this adventure?


“I either wanted to be heartbroken or madly in love.”

That is where I’d suddenly won the jackpot. I got invited for a job interview in my third week of Japan and a couple of days later I was pushing myself into the trains during rush hours to get to the office. Finally, I understood his narrative. This is a different level of balance in socialising and working. This is the next level of multitasking, maximum level of communicating. However, my work, as both teacher and project developer, has changed me for the better: A happier person. My social skills have improved and my smile rate is peaking. Our company wants to prepare these young Japanese kids to become world citizens – with the upcoming Olympics in 2020 the government wants to spend even more money to encourage parents to let their kids learn English in their early years. Allowing me to combine my passions and degrees, for anthropology and education, is a blessing. I am secretly feeding my primary obsession with ‘halvies’, ‘halfbloods’, ‘halflings’. As an academic I shouldn’t label or categorize any individual, but it’s kind of my guilty pleasure. I’m highly interested how the kids learn and think when they have to deal with multiple cultures, and therefore languages, in life.

As if a new job is not exciting enough, I have moved into my own little studio (22m2) in this god forsaken city. I couldn’t stand the silence between us and the stress that was eating our hearts away. The love is there, but a relationship requires more than love. We needed space and time to rethink this relationship. I was terrified to think that we perhaps had put too much strain on the “8 years relationship”. Because he didn’t want to put me on the streets, I had to find the guts to say: Okay, then I’ll leave. No one thought that I would had the luck of finding an affordable place in this jungle. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise – you have to follow your dreams. I have doubted a long time whether I should buy that one-way ticket home. It is so easy to board that plane and not looking back, but giving up is not in my dictionary. If I couldn’t have a relationship with a person, I can have a love-hate relationship with this place then. It also means that in the mean time I have to mend my broken heart with the good things. Having a job and my own place in Tokyo makes me feel invincible. I like to shout to all tourists I pass by: I live in this city! I get to see this beautiful neighbourhood every day! I can play arcades, eat the delicious food, sing karaoke and act crazy every single day! So I stuff myself with enough sushi and ramen for the rest of the year and keep going in search for those little precious moments. With the happier and more relaxed him, for example. Ho, no, we’re not back together, but we’re asking each other out again, we go on dates in the weekends to watch movies or have dinner. Because, hey, if we can’t let go of each other within 8,5 years, I doubt we will ever.

And have I mentioned that I have only been in the country of the Rising Sun since October 2018?
2019 is going to be a life-changing year.

Written by Felicia Mok