I just wanted to say,
this is my last year in Kobe.
It took me a year to come to that conclusion.
Next year, I'm moving to Okayama.
Kobe, sandwiched between the mountains and the sea, home to 1.5 million people, with transportation access to anywhere in Japan - it's hard to think of a more ideal place to live. A long time ago I stood on top of a mountain with a friend, spread my arms to the buildings, the skyscrapers, and the harbor, and thought to myself, "I am Kobe!" That thought's stuck with me since then. Kobe is something in me.
If you want to come visit me in Japan, doing so in the next year will probably be best, before I move to less accessible places.
I could have lived here forever.
At first, it was things like how close everything is. On my day off, I could go to Kyoto and visit an ancient temple, or see a musical in Takarazuka, or have a barbecue on top of a mountain. I can make Tokyo a day trip. I can fly to Okinawa in a couple hours.
Then, it was how easy it was to meet new people. A big city of people all densely packed together creates amazing networks to get you in touch with people like yourself. I met Takiko at the international community center, the Japanese lessons led me to find my husband, my network during the CELTA course led me to become a part of the artist community.
And finally, I began putting down roots.
It's the little things every day that water those.
Passing by the bakery, the woman waves to me from the window. The people from my favorite restaurant ask me if I'll be coming by some time soon. A woman walks in to a cafe, sees me, invites me to her craft workshop. She's heard about me from the cafe owner and sees my pictures. Every week I meet with my mountain club community, where I am becoming more and more active as a member. If I'm late I get scolded, "What are you doing here 10 minutes late? Don't you know it's not good for you to sleep in! We were waiting for you!" I take pictures on the mountain of insects and scenery, sometimes with the help of friendly old men who identify something for me or hold back a pesky vine so I can get a better shot. Then I go to the photo shop to get my pictures developed and the owner leaps up at the chance to ask me questions about English. "Jennifer, I've been wanting to know what this means for so long! Help me out.."
I belong here.
I swore nothing could make me dig up those roots.
No matter how stressed I am, no matter where my husband is, no matter how green the grass is anywhere else. . .
So I took a year to think about it, or to not think about it. To pretend the question wasn't there. To experiment with what makes this place home to me.
10 years. I've been here 10 years, and no place is more familiar to me than Kobe.
No, nothing can make me dig up those roots.
It has to be done on my own free will.
I had to put my own will behind the decision to leave, because nothing else would get me to do it.
And I found some spark of inspiration - the fact that I like to try new things.
And a large blanket of consolidation - the fact that no matter where I am, I'm still me.
Which means I will seek out new people.
Make new connections.
Wave at new shop keepers.
Create a new community.
Hike new mountains.
Climb up the ladder in a new job.
I've done it once, in ten years, I can do it all again in the next ten years!
This Ted talk also really pinpointed why I was finally able to back my choice: