The last month has changed me to my very core. Life in the countryside of Japan is completely different than life in Tokyo.
My program (Japan Study through Earlham) requires that year-long students go on a “cultural internship” to a more rural setting in Japan for a month. I decided to go to Tanohata, a tiny town of about 3000 residents in Northern Japan. I didn’t know exactly what to expect, but I wasn’t expecting to change so much in such a short period of time.
I “worked” at various locations (rather than work, it was more like they let me experience things): An elementary school, a middle school, a daycare, a bakery, a mushroom factory, a lumber company, and a couple other places that to be honest I don’t know the English translation for (haha!). However, outside of the work, it was really the people I met and the experiences with those people that changed everything.
I lived with a host family that was much different than my Tokyo host family (I love them both of course!). They are a multi-generational family, so there were so many people coming in and out, and my host family ran this huge branched out NPO where they are all leaders of something, so you can imagine it was quite chaotic. On our free days we were always traveling somewhere or doing something, no matter the weather. However, it was so much different than the Tokyo busyness, and to be honest, it taught me so much about life.
The things we are chasing after most of the time really aren’t all that special. I think there are truly special things in this world that we tend to devalue. The town I went to was hit pretty hard by the Tsunami (which today 3/11 is actually the anniversary for), but nobody was complaining. The kids essays at the middle school were about cherishing time with their families and friends, or how their talents were thanks to others. When it snowed everyone shoveled it together, and then made snow lanterns and grilled yakitori. When plans fell through, everyone laughed and we found the fun in where we were.
The connections I made have changed me for the rest of my life. I didn’t think you could love people so much that after a month, it would be so hard to say goodbye to them. I’m now thinking about how I can make my days special everyday, cherish the people in my life better, cherish the time on this earth better, and the root of why I want to work hard has changed completely.
Coming back to Tokyo feels like I’m coming back from abroad. I can’t imagine what going back to America is going to feel like. There is so much change that happens to you when you’re abroad if you let it. It is actually horrifying how dramatic the internal change is, but I think it is worth it and necessary.