I lived in Japan for four years after I graduated from university and it already seems like a lifetime ago.
So much has happened since I moved back to London - heaps of different adventures, I've established a new career, met a wonderful chap, moved out and got engaged - and I have no doubt that my time living in Japan contributed to all of those happy events. I was a very shy, passive 21 year old when I left university and was thrown completely out of my comfort zone to live and work in a country where I knew no one, could not read a word of the language and could only say a very tentative (and badly pronounced) 'hello'. I changed so much throughout those four years - I became more confident, interested in different cultures and, oddly, prouder of London while being away from it. You could argue that living anywhere different to where I grew up would have had the same effect on me but that's neither here nor there - Japan was mine, it was my home for four years.
This beautiful video, shared by a friend on Facebook, made me think more about my time in Japan than I have for a few years now. Sure, a lot of the scenes are very 'stereotypically Japan' but, at the same time, these elements are so much a part of Japan that you couldn't not include them. However, it was the little details that touched me so much and brought back so many memories. Taking the local trains to concerts with my friends, watching my students practice tea ceremony, the always awe-inspiring shinkansen, the delicious food and watching out for Mount Fuji because it would signal that I was almost home.
I find it very difficult, still, to put into words how important my time in Japan and Japan itself is to me. I haven't been back since I moved back to London but I know that when I do return, I'll stop and simply take things in a little more. I want to relish the details, the moments that resonated so strongly with me when watching this video.
But until I do go back, I'll enjoy living vicariously through my friends who are lucky enough to be planning trips to this fabulous country and give them a list of about 800 must-dos, must-sees and must-eats!
And when I do go back, I'm definitely going to see the bathing monkeys in Nagano. I'm still sad that I didn't get round to that during my stay!