Why Japan?

Why I Chose Japan

I honestly, genuinely didn’t expect to be accepted onto this programme: I applied mainly because my mum was pressuring me, and she was mainly pressuring me because her friend’s daughter was applying, and her friend’s daughter was mainly applying because…well, that’s her business. Maybe she’ll write one of these herself.

Obviously, if you’d said to me in November, “Do you want to move to Japan for a year?” I would have said yes, but I also would have said yes to a trip in the TARDIS, and honestly they both seemed about as likely. But, under my parents’ supervision (and with a generous portion of their aid), I filled in the forms, sent them away and then forgot all about it. I doubted that they would even take me seriously enough to send a rejection letter; I thought they’d probably regard my application as a joke.

When I was offered the interview in January, I was working in France and there was some controversy about whether I could get the day off to go to London and if I could even afford the ticket (here my parents stepped in again– my mum really wanted to show up her friend). But I secured the time off and the transport and luckily flew into Luton– the Channel Tunnel literally caught fire that day. Obviously, I’d been flying and was in no state to interview (I changed my clothes, naturally– and even showered in King’s Cross– but there is something ineluctable about an airplane journey that stays with one for many hours after the fact) and so thought that once again my chances were sunk. The interview went very poorly, I thought, and quite quickly became but an afterthought of the first weekend I’d spent in London in over three years (I passed it in the best fashion– Hamley’s, theatre, and getting drunk in the Science Museum).

Once again, I sort of forgot that JET was even a possibility, and started searching for other means of employment. When the acceptance letter came through three months later, I still wasn’t home and my dad read it to me over the phone: I thought it was an April Fools. The next day, I got an offer for a job in China and another in Edinburgh– suddenly, I was sought after.

Edinburgh was my Uni town, where most of my favourite memories were formed, most of my friends still live there and I can more or less understand the locals. I was sorely tempted to return to what I knew; to what was easy and familiar. But a little voice in my head was adamant to try something new (it was the same voice that lead to me eating raw octopus on my first night here), and I thought about my parents.

My parents met in Peru, when my father was helping to build a road and my mother was teaching English– possibly the most colonial pursuits imaginable in the seventies. It’s a card that I play in a lot of interviews for jobs abroad– “my parents met while travelling; I feel it’s in my blood,” “I’m a second generation TEFL teacher”– and I normally say it in a fairly hokey manner, but I do feel there’s a grain of truth to be found in there. There is wanderlust in my family: last year we were all only in the same country for about a month.

When I said I was going to Japan, I had a lot of friends say ”Oh, I could never do that,” and I didn’t really understand: they were all as qualified for the job as me (some of them much more so) and they are all as hardy as I am (pretty much all of them much more so), so I didn’t know what they felt was stopping them.

And then I realised it was temperament.

Not to say that my disposition is better than theirs, but it leads me to eat raw octopus or to crash a party under an assumed name. That desire to just suddenly not be where I am and doing what I’m doing– that conviction that the grass really is greener on the other side. It makes me apply for jobs that I really doubt I will get and then take them even when there’s a much less risky alternative sitting in my inbox. One of my friends said she would smack me if I picked the Edinburgh job over the chance to go to Japan and consequently, I now imagine her as the physical embodiment of that persistent little noise which is currently nagging me to shut down my laptop and step out into the boiling midday sun to go and find a robot cafe or an owl hotel or a toilet that’s smarter than I am. Often in the short term, I regret the choices that this voice extracts from me, but they also often lead to the best stories and besides, sunburns fade, hangovers pass and octopus, eventually, digests.


Rory Kelly won the Maggie Wark Award when he was fourteen and, as far as you know, that’s impressive (don’t bother to Google it. Please.) He was also the last winner of that award, because he forgot to give the trophy back. He’s currently waiting for there to be a Nobel Prize for “Choosing the Perfect Novel Title, Taking That Title on Wattpad and Then Never Doing Anything with It” at which point he will be in the money. He also stole rorywritesstuff.tumblr.com, and you should totally follow him there just to spite him.

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