Well, I can’t believe our two years in Sapporo is nearly to an end! My husband Alex and I came here in October 2013. We had visited Japan on holidays in the past, but visiting a place is quite different to living there. At first, it felt like just another fun holiday, but once we realised we were residents, we experienced some culture shock.
An obvious challenge was the language barrier★. I can now appreciate how lucky we were to have grown up with English, an international language, as our mother tongue! English uses a simple alphabet, while Japanese has 3 completely differently forms of writing!? As my work in Japan has involved speaking English everyday, I feel like I haven't had the time or opportunity to practice speaking Japanese. So, although I've had a great experience with many memorable moments, I wonder if perhaps I might've gained deeper insight and meaning from knowing the language better. Still, this inability to communicate has led to some funny encounters★, which have reminded me to laugh along the way!
The extreme weather was also a bit of a shock! But the seasons in Japan are so clearly defined, yet equally wonderful. Lush green foliage and flowers in summer, colourful leaves in autumn, snow in winter and beautiful blossoms in spring. The change of seasons also corresponds to★ changes in fashions, food, decorations and activities. I didn't know that there were so many different styles of coats, hats, gloves and shoes!! There’s warming food in winter and cold refreshing food in summer. Decorations in shops and arcades imitate nature and there are so many festivals to celebrate the seasonal changes, like Setsubun, and, in Sapporo, the spectacular Snow Festival, the Pacific Music Festival and the Beer Garden.
We’ve been very lucky to have lots of visitors while living in Japan, and with them we’ve had some great travel experiences. We’ve been to the summer festival in Fukuoka, the temples of Kyoto, Universal Studios in Osaka, amazing artworks on Naoshima, and the natural beauty of Shiretoko. We’ve enjoyed singing many songs at karaoke, great classical concerts, craft markets, and probably averaged about one soup curry every week!
I’ve heard that you can experience a ‘reverse culture shock’ when you move back to your homeland. There will be things I’m sure we’ll miss about Japan: the fashions, the karaoke, the food, but mostly we will miss the great friends that we’ve met over these last 2 years. But for now, I’m looking forward to no longer being ‘Absent Aunty Abby’ to my nieces and nephews and seeing Tasmania from a fresh perspective. I encourage everyone to keep living and learning, and most importantly, don’t forget to laugh along the way!★
*This is the title of my favourite book in Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series, and very appropriate given the large amount of fish we've eaten in Japan!!
★Along the way