悲しい色やね kanashii iro ya ne—Osaka Bay Blues

Many people have written about their experience of “reverse culture shock”; their difficulty in adjusting when they return to their own country after living abroad.

While there may be an element of cultural adjustment (especially for those who have lived abroad for a long time and find their home country to have changed in their absence), I think a more important factor is a sense of loss. My life in Japan was my whole life, lived as fully as I knew how, with an awareness of how special and precious it was, for just over a year. And now, after just a few weeks, it is rapidly – too rapidly – becoming “just” a memory, its colour and its immediacy draining away, and being overlaid by the quotidian concerns and imperatives of our new reality in Ireland.

We find ourselves actively trying to stall this process, casting our minds back to what we were doing on a certain day, asking each other if we remember. Yuko reminded me that it was one year since the day we watched the 金環日食 annular eclipse.

 

Since I returned to Ireland just three weeks ago, many people have come to me and greeted me warmly, saying “Welcome home Dara! How was Japan?” This question leaves me flustered; I simply have no idea what to say in response, no words that won’t just diminish my experiences over the past year. I want to say “read my blog! That’s how it was”.

I do understand: people are friendly, and they want to hear my news. But in fact, I came to dread the question, almost to flinch. I almost felt like any response served only to inter the memory more quickly under a pile of words. Imagine if you lost a relative, and well-meaning people kept saying, “Sorry for your loss; what kind of person was he?” What could you possibly say, how could you do justice to the totality of a person’s life in a few words?

 

All of which is not to say that I am unhappy to return to Ireland. It is exciting to come back here, to be reunited with loved ones, to rediscover the astonishing beauty of our hills and our coast,  to let the dogs run freely on wide open beaches and hillsides, to find a new place to live and make it our home, to turn our eyes to the future.

But I will miss that other life, that other home, the “specialness” of being a foreigner living in Japan, the neighbourhood I knew so well, the city I came to love, the food, the trees and the seasons, the summer din of frogs and cicadas, laughter and karaoke with my friends and colleagues, the strangeness and the familiarity, the joys and frustrations of the language; I know it’s over but I don’t want to let it go.

Hold me tight, Osaka Bay Blues

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8 thoughts on “悲しい色やね kanashii iro ya ne—Osaka Bay Blues

  1. Quite sad. I know the feeling, and it’s something that has stayed with me years later. If you ever go back it will be a very strange experience.

    1. We will go back. We will go back as visitors, and it will feel strange that we once lived there and don’t anymore.

      Years ago, when we were newly married, Yuko and I lived in Sweden for a while. We were very happy there; we loved the easy rhythms of life in Malmö. Friends and family came to visit us there and we enjoyed showing them around, sharing with them this town that was briefly our home.

      Some years later, we had the opportunity to go back. Just for a quick visit, crossing the bridge from Copenhagen. I was apprehensive; how would it feel to have old memories reawakened and come flooding back? Much had changed in the meantime; my mother had passed away less than a year after coming to visit us in Sweden.

      In the event, it was pleasant enough just to wander for a few hours and see the places that had once been part of our daily life, before getting back on the train and returning to Denmark.

  2. I just found your blog two days ago while searching for tanuki on the internet. Your year went by fast and it seemed like a lot of fun. I hope to visit Japan one day. I am a sansei from Hawaii, living in California. I envy the wonderful time you had there. Take care. Stephanie Yue

    1. Hi Stephanie, thanks for reading and for taking the time to comment. It’s great to hear from people who happen across my blog. I hope you will have the chance to visit Japan soon. I have visited Hawaii and California, and have great memories of both.

  3. I was wondering if you and your wife have moved back to Ireland already. Glad to see you posting again. You are experiencing the blues…don’t worry Japan will not fade besides you have this blog connecting you to it and reconnecting you to your current home. Looking forward to more posts. 🙂

    1. Yes, as you can see we are back in Ireland now. It’s been a busy time, so the blog has been a little neglected, but I am not ready to draw a line under it just yet. I have more to say about Japan, about learning Japanese, and maybe other things that happen in my life, so we’ll see how it goes. And yes, you are right, the blog now takes on a very important role of connecting me to my time in Japan, although I didn’t have that in mind when I was writing it!

      1. That is a funny thing about blogging (writing), it has its own mind as to where it wants to take us. I don’t see why you have to draw aline under it because your experience in Japan and Ireland will intertwine and I hope you will post about them.

  4. Sounds a bit sad Dara – mixed feelings to be sure. I was born in Canada , but have no memory of living there, however I lived in England as a child upto 9 years and still have many many memories and a link to those childhood places. I’ve been back several times and it is strange but nice to re-visit the places of your memories.

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