How did you get to Japan?

Michey, how did you get to Japan? Some of my friends, colleagues and acquaintances back in Britain have all asked me this question.  And I have always found it expressed rather oddly, not How did you come to move to Japan? Or how do you find living in Japan?, but very particularly how did you get to Japan?’ sometimes just how did you do it?, added for emphasis.  I’ve always found the question a bizarre one.  My friends certainly are aware of the existence of these machines called airplanes, with them, when can travel 5937 miles and more, all the way from Britain to Japan.  Can it be that many of my acquaintances are in fact time travellers from the 19th Century, possessing the technology of time travel but not flight?  Maybe, they are mostly academics, they generally live in pre 20th Century world, but it’s unlikely.  Thousands of miles are only an obstacle in world where you have to travel by row boat. 

I jest, but many who ask this question do seem to be truly concerned about the distance.  It’s so far’ they say.  How do you do it?

The temptation at this point is to simply say: You go to an Airport, if you’re coming from the UK, make sure it has international connecting flights. Buy a ticket for a city in Japan, so maybe Tokyo or Osaka.  Be prepared to change flights in either a European city, or city in China or Korea.  Japan is just a bit to the right of Korea.  It’s a very thin country so be careful not to miss it.  I’m sure Tokyo will have left the lights on just in case you miss it.

Of course, I don’t actually say this (although I guess now I have), it’s just my friends’ occasional incredulity quite honestly baffles me.  Planes fly here, you get on one and one day later you here.  It’s easy; we’ve been doing it for decades.  Those satisfied with that answer (although they rarely seem to be absolutely satisfied, often move on to a supplementary comment and question:

But it’s so different from here, how do you deal with that?

I am never sure how to answer that, maybe this is a British thing, almost as if xenophobia or at least a fear of the different is a national trait.  Is it just that ‘we British’ like the familiar, or at best lacking the openness or perhaps even the curiosity to experience new things?

To be honest, I don’t think the British are especially any of those things.  We like the new, odd, and possess the curiosity to experience the unfamiliar the same as any other culture. And yet many, if not most of the people who ask me this question are British, I have in fact never heard it from someone from a European country, the Americas or Asian subcontinent.  I wish I had the courage to give this response:

You were expecting life almost six thousand miles away to be the same as here?  Why would you want to travel that far, losing a day and getting jetlagged just to experience some place that’s just like home?  Just go walk down the street instead, cheaper and you’ll enjoy it more.  I know that you’ve visited a European country, were you hoping that it would be just like here.  No.

I don’t give this response, but as I try work myself up for this rant, I realise something.  For some people, there is something about the distance between Britain and Japan, the time, money and effort that takes to get here, that makes one hopes its worth it, and the promise of something familiar is comforting to some.

I just don’t share that response.  Maybe as disabled person (and now a foreigner too), I’ve always appreciated, if not purposely embraced the outsider perspective.  And I like new experiences.  I am only just realising that in Britain at least, this makes seem even weirder than I was before I came to Japan. 

And that’s an unsettling thought.



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