So, one of the catches to the whole “get paid to live in Japan for a year” thing is that you don’t get to choose where you live. You can state preferences, but they’re just that, a preference. They in no way guarantee you get what you ask for. In my fantasy of living in Japan, I saw myself in Tokyo or Kyoto, a major city, learning it and loving it in much the same way I learned and loved New York City. I pictured tall buildings, too many people, walking everywhere, navigating the public transit systems, amazing food selections, and being able to communicate with at least some passerby. But as they say, “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry”. I got my placement last week, and my big cities of Japan dreams quickly dissolved away.
I’ve been placed in the Okayama prefecture, in a small town called Asakuchi. Neither of these names are at all familiar to me, and after a quick wikipedia search (that didn’t bear much information), I learned that Asakuchi has a population of just over 36,000. Hardly the big city I had hoped for. I’d be lying to say that I wasn’t utterly disappointed to learn of my placement. But I will also say I’ve bounced back pretty quickly. I knew that getting placed in a well-known area was unlikely given their desirability, so part of me was prepared for the alternative. And since I’m a firm believer in hope for the best and expect the worst, I also had stored in my mind the perks of a rural placement (i.e. cheaper cost of living, more authentic experience, higher need to learn the language, etc.) So, after a day of being a bit bummed out, I flipped the switch and am focusing on the positive. This will still be the experience of a lifetime, and it’s likely that not getting exactly what I wanted will make it an even richer one.