It’s now been nearly two and a half years since I entered Japan. This is the longest I’ve been away from Tokyo in 22 years.
Japan is a place I consider home and I miss it very much, but I’ve had to learn to live without it. After the draconian pandemic restrictions (and were they at all helpful to Japan’s health system or economy? Not a jot) I realise I can’t rely on Japan and its government as I once did. Actually, I can’t rely on any government, not unless I’m the one in change.
Nevertheless, I love Japan. And here I am in Central Asia daydreaming about my old life in Tokyo. I would absolutely live there in the future, I will always at least be a regular visitor to this beautiful place that was my home for most of my adult life.
Every day I think about my life there and the things I miss, here are the first things that come to mind:
- Dropping a Lush bath bomb into my lovely Japanese bath and reading a book while the neon blue or orange water fizzed around me. They made the whole house smell good. There’s no Lush here in Central Asia where I live so I will just have to wait for this indulgence…
- Drinking well water — it sounded totally mad to an Australian like me but the water from my friend’s parent’s well in rural Japan is the freshest and most delicious I’ve ever tasted. It’s untreated, untainted and always nice and cool
- Ginza on a weekday, before 5PM. This is the ultimate luxury if you can hang out here during office hours. The pedestrian traffic is halved. Ginza is total madness on evenings and weekends, it’s just too busy for me. Having flexible work hours means the shops are basically mine, it’s easy to get a facial during the day, I can then have afternoon tea surrounded by the ladies of leisure
- Swimming in a pool. I constantly complained about the shocking lack of swimming pools in Japan when I lived there, I was comparing it to Australia and Singapore. Then I moved to Turkey and then to Bishkek. These are the places that the swimming pool fairies forgot. While public pools in Japan are only open for 7-9 weeks of the year (even though it’s hot for 5-6 months) at least there are sports clubs and gyms where you can swim every day if you so wish. And I really wish for that!
- The Supermarkets! Every type of fruit and vegetables in the world, things you’ve never seen before — but only the freshest and the highest quality. The world’s best tofu, fresh sashimi ready to eat, fanciest teas and jams, shiny-eyed fish and neat rows of Japanese delicacies such as kinako mochi cakes and wasabi crackers
- The kids. Japanese kids are everywhere, all the time. They’re really cute, especially the little ones in their school uniforms. They’re well behaved on the trains (in general) and fortunate enough to live in a country where they can wander home at any hour of the day or night, which is a common sight as these kids are hard workers, and they are often studying until quite late
- Taking a stroll in Aoyama, especially on weekdays in Summer when the shops and cafes are quiet, the flower shops are spraying their peonies with cold water. The sky is dazzlingly bright, the cicadas are singing…
- The Tokyo Metro. I LOVE trains, I HATE cars, so Tokyo is perfect for me. I love the trains, which are very peaceful even if they are full, so much so that people tend to nod off to sleep. These days when I am stuck in traffic in Tashkent or Bishkek I find myself thinking of the easy life in Tokyo
- Brunch in Shibuya-ku on the weekends means queuing times, but it is well worth it to go to Bills, Ivy Place, Two Rooms, World Breakfast Allday, Eggs N Things, Blue Bottle Cafe… the list goes on. I think I miss all of the fabulous restaurants in general
- Partying all day and night on any day of the week. It’s wonderful to have the option. It’s even better to know you can walk home and get soba noodles on the way at any time of the day or night
- Art galleries in bars, cafes in flower shops full of ladies in kimono, furniture shops that sell sourdough bread
- My humble flat. It is small, it is beautiful, it’s close to everything and it is mine. I can’t wait to stay there again
- McDonalds French Fries are always fresh and amazing in Japanese “maccu” as it is known locally. In fact, I think the entire menu is better than in other countries, but I’m here for the chippies
- Going wherever I like. The travel options in Central Asia are quite limited unless you want a huge journey, but in Tokyo a long weekend in Hong Kong, Guam or Taipei is doable. A week in Hawaii, Thailand or Australia is easy stuff
- My friends! Having lifelong friends in walking distance is a wonderful thing, the people I love and trust the most I like to keep close.
I’m glad for some time away to appreciate what I took for granted in Japan. I miss you, Japan!