I just got back to Tokyo a little over a day ago.
I … well, I never really wrote about why I left in the first place. The reasons were numerous, but my friend who I’m staying with jokes about how I ghosted out of Japan without really saying goodbye to most people. And its true, because leaving Japan was probably one of the hardest decisions I ever made and at the time I felt in a way my hand had been forced, for a lot of reasons, and I just couldn’t bear the reality of the decision. Even sometimes now, a year on nearly I wake up with a longing for the home I had scraped and worked so hard to carve out for myself.
I don’t though, wake up any more wondering why I am wasting my life.
Tokyo never hurt me. I think that perspective is important. Newcomers to Japan, tourists visiting never quite understand the bitterness that can set in with long term expats. This is partly just based on the cultural politics at work: outsiders are supposed to only see the best side, with expats usually occupying this narrow strip of land between in-group (Japanese) and outsiders where they’re never quite accepted but know enough to know that the politeness Japan is so often praised for can often be the cold shoulder. But as bitter, and I did get very bitter toward the end, as it all was, Tokyo was not abusive to any degree but distance. I’m a lot luckier in many respects that all Tokyo ever wanted of me was that I get the fuck out. I’ve got plenty of friends who were born here who are not nearly that lucky.
TLDR. I don’t really want to hate Japan anymore, but my first day back I’m reminded of all of this. The first task is to get a cell phone. As I’m not living here, I need a pre-paid, and as I’m staying a longer length of time than “normal” it is not cost effective to rent one at the airport. As Japan is somehow stuck to me like a tattoo, deep under skin and incredibly painful to remove, I know I’ll be back so purchasing a pre-paid that I can renew is cost effective.
Now, years ago this was no big deal. You could get them at the convenience store, it took a little paperwork and it was done. Drug dealers picked up on this. So restrictions were applied. These restrictions now include sanctions that make it impossible to get a prepaid as a foreigner unless you have a visa with 3 months left on it or longer. Blah blah blah. I don’t think most of the people abusing cell phones were foreigners, though this all caused me to drunkenly spout off loudly in the middle of the station what a great big drug dealer I am. Obviously.
So this joke starts, a Korean Japanese and two white girls walk into a cell phone place. There is one in Japan that has prepaids with plentiful information in English saying they are available at every location, etc. We go there, where my friends have graciously offered to purchase a prepaid for me as I cannot do anything with my visa. Our Japanese friend asks the attendant about prepaids and she sort of curtly (well, as curtly as you get in keigo) says they have no prepaids at the store, and other locations probably won’t either and maybe you could web order them and leaves it. We want to know, of course, as we know they need to see documentation so web ordering is probably not gonna do it, which locations have them. Does the next station? Does Shinjuku? This is information they should have, and it will cost us each 150yen one direction to find out for ourselves. She excuses herself eventually, goes to the back for a minute, comes back and tells us that no, the next station does not have them nor do any of the others.
Well, we leave. We go to the other cell phone providers and while one has a prepaid and are very nice about it their phone is very expensive and severely limited (basically calling only) and if I’m desperate it will do but we all find it really strange that these urban Tokyo shops from the other place don’t have any at all. We leave and discuss it and decide, well, we’ll go to the next station and order the phone to pick up. It’ll be a day or two but so what?
We get over to the other store and not only do they have the phone they have MANY choices of phone. Loads of them. And received no such phone call asking.
We’re punks, we’re heavily tattooed and we’re all minorities in Japan so we’re not totally sure why the gal was a jerk, but what a way to come back. The location of this cell phone shop especially makes the attitude totally unwarranted, whereas the other location we went to is kind of the opposite…