Wednesday, October 5, 2016
Home, for me, is always going to be divided. I was born and raised in Japan, with periodic visits to the USA (where my citizenship lies). As a young adult, I spent time in other parts of Asia and at age 24, returned to Japan to teach English in a church-run language school. Osaka is where I met my first husband. My four children were all born in Durham, North Carolina where I've been able to put down roots over the last 28 years.
Recently, I was invited by my high school to go back to Japan and be their alumna author in residence. Wow, for the first time I experienced culture shock in Japan! After 28 years of being away, things sure had changed and I'd changed, too. And yet, on the other hand, so much was familiar. The coziness of having hot tea and a green tea Swiss roll at a kissaten (coffee shop), the crowds and pace of Umeda, the "calm feel" of the majestic city of Kyoto, the mountains of Kobe in the distance, and the kindness of strangers when I had trouble purchasing my ticket from a very modern ticket dispenser.
For the first time I didn't experience any culture shock when I landed back in the USA after the trip was over. Being back in Japan made me miss it all over again and I wondered (before I left) how I would resume my life in the USA . . . But my children, husband, and friends helped me to ease back to life here.
Home is such a strange word for me. I will always feel that I have two homes. When I landed in Osaka this past January, the alumni director of my high school said, "Welcome home."
When I landed in Newark, New Jersey, ten days later, my new husband texted me: Welcome back to the USA. Welcome home.