September 10, 2012 by Isshin Teshima
September 9, 2012 – Dulles International Airport, USA
As I patiently waited in the terminal at Dulles International Airport for my flight to Tokyo, I found myself pondering the events of the past few months that got me moving back to a land I had not experienced since I was five. What had made me want to go back? A sense of nostalgia? Remorse? A feeling that something wasn’t quite right in the cultural imbalance that was my heritage?
Who knows. All I knew was, in 13 hours, I would land feet first into Tokyo, one of the biggest metropolises ever to grace the Earth.
The story of how I got here is a long and arduous one. The Sparknotes version is that I’m going back to Japan to continue my studies on East Asian foreign relations at a graduate school in Japan. That I applied without really any hope of getting in, and that I accepted admittance into Waseda University (Keio University/W&M’s Japanese sister school’s direct rival) are just kind of fluff, the type of flow-y language that Sparknotes would just label as “not important” in that random work of literature that you never wanted to read. (Thus the Sparknotes, of course!)
But like all works of literature, my story goes a little deeper than that. And it all started well before the application process on my first-ever visit to Tokyo last year. Whether it was my random talk with a Japanese CEO or the sights and sounds of Shibuya, I don’t quite know what caused it.
But something clicked.
It was one of those moments where for the first time, I felt I actually belonged somewhere. And this wasn’t one of those foreigner induced “oh I belong in Japan because sumo and geisha and origami” feelings either. For the first time, I felt that this was the long-awaited metropolis I always wanted to live in. The type of place where small, out of the way joints were everywhere (Refer to the Beijing Blogs) and everything was strict, clean, on-time, in-order. Whatever career choice I chose afterwards, this is where I wanted it to take me…Japan was where I belonged.
Of course, getting there was another story. For the past year, I spent my days applying to jobs related in any way to Japan. A Virginia law firm with a newly formed Tokyo office, a news co-op, a Japanese news channel. But each time, I was left in disappointment and sometimes taken advantage of, and I slowly realized that the hiring environment, whatever the politicians may advertise, is not one that turns a friendly eye towards new college graduates, however optimistic and goal-driven the graduate.
And as my ambition for a career straight out of college burned dimmer as job after job opportunity passed me by, the next option I soon found, was grad school. Fast forward to today, 13 hours away from a new life, or an old life. I’m not really sure yet, but I’ll be sure to let you know.