There was this time, I was in the Navy, and they sent me to Japan. Knew nothing about the place. But after three years there, I came to appreciate the people and the culture. I left Japan and mustered out of the Navy, finished college, and a few years after that, returned to Japan, partly as an adventure, because I knew such an opportunity would never occur again. I lived as an expat, met and married, became a husband and a father, and moved on to Canada before returning to the U.S.
My life in Japan was not so very different from the usual foreigner’s experience of teaching conversational English, editing such textbooks, working at an English-language newspaper, making ends meet. I have no gift for learning a foreign language, so I coped with poor Japanese language skills, but a keen ear and willingness to learn goes a long way.
One of the clearest, lasting memories I have is sitting in a park and watching a grandfather mind his granddaughter, who could not have been more than two years of age. As I looked around at the people in the park, I realized that people are the same the world over: grandparents love their grandchildren; parents scold their children, then hug the life out of the little dears. Teenagers seek out their own kind, finding independence in groups. Housewives gossip, commuters trudge along, students dream of school’s end.
A story of my days in Japan has survived many reincarnations, and one character is now the protagonist of a mystery series set in Tokyo. Police inspector Shig Sato is facing a retirement he does not want. Thanks to his loyal friends, he survives his last month on the job before he must confront life in retirement as a private investigator.
The first book in the Shig Sato series will appear as an ebook this month. You’re invited to check it out.
Have you ever lived overseas? What lasting impressions do you have?