Arashiyama monkeys Kyoto

How Being Broke Helps Me See Japan

I remember getting the offer to teach English in Japan. I don’t remember reading anything more than “We’re pleased to offer you…” before writing a hasty reply, telling my new employers that I’d absolutely accept the position. It was the opportunity to check a goal off my list, one I’d ignored to personal and professional ruin before.

I wasn’t completely sold on going. Emotionally and in most other ways that meant anything, I knew I could go. If I didn’t like it, well, you can survive anything for a year. Still, the nagging thought that my ongoing student loan payments and the cost of living here would perpetually land me in the poor house made me doubt my decision. You could chalk it up to pre-move jitters, but the predictions of my low-income bracket quickly came true. It turns out it’s not such a bad thing.

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Rice Paddies Sabae

International Romance in the Time of Tinder

There is nothing wrong with the Japanese countryside. My window frames the chain of mountains encircling Sabae City, offering a spectacular view as I wake with the sun each morning. Unlike my Tokyo-based friends, getting to work doesn’t require that I literally be stuffed into the narrow metal frame of the local train. For those reasons and many others, I’d say that I prefer this rural existence to the city life.

The only downside to teaching and living in the backwoods of the Province of Pokémon is the difficulty of forming new relationships, both romantic and platonic. The big issue is the disparity between my demographic and that to which the majority of my fellow Sabaeans (Sabae-ites?) belong; though I’m stepping dangerously close to 30, I’m still in my twenties. My social circle these days has been reduced to 50-year-old bar patrons and the occasional hangout with an illustrator and a writer I met at the cultural center.

It’s nothing to complain about, not really; friends in any form are welcome. Even so, if there is one thing that will eventually drive me back home into the embrace of ‘Murica, it’s the difficult social situation. Just how bad is it? I’ve started using Tinder. Continue reading →

On the Cop-Out of Creative Anxiety

Words from the Road started out as a way for me to get my feet wet in the world of travel writing. I’d just joined Matador Network’s “MatadorU” writing program, and I was getting some positive reviews and really great constructive criticism on how I could get better in this field. I never finished the program.

Somewhere along the way I started getting requests for submissions. Posts, like this one about getting by in Japan with a thin wallet, had reps from a few different travel sites asking for a slightly different take on the subject for publication. I started each new riff on the topic with a lot of excitement for my opportunities. Deadlines were missed without explanation. Slowly but surely, requests for articles slowed to a trickle before the ground around me cracked with drought. This blog, likewise, turned into a derelict, rarely taken care of but for when the mood randomly struck me once or twice a month. Sensing a trend?

Words from the Road: Madrid to Barcelona morphed into Kyoto to Tokyo by necessity, and that’s fine. Even that, the most ambitious project with many supporters waiting for its completion, remains incomplete, though it’s actually quite far along. More on that in the coming weeks. Continue reading →