All set to write my first blog in Japan now that I have cleaned my house which takes all of 2-3 minutes in my 19m² apartment, which is pretty standard in a city of over 30 million people!
In my friendly little apartment, which I should mention is about twice the size of my two self-sufficient tiny Happy, simply homes in South Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand, I have found a few moments in between my Master’s in Peace Studies and new life as a Rotary Peace Fellow to share with you a few small insights into life in Tokyo and will try to do so once a month.
I’m used to moving a lot in my life. I’ve been a social justice nomad for the past 15 years in over 85 countries around the world, and never lived in one place for more than a year since I graduated as a primary school Japanese teacher in Adelaide, Australia in 2000.
Whilst sleeping in the same bed for 30 days straight is a novelty for me it also means I’m not off on new adventures, new life lessons, new cultures, new places and new people. However, I have supplemented that with a much deeper understanding of topics, perspectives and solutions related to peace through my studies. Although I did manage to sneak away a few weeks ago for a night in my tent in the mountains to feel like I was still travelling!
The best comment I have heard so far about stepping away from the world to put my head in books and academia was summed up by Hilary, a Rotary Peace Fellow in the year previous to me. She spoke about how this is a rare opportunity to nourish yourself in discovery, new learning, deeper learning, keen analysis and critique of ideas and overall a new vision to go back out into the world. Her advice was to embrace this opportunity, and that is exactly what I am doing.
There are times where I still feel like I should be out doing not learning but I am thirsty to seek ideas and answers and extend my understanding of the world to be more effective in it, especially through this new lens of peace.
Those are some of the feelings that have greeted me on this experience so far, as for the practicalities and daily life stuff it is slightly unique for me compared to my other Rotary Peace Fellows who are all new to Japan. I’ve been lucky to have lived in Japan twice before, I speak almost fluent Japanese and two years ago I walked 1000km and cycling 1500km in Japan to kick start my initiative called Teaspoons of Change.
From the first moment I arrived I felt the familiar hug of Japanese hospitality (although the Japanese don’t hug). I was picked up from the airport by three Rotarians, taken for breakfast, and soon after lunch, then taken from housing agent to university to accomplish all the little things you have to do to start a new life in a new place, when you will be there for more than a month, which is my usual time span skipping from place to place.
Having my Rotarian guardians has not only been of great assistance, especially when you ask them to help you transport a bunk bed from one side of Tokyo to the other!, but also the fellowship and cultural inclusion that comes with it, so not only I, but my other fellows, really get to be a part of this country we are in for our studies.
As for living in Japan, I’ve got my taste back for slightly stinky, slimy and fermented soybeans, known as なと (nato), for breakfast, banging my head on low doorways and for the first time in a long time, I’m enjoying, and being challenged by, academic rigour which I have not been faced with for 15 years since my undergraduate degree.
Most of all I have a strong feeling of gratitude that I have been handed this opportunity to put time, effort and priority into learning and shaping my future with a peace perspective. Already I know I look at the world differently understanding some of the core perspectives of peace, such as, peace not really being the absence of war but a celebration of life that everyone should be able to access.
My mind has already begun racing ahead to my field experience and master’s thesis next year and I approach each day eager to learn more of what I can translate into action to see a more just, peaceful and happier world with access and opportunity for everyone, everywhere and forever.