Thirty years ago today I landed at Narita, an hour north (wish) of Tokyo, no visa but an assignment for two years in Japan and England had just lost the Rugby World Cup to Australia. I'd wondered what I would think of myself as a young twenty-five year old if I turned down the opportunity and so here I was, lost. In those years I’ve seen a few changes, little kids don’t run up and touch me, running off laughing that they’d touched a foreigner anymore.
A kind gentleman with a complete absence of English guided me from Tokyo Tower to the Shiba Park Hotel and turned back with a wave. We have mobile phones now and it doesn’t cost $4 a minute to call England any more, if you need to contact someone, the fallback is to call, then it was a message on a cassette on an answer machine they wouldn’t receive until they got home.
There was no social networking, you met people the old-fashioned way by saying hello, which gladly you can still do today. People were kind to me and that is still true as well. In 1993 I met and married the lady who still sits beside me today. Street signs are in English (!) as are Shinkansen announcements (and not just the recordings, though I did love the lady's voice back then, “welcome to our Shinkansen”). I could fly Virgin to London and be invited to sit in the cockpit for landing into Heathrow though those days are long gone now.
I no longer have to sit, typing in code that had been faxed to me, to hook my computer up to the internet to watch Mozilla scroll up in front of me with a modem beeping away in the background (I wonder what happened to Global Village). We’ve had some significant earthquakes although I still find myself explaining the difference between the Japanese and international scales however, bar the once, I haven’t had to shovel mud from someone’s home again.
I’ve lost many friends, some to distance and some to circumstance. There was a different pandemic back then, but we figured it out, hopefully we’ll do so again. I hadn’t even thought about my son but now I sit in awe listening to his guitar. It’s been a good thirty years. I’ve been lucky. And, just about now, the plane landed.
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