Monday, November 21, 2011

The Importance of 仲良し and Coming to Japan Advice

Some of my 仲良し
For me, friends are an essential part of life.  Right up their with air, water, and food.  They are who I want to spend any and all free time with, and they help me to become the person I want to be.  It is not an overstatement to say that I wouldn't be in Japan if it weren't for my friends!  In Japanese society, too, friends are very important.  In Japanese, there's the word "tomodachi" 友達 that is the general word for friend.  But then there's also the word "nakayoshi" 仲良し, which means "close friend".  Let me tell you about how my 仲良し have influenced my life for the better.

I'm going to start off by saying that I only had 2 or 3 friends in high school.  I was pretty much a loner, yet I craved friendship.  Then I moved 2,000 miles away for college and did not know a single soul.  It was time for a fresh start.  And it was time for new friends.  The dorm that I lived in, Xavier Global House, had an overall international theme, and the 3rd floor where I lived was Chinese and Japanese themed.  I eventually ended up living on this floor for 4 years.  Over those 4 years, through the floor theme, I met many Japanese nationals and people interested in Japanese language and culture.  These people eventually became my best friends!!!  They also became a key instrument in my success during my study abroad in Japan in 2008.  For example, without having met my friend Yukari, I wouldn't have been able to get a cell-phone or set up a Suica commuter pass.  Without my friend Liz, I wouldn't have had as much fun as I did.  While there, I made even MORE new friends that are very dear to me, despite only spending 4 months together!!!

Fast-forward to the beginning of this year.  I moved back home to Milwaukee after I graduated to look for a job, etc.  I had a sum total of 1 friend there.  My social life consisted almost entirely of hanging out with my mom (who is awesome, BTW).  I was also working a job that was very stressful for a number of reasons.  In short, I was very unhappy.  I just needed.... more!!!  I needed Japan!  Or so I thought...  It had always been my plan to go back to Japan since I came back from study-abroad.  My original plan after I got my transitional job in Milwaukee was to save up enough money to go to language school in Japan.  Before, I would have been fine going anywhere in Japan.  But then I realized, why go anywhere when I could live with my friends, who all lived in the greater Tokyo area???  I think it finally hit me that the idea of being with my friends was more important than just going to Japan.  With this thought in my head, as well as a spur to action by my friends Caroline Josephine (pictured above in the black hat) and Julie, I decided to look for work instead.  This way, I could have it all: I could be self-sufficient, I could live in the country I love, and, most importantly, I could live near my friends!!!

Now I am here.  I'm almost 75% self-sufficient.  I'm living in an awesome city.  And I have the opportunity to see my friends whenever we are able to!  In the short 2 months that I've been there, I've started back up old friendships, strengthened current friendships, and made brand new ones!!!  I'm loving my life SOOOO much, and it's all thanks to my 仲良し.  I just hope I can be as good a friend to them as they have to me.  Here's to many more years with them.  And here's hoping that many of my state-side friends move here!!!!!  And here's to us, dear reader, potentially becoming friends!!!  If you live in the Tokyo area and wanna meet, I'm totally game!!!  Just drop me a line!!!

If you are interested in coming to Japan for whatever reason (study-abroad, work, etc.), my advice to you is to make some connections before you go over.  If your school has an exchange program with any Japanese college or university, become friends with the exchange students from that school first before you go over there.  That way, when you go there, they will be there too and they can assist you if you have trouble.  Also, it's a good idea to go over with any other friends that you have.  If you have a friend in Japanese class that you really like, talk about the possibility of studying abroad together.  This is one of those rare exceptions of a big commitment that will almost always strengthen friendship as opposed to leading to disaster, like living together.  Next, get in good with your Japanese teacher.  9 times out of 10, they still have connections to Japan and can offer you advice as far as living conditions or work opportunities.  Also, they've already had the whole "moving to another country for work/education" experience and can offer you helpful tips for coping with such things.  Plus, they're just really amazing people!!!!

But remember, DO THIS ONLY IF YOU'RE ACTUALLY GOING TO BE FRIENDS WITH THESE PEOPLE.  Don't do this just so you can have an easier time in Japan.  That's using people.  And that's a terrible thing to do.

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