Tag Archives: Japan

10 Years!

Ten years ago today I sat hunched over my laptop in my new dorm room at Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University and tapped out a blog post documenting my trip from America, creatively titled Traveling to Japan. Drew’s Journal was born. Ten years!

My version:

I freaked out, went to Japan, built a career in China, international trader, THAT’S WHAT I DID!

And here’s the passport stamp that started it all:

On 2005-09-11 one life ended and another began.
On 2005-09-11 one life ended and another began.

What will the next ten bring?


One night, during my final few weeks in Japan, I rode my bike south along the coastal highway out of Beppu and down into Oita, from there I turned inland and pedaled through the night until the office buildings turned to apartments, apartments turned to houses, and houses turned to rice paddies. It was there that I came upon a low hill, at the top of which after climbing several hundred badly grownover steps, I found a small Shinto shrine. Having paid my respects to the resident kami, I then walked back to the top of the steps and sat down to contemplate my commanding view of all of Oita spread out across the alluvial plain below me, and the perfectly serene circumstances of my surroundings.

During a previous evening’s solo outing, it had occurred to me as I strolled in the dark through a quiet neighborhood that I would forever be an outsider there. That no matter how well I spoke Japanese, or bowed, or played shamisen, or stood spellbound as cherry blossoms drifted downwards all around me, I would never be able to call that place home. While I was struck by the sudden clarity of the thought, my heart met it with quiet and comfortable acceptance which I found myself unable to explain.

Sitting alone at the foot of the Shinto shrine on my tiny mountain, surveying the prefectural capital below me glittering in the warm summer darkness, I began to understand. While I would never be able to (nor desired to) overcome 22 years of American imprintation on my being, I had found a beautiful rhythm in Japan – a daily resonance, a finely-crafted harmony which existed for me nowhere else. I understood then that life and circumstance would conspire to lure me away from that land, but my connection to, my feeling with, and my desire for it would never fade…

And now Time finds me seated at a table for two in the corner of a Shenyang Starbucks beside a long window overlooking TaiYuan shopping street. Today, tomorrow, and perhaps even the day after are marked by gray skies and a slow steady drizzle. Such weather is a most excellent time to contemplate, methinks.

I arrived in Shenyang in early September of 2007 – this week marks my 20th month in the city, more or less equivalent to the time I spent in Japan during my graduate studies. Yet, as I sit here gazing out the window at the slowly flowing sea of walking umbrellas, I can call up from within no meaningful appreciation of this place I now call home. Despite 3 jobs, 2 apartments, and my fair share of adventures around town, I cannot describe my feelings towards this place as anything other than detached.

Now I am not so foolish as to extrapolate my feelings for one city – however large – to characterize the entire country. China is not Japan. In Japan there are only 2 places: Tokyo/Osaka and then the rest of the country. Having spent significant time in both, one can safely state his true feelings towards the land. China, rather, is like America. Boston, Miami, Dallas, Los Angeles, and San Francisco might as well be different planets.

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Japan Retrospective

It has been nearly 6 months since I left Japan, so I think the time is right for a retrospective on my time in that most unusual of countries. My time in Japan was clearly a huge formative step in my life. I earned a Master’s Degree, established an incredible amount of intercultural friendships, and met my fiancée. But what was Japan? How do I feel about a country whose electronics, automobiles, and pop culture are wildly popular in America but whose social dynamics are nigh incomprehensible? I’ve thought about it a great deal since I left, and the answer is complex, but I’ll do my best to convey it to you now…

Continue reading Japan Retrospective

Home at Last…

And so it ends, I have finally concluded my hospital residency, almost 5 weeks to the day after it began. Things will be a little ragged here for the next few days, there’s a lot of housekeeping to be done on DJ so bear with me, but we should be running smooth again in no time flat…

I was officially discharged from the hospital at 11:30am Thursday morning the 11th. I slowly walked back into my apartment and unburdened my load just before 2pm, and boy oh boy did that feel good!

Continue reading Home at Last…

Hospital – Headed Home

This evening marks the close of my final meaningful day here at Oita University Hospital. Tomorrow I will be released around 10 AM, with a new knee and all the promise of the coming year to go with it.

I’ve been here for five weeks, almost to the day, and the farewells began early. Masako-san, my infinitely compassionate and able nurse, stopped in just after breakfast. She had just finished the night shift and would be off tomorrow when I departed.

She brought me a small gift and a card, and I scrambled to present her with the one Ma Li had so carefully selected. I managed to remember about half of what I wanted to say to her in parting, stumbled over the rest, and then we stood there in an awkward silence for a long moment.

Continue reading Hospital – Headed Home

Hospital – Weaklings…

Another day, another step closer to discharge. Today’s highlight was 30 rockin’ minutes on the stationary bike pedaling 15 imaginary kilometers. Starting tomorrow I’m on the bike twice a day busting my balls in an effort to build my legs back up. My flexibility is now excellent, nearly at the magic 130 degree mark, but my right leg is the very definition of “atrophied.”

Gandhi could beat me in a squatting contest right now, seriously, my poor leg is that thin. My doctors have set a tentative discharge date of next Thursday provided I make some gains in the quadriceps department.

And in the meantime I’m studying and reading until my eyes glaze over…

Hospital – Hello Nurse

Well, I’m back in the hospital again. I was due back at 4 and came 3-legging it down the hall at 4:15 so they didn’t give me too much grief. Two of the other three guys in my room were discharged in my absence, unfortunately the only guy left is a decrepit old fellow who can’t hear a damn thing so essentially I’m alone in here now – talking with him is impossible.

It feels very nice to be back in my cozy warm bed though – my apartment in Beppu doesn’t have heat and Ma Li and I spent the entire weekend wearing sweaters and jackets inside… That’s not much fun!

I’m back to my usual grind as well – twice a day bending and rehab at 2pm. No word yet on how long I’ll have to stay this time, but I’ll keep you posted!

Hospital – New Years x2

Monday morning, the 1st, Ma Li and I headed to Oita through freezing rain to go to a kickass department store / mall on the southern outskirts of town. There had been some preliminary discussion amongst us as to whether anything would actually be *open* on New Year’s Day, but Ma Li was determined to lay her hands on a totally awesome “fukubukuro” so we had gone ahead and hopped a train on over.

Continue reading Hospital – New Years x2

Hospital – Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

Had a major breakdown in communications with my temporary Drew’s Journal assistant, spare heir Steven. So, 11 days after the last post, I’m writing and posting this one myself… and baby, it’s a doozy!


Ok, not forever, but in Japan celebrating the New Year’s holiday, known as Shougatsu, is pretty much the biggest event of the year and all ambulatory and semi-ambulatory patients are encouraged to leave the hospital for New Year’s weekend and spend time with their families. Only a skeleton crew of nurses man the wards, and only the most infirm patients remain.

Continue reading Hospital – Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!