Monday, May 24, 2004

The Move to Japan

"Why did you come to Japan?"

It's one of those questions that you hear all the time. One of my colleagues said at lunch today that most of us out-of-towners come here for the money. I guess it could be true. However, it seems to me that a fair number of people come here primarily for the experience. Once you've been here for a bit, and your camp is properly set up, then I guess the money starts to add up a bit--depending on one's lifestyle, of course. But that's how it works everywhere, isn't it?

I always get nervous when someone asks me that question. I guess I'm most afraid of offending the person who asked the question. It's a fair question. But what is the motive for asking it? What prejudices or (mis)conceptions are propelling it? Is what I say going to reinforce a stereotype? I feel like I'm once again standing in front of an officer at the airport's immigration filter. When they run the bar code on my passport through their computer, what pops up on the screen? How many things do they know about me that I don't have a good story for?

I didn't come here for the money. And that's not the reason why I moved to Korea back in the summer of 2000, either. If you ask me, the money's not that good in Japan anyway. To be perfectly honest with you, it was quite a bit better in Korea. My reason for coming to Japan is a little bit more involved than that. The 'involved' part of it refers to the person I came here with.

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