I lived in Japan for close to three years after I got married and it was a great adventure. There were many ups and downs, sad times and good times, there was new life born and old lives lost, smiles made and tears dropped, there were friends made and friendships broken, but it felt like an extended honeymoon because although we were far from family, friends, and what we knew, I felt it gave my wife and I more time bond without the drama and distractions that couples normally face when surrounded  by old family and friends and the typical 9-5 job. It was just us and we had to rely on each other for just about everything, but with it came new experiences and memories I’ll never forget.

I remember first landing and realizing how unprepared we were. We didn’t know much of the language, my wife was having serious thyroid problems, and it was the first time either of us took such a huge leap of faith and left the comfort of our homes in the US to live in a foreign land. It was a big change and one that was scary, but anything good and worth while always takes courage, risk, and faith. The night we landed, we were dropped off at our tiny apartment, hungry, confused, and totally unsure, but still excited for things to come.

I grew up a lot while I as there, maturing physically, relationally, and spiritually. For once I started to gain confidence in myself, which I lacked before. I started to actually see the world and take notice of the people around me. It’s as if my eyes began to see past the simple material world as my mind’s eye saw the deeper aspects of the world and the people around me. Reality became real for once. In Japan, I began to grow in myself (although I’m still being molded and my footsteps directed by God) and really start to find who I am. I think it’s when I started to become a man as my responsibilities began to grow and I started to lose interest in other things that had been with me and occupied my mind since adolescence.

Japan is a beautiful country with a culture and charm unique to itself and not found any where else. I absolute love Kyoto , Nara, and Shirakawa-go.  And Osaka  and Juso will always  have a special place in my heart. The people are friendly, the culture rich, and the sites are plenty. It is full of wonder and beauty, mystery and intrigue. With that said, I freely admit that I am romanticizing it as well as my experience to a degree. Unfortunately, one of the aspects of being aware of reality is knowing when you’re not in a dream and to be aware to not have your head in the clouds for too long. There’s a lot of sadness and loneliness in Japan. A cloud hangs over the people which rains a purposeless existence without the love of Jesus.  Just like most things in life, most places are more beautiful from afar and when your memory is distant. From my understanding, Japan is known for its high suicide rates,  rather loveless marriages, and somewhat cold attitudes toward each other, especially those who have brought “shame” to family, friends, or even businesses. It seems easy to mess up and difficult to be forgiven.

Still, Japan holds a special place in my heart. The experiences I had there molded me and the friendships I made will always stay with me. I am appreciative for the bond and memories it gave me and my wife that were created by the shared experiences along with the struggles and triumphs and through the laughter and the tears. God has placed the land and the people on my heart and I hope to return some day.

Has a place ever left a lasting impression on you? If not, maybe it’s time to explore a bit more.