Many moons before I decided to run a company here in Japan I was an academic. I was a professor at the university, and was on track to pursue a career in literature. That seemed like such a long time ago. The yearnings of a younger man hoping to be a wiser man, perhaps.
But life can take you in all kinds of unexpected directions.
Since that impulse to live out my days surrounded by books and parchment, the nights waning away as papers and conferences based on research in the stacks that never were meant to be, I was swept away to the other side of the world. In Japan I found my life, full of new experiences, new language, new people, new customs and culture, regular punishing training sessions on the dojo floor, and my place as a language teacher, an English mentor and shepherd to the thousands of kids who would come through my classrooms.
Tolkein writes through his hobbit voice:
“It’s a dangerous business, going out of your door. You step out onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no telling where you might be swept off to.”
I like these words, I like them a lot. And they bear witness to the truth of the path I have been on for over 20 years now in Japan. The years, seem now marked clearer with every coming April.
In keeping with the season, I also like these words by the great Geoffrey Chaucer:
April can seem cruel and harsh, but with it come an important energy. We feel that here in Kagawa, the smallest prefecture of Japan, the sakura trees are bursting with life, with their own testament of the relentless movement of time, and of new life. You can’t help but to feel some kind of inspiration.
For me, it seems like a kind of inspiration to also prune out the trash that I have let hang around the edges of my consciousness. There have been some individuals who have been sniping at my feet, trying to trip me up, cause me to make mistakes in judgement, or to provoke me to err on the road I am on. I need to put trash in its place, but not with a force that makes a ripple that makes a wave. I just need to step over it. This is the April to do it.
I’m also feeling a deepening of gratitude. I am grateful for the team of teachers and staff we have in our company. We truly have some remarkable, talented, and kind people with us. It hasn’t always been this good. We’ve made some profound staffing mistakes before, and trusted people who could not be trusted. We’ve been saved by the good people who came next.
One thing that I think has been missing in this blog is some kind of personal narrative. I have been advised to add it in, but even so I hesitate. I would very much like this blog to be about Shikoku, Kagawa, the incredible things and interesting people who are here. And I don’t find myself particularly interesting. Even though I think I have been pretty lucky to see and do some very cool things here in Japan.
But that too is not really because I am the one who made things happen. There are circumstances, there are contexts, there are people around me who make things happen, and who provide opportunity and chances. I’m aware that I am intrinsically connected to the people who I interact with every day. My own power is fantastically limited, and I know I can only add to the energy of those around me, and hope that we make something good together.
I’ll try to add some parts and pieces here of my own narrative, as while it may be hard to believe, I am rather a reserved and introverted person. I have to stand in front of a lot of people every day to teach and speak, but I do not love the spotlight. I’m just not built that way.
And then there is this strange occurrence where I have been given a spotlight to use. I would like to think that I might use it for something good, and to put focus on things and places where some good can occur. I’d like to take this spotlight and invite you to look with me at some of the most remarkable things that bloom and grow here in Japan. I’d like readers, friends, and neighbours to take a good look at what is here in Shikoku, and in Kagawa-ken. The history, the buildings, the food, the drink, the quiet streets at night, the trees and water in the parks and in the temple grounds. And then there are islands to see….
A million voices have been heard here in Shikoku, telling their stories and sharing their culture. One aging fat Canadian guy’s ideas about it is but a pale and shabby reflection of what you can see for yourself.
So, for my part, I will do my best to keep bringing to this blog things and people who are creative, fun, and interesting. I warmly welcome you to see these things, touch, taste, and feel it for yourself. I can’t promise that it will change your life, as it has mine, but it might give you an unexpected gift.
And that would be pretty interesting too.
Thanks for letting me ramble on a bit here. More blogs coming soon, and in machine gun fashion, so stay tuned.
The lyf so short, the craft so longe to lerne.
Th’ assay so hard, so sharp the conquerynge,
The dredful joye, alwey that slit so yerne;
Al this mene I be love. –Chaucer