Drawing and writing stories are my favorite hobbies up to this day. And Japan has stayed close to my heart all these years as I studied Japanese Language and Culture at university and lived a year in the midst of Tokyo, for ever losing my heart to this lively, colorful, hospitable city. (And there I got my addiction to cameras and taking pictures wherever I go.)
Exactly one year ago I went to Japan for the fourth time and stayed one month in Ikebukuro Honmachi, near one of the liveliest stations of the world. It was my first time in a so called Gaijin House, where supposedly foreign students or teachers live to cheaper conditions than are normally seen in the center of Japans capital. When I got there around 2 pm Tokyo time after a long flight with the ever great Scandinavian Airlines (SAS - via Copenhagen; I totally recommend them - the service is outstanding, the food is healthy and yummy and everywhere there is this Scandinavian feel of ease) no one was in the house, though.
In the evening everybody returned from work - almost all inhabitants were actually young Japanese, who couldn't afford the high prices either. The first view of my tiny room was quite shocking, even if I knew that Japanese rooms don't tend to be large at all. At least my luggage fit in one corner, I had a bed and a tiny IKEA table, as well as a book shelf and wardrobe (a tiny one...).
Unfortunately last year in March it was really unusually cold for the time of the year and I was freezing in my room the first nights.
In the mornings I got up, ate a breakfast I had purchased the other night in the local conbini (24 h convenience stores that sell almost anything, but aren't that large) and went off to do research at the Waseda University library a 15 minute train ride and a 15 minute walk away (which isn't bad in Tokyo. At all.) In the evening I met with various Japanese friends in Shinjuku or Shibuya and had tons of fun. At around midnight I came back to fall in my bed. At the weekends I retraced some steps I had loved to walk when I lived in Japan. A friend of mine even took me for a car ride to Nikko, which is really one of the places where you feel awed by japanese temple architecture.
I can hardly believe what is happening right now. Every time I was in Japan I experienced minor earthquakes and every time I was a little bit uneasy about the possibility of the Great Quake, which always loomed in the shadows. Now that it struck and triggered a major tsunami as well as an imminent nuclear catastrophe my prayers are with Japan and the Japanese, who deal with this crisis in an most admirable way. I hope that I will be able to go back there some day and I don't just yet want to give up on my dream of living and working in Nihon.