Should I stay or should I go now… You holler into the mic, a pint glass in your hand ready to catch the cascade of falling tears as you try to make a decision that will CHANGE THE REST OF YOUR LIFE, or will at least have some slight impact on the kind of pictures you will from here onwards post on Facebook. That’s right, you could be swapping those "will you just LOOK at these vending machines!" pictures for something resembling…well, real life.
"Yellow" by Coldplay is up next. That’s it. You’re going home. No more AKB48, or weird brown vegetables you’ve still yet to discover the name of. You need real music, your friends at home, baked beans… violins softly play in the background as the image of those two westerners running around the beach, or something equally inappropriate and largely unrelated to the music, plays in front of you.
This could be a terrible exaggeration. The more logical and realistic reality may be that the decision to leave or stay in Japan will be part of your much larger, well-considered and structured strategy for the future.
But for some, it is not in any way straightforward. Just like the decision to head 6,000 miles across the pond in the first place, the judgement call of whether or not to go home might be a spontaneous one; irrational to the untrained eye/your parents/future employers. The way you feel may vary from day to day. On Monday, the obaasan next door gives you a grapefruit = 1 point for staying. But on Tuesday you receive an unwarranted attack from an all-wiggling, all-murdering "mukade" = start putting bubble wrap around your valuables and slinging them in a suitcase. Maybe you’re ready to take the plunge and crawl back under the kotatsu for a few winters yet.
But if you can’t decide, here are a few of the more whimsical things to think about.
• You are moneyed now. Sometimes you put 5,000 yen into a vending machine just to get a can of Coke. If you put the equivalent of 5,000 yen into a vending machine in the UK, it will steal it from you and call you a fool for carrying that amount of money around with you in cash. You will sell your kidneys for a sum not dissimilar from amounts you now casually splash on an evening at the izakaya, while earning a wage that is the approximate equivalent of half a night at the local Manekineko.
• In Japan, there’s a feeling that everyone is equal – most of your friends are likely doing a similar job or earning a comparable wage. Big cities back home are a rat race where you will sell your time and soul to the highest bidder and where your friends will probably be too rich to associate with you or too poor to afford to step out of the door (depending on whether they’re working in finance or not). It’s not so much a ladder as an escalator to the top; one which is permanently moving downwards whilst you are sprinting up like a B grade celebrity on a terrible game show after a 3-day binge.
• Japan is very, very safe. There will be some cities in your home country where you can’t be entirely sure your belongings haven’t been stolen out of your hands whilst you’re still clinging on to them.
• Chu-Hi and the remedial Ukon drinks do not exist in foreign lands. There will be hangovers. And no delicious cheap ramen to soak them up with. Eating out will generally be restricted to birthdays and friend’s birthdays (which you will resent because of the accompanying price tag, and accordingly purge them from your contacts list until it’s just you and the cat, who thankfully doesn’t know its birth date).
The relative merits of choosing to stay or leave are, of course, individual to each person. You may be yearning for the fantastic reunions, the lack of hair-frizzling humidity, and the comfort of knowing whether you’re purchasing salt or sugar at the supermarket. But whether you’re sobbing over repeats of "Notting Hill" every night, just to get a glimpse of home, or still finding too much comfort in your good friend "kara-age" to leave, deciding whether to give up one life and start another is always going to be a headache.
But if you really can’t make up your mind, or just don’t want to, you can always take a giant leap of recklessness and follow the rest of the song: ‘If I go there will be trouble, and if I stay it will be double…”© Japan Today