I've heard it said that home is the place where, when you show up, they have to take you in. It's been seven years since I've seen them, but when I call Taishou to ask if I can come stay for the weekend, there is no hesitation; there's hardly even surprise: いいよ、 もちろん。 Yes, of course. Stammering through my rusty Japanese over the phone, I try to make every syllable echo how I feel -- I care about you, you are important to me, I'm sorry it's been so long... When you have so little to give back to the people you love, it's hard to know how to do right by them.
And that's Japan for me: someone I love and long for, all the while knowing we will never be together. Sometimes I feel guilty about it -- that I should give in, commit. Take a posting in Nagoya and settle down for five years. Get my language back up to speed. "Think you'll ever come back to Japan?" Taishou asks. I try to imagine it. Being in Japan is like being back in the womb: soothing, anodyne. Tempting. I struggle to reply to him, to explain. Why shouldn't I want to be here, to be with them? To be somewhere easy and liveable?