I recently had a reader, Luke, e-mail me with a question about opening up a joint bank account in Japan since he is English and his wife is Japanese.
Luke and I got to talking and I quickly realized he had a fascinating story that I needed to share.
On a whim, he left his hometown in England to travel to Japan.
He loved his time in Japan, ended up meeting and marrying a Japanese woman, and now he’s living in Kyoto and finishing up a documentary movie called, Wonderland – a look at synchronicty coming out this summer.
I asked Luke some questions over e-mail and he was a gentleman and sent them back.
Enjoy the interview and see what you can take away from Luke’s amazing story.
Austin: What’s your name and where are you from?
Luke: Luke Hancock and I’m from England.
A: How did you get to Japan?
L: Towards the end of my degree in University in the UK I had a growing intuition that I should go to Japan, which was based on nothing. I’ve had enough tuition from life to teach me that one must pay attention to one’s intuitions. So as big and scary a move as it was, I picked up my bags and left…
A: What was your initial attraction to Japan?
L: I didn’t really know a lot about it. It just felt like the right thing to do.
A: What was the hardest part about moving to Japan?
L: Initially lonliness and the language barrier. And then later visas.
A: What did you miss about England?
L: People I could talk to and relate to easily.
A: What’s your favorite experience from your first year here?
L: Huge synchronicities that kept popping up, which made me felt to me like confirmation that moving to Japan was the right thing to do, despite the fact I kept asking myself over and over “WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING HERE???”.
Like for absolutely no reason at all spending 3 hours listening to Informer, by Snow, reading his wikipedia page and generally wasting time. Then finally randomly deciding to go outside, get on a bus, and get off at a random stop and see what happens. Well I did that and walking straight into a Lawson convenience store and that song is playing, loudly. Lawson don’t even play music in their stores, so it was a bizarre one, but there were many others like it.
A: How long have you been in Japan?
L: Getting on 3 years.
A: Where did you meet your wife?
L: Outside Nanzenji temple in Kyoto. She was studying the streets for her new job as a jinriksha and was lost, so I helped her out and it went from there…
A: What did her family think of her marrying a person from another country?
L: Her parents are pretty liberal and cool people. Despite the language barrier that remains, we have a good relationship. Her grandparents are a bit more old-school and I’m sure must inevitably harbour some remorse, but don’t show it and are incredibly friendly.
A: Has she been to England?
L: Yes. She came to meet my family before we got married. It was a fun trip.
A: What’s the most difficult thing about marrying someone from another culture?
L: Learning the subtle nuances inherent in their culture that are lacking in our own, which translates to me being an accidental barbarian infront of her friends and family and not even knowing it.
Simple things like interrupting in conversation – in Western culture finishing another’s sentence and cutting into what they’re saying is good, because it means you are listening. Here in Japan that’s a heinous crime, and is incredibly rude, but somehow I can’t stop doing it because it is deeply rooted in my cultural programming.
Yeah all that, and of course the Dolphin issue.
A: Do you plan on staying in Japan for a while?
L: She’s got a job with JICA, so we’re off to Nepal pretty soon, but I wouldn’t object to being here longer.
We just got back from a 6 week honeymoon in Mexico, and it was striking to see how grey and concrete Japan is by contrast. Not just physically, but emotionally and energetically also. But at the same time it is paradise here, because people are so incredibly respectful, and it feels safe, which are things that feel conspicously absent in the rest of the world once you’ve been in Japan for a while.
A: How has life been different in Japan, since you married a Japanese woman?
L: I stopped having to spend time being upset that it is so difficult to find a like-minded woman here who speaks good English who could become a partner. They’re rare gems, but they sparkle bright and stand out in the crowd.
A: Any last bits of necessary info. my readers should know?
L: If you’re new in Japan, or are thinking about coming, then you’ll most likely first experience the Giant Ice Wall that stands between you and the culture around you. It’s not like other countries where people are friendly and can easily be approached in the street and talked to. They freak out here when you do that.
Anyway, if you feel you’re supposed to be here then you most likely are, and so with a bit of persistence the Ice Wall melts. Learning the language helps a great deal. If I have one regret it would be that I didn’t put more effort into the language, and after 3 years still feel quite inept in conversation.
That and follow your intutions and look out for synchronicity. It helps the process of moving country a whole lot easier.
A huge thanks to Luke for a fascinating look at his life in Japan as a married man.
For those who want to know more about synchronicity, you can check out Luke’s film in progress at http://www.synchronicityfilm.com/
Also, head over to the movie’s forums to learn more and share stories about synchronicity.
Photos: Luke and laszlo