Sentenced to life
During my first year in Japan, when I was living alone and lonely in a tiny apartment, freezing in the winter and sweating in the summer, with precious little money and living day-by-day for letters from home (that was before E-mail) I wrote in a letter to my minister, John, that my apartment was like a cell, but I was undecided if it was a monk’s cell or a prison cell. In those days I was still recently graduated from the McMaster Divinity College in Hamilton, and relatively fresh from a working stink doing archaeology in Israel, so I was prone to religious imagery that still played big in my imagination. Come to think of it, I’m still like that.
I have been living in Japan - Tokyo - for a full twenty years now. Honestly, I did not mean to be here so long, despite the fact that I married a Japanese woman. When I married Junko people - almost exclusively sisters-in-law, for some reason - frequently asked about my decision to livemy life in Japan. I denied (and still deny) such a decision, saying that I fully intended to return to liveand work in Ontario, and that I would work things out as I went along. I suppose part of the explanation of my long sojourn here is that I really and honestly do not know what I am doing. Even as a married, middle-aged man with property and children, I have no plan. I am still just making things up as I go along. When I first arrived as a single man in my late-20s unable to find full-time teaching work in Canada (I looked for work literally from coast-to-coast, and even into the far north) I thought 1-to-3 years, tops. Then when I married I imagined, maybe, ten years more.
In many countries of the world, if I had been convicted of a heinous crime and sentenced to “life” in prison I would be coming up for parole round about now. I don’t mean to say that life in Japan is like a prison sentence - no! Wait! That is what I’m saying!