Why I'm Leaving Tokyo with Unfinished Business

Cherry blossoms in full bloom at Ark Hills in Tokyo. Lorraine Chai

Written by  January 19, 2020

After three years in Tokyo, moving away feels like leaving home all over again. 

In Japan, cherry blossoms are a huge part of the culture; not just for their beauty, but also for how they represent the fleeting nature of life. Cherry blossoms are only in full bloom for two weeks. After that, the blossoms start to fall. These flowers remind us that life is beautiful but short, and we need to make the most of it. Somehow, I see that these flowers also represent my time here in Tokyo.

I always knew that I had to leave Tokyo, but I did not want to think about when that time will come. Now I'm finally leaving, and I have less than two months to do everything I wanted to do here. Even though I have lived in Tokyo for three years, I still feel like I am leaving behind a lot of memories, friends, and maybe even a career. These are the mixed feelings that come with living abroad: once you get comfortable somewhere and then have to leave, you always feel like you’re leaving something behind. And it’s true, you can’t see everything in a country. You have to make the most of your time, and this is different for every individual.

Why I decided to leave

I like to think of my relationship with Tokyo as similar to a great romantic love: we had amazing memories that I will always cherish, but we also had stressful moments. It was an intense relationship that involved a huge commitment. 

I like to think of my relationship with Tokyo as similar to a great romantic love. It was an intense relationship that involved a huge commitment.

Now, Tokyo is giving me an ultimatum—do I stay or leave? And, like all relationships that end, it’s because of timing. This is how I feel about leaving Tokyo: the timing isn’t right for me to stay, as I want to focus on my career. The only way to do that is to go back to Canada, where I believe there are better opportunities for me.

I could have stayed here longer, as it’s very easy to renew your visa in Japan. I met many foreigners that have lived in Tokyo for more than five years. However, I felt that if I stayed in Tokyo I would get too comfortable—which I am already feeling right now. This was the same situation for me three years ago back in Canada: I left because I was feeling too comfortable there, too. 

Sometimes being comfortable is a bad sign. If we want to grow and develop as human beings, we need to take action and control our own lives. This includes making painful decisions. Life does not give you what you want unless you work for it. Seeing as I did not have a boyfriend and I was not happy with my career in Tokyo, I made the decision to leave Japan.

What I’m grateful for

I do not regret my decision to move to Tokyo at all. It was one of the best decisions of my life, and totally worth the stressful process of moving here. The first year was difficult, but after that I fell into new habits and really became immersed in Japanese society. From this experience, I will take away knowledge of a new language, friends from around the world, more cultural awareness, and a stronger version of myself.

What's next

I came to Tokyo hoping to find myself, as I thought this place would have the answers. After three years, I think I became a better version of myself, but I am still not sure where life will take me. But at least I have a plan in mind in of what I want to do when I come back to my home country. For now, I want to restart my life in Canada and I would like to travel to new countries in Europe. Starting my life in Canada is going to take adjustments—I may even experience culture shock. But at least I have my family for emotional support.

So, thank you Tokyo for the wonderful memories and the greatest chapter of my life. I am proud to call you my second home; and, like all homes, I know you will always welcome me back. This is why I believe this is not a goodbye. Whether it is to visit on vacation, or come back to live here someday, the future is uncertain—but I know I'll see you again.

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Published in Work Abroad Blogs
Lorraine Chai

Lorraine Chai is a tourism professional that loves to learn about different cultures. To pursue her dream, she took an English teaching job for a private language school in Japan. On her spare time, she likes to chase mountains and uncover local Japanese foods.

Website: https://www.instagram.com/chailatt3/

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