I WAS on the all too common giving-up-on-life local train. All you need to get on is a futile addiction of some sort. This train stops at all stations and at every stop you lose another part of your life.
First stop you lose your licence. Second stop lose your job. Then your health and family and friends, kidney, teeth and so on. I wasn't getting off until the bitter end.
Moving to Wonthaggi was daunting for me. Out of my comfort zone. But I have moved many times before: Barwon Heads, Ulladulla, Noosa, Byron Bay, Perth. I guessed it would be the same. How wrong I was. Wonthaggi was welcoming and kind and warm and fuzzy. Never found a place so easy to live in. My new comfort zone. Everyone is so willing to help with any problem, or they know someone just around the corner who can help. Support to overcome that addiction was easier than ever.
I had loaded up my life with pipe dreams. Push was coming to shove and it was time to fail dismally or somehow make it happen. It was time to change trains.
Eventually through stubbornness, those pipe dreams became reality. Last month I finished building the house I started three years ago on a tiny 200-square-metre block in the old part of Wonthaggi. The house is in the spare, lean Japanese style that I love. It’s a tribute to my Japanese wife Tomoko and my daughter Sakura.
So no, the house is not a perfect display home. Pieces have been joined and repurposed everywhere. But I love this house because so much sacrifice and pain and tears have gone into three years of creative construction. Not least of all when Tomoko and Sakura became homesick and went back to Japan early this year, leaving me to finish it alone over seven months.
Now it's time for me to change trains again. Two weeks ago I left Wonthaggi to join Tomoko and Sakura in Tokyo. Prepare to have everything you think you know completely turned upside down. Welcome to the Tokyo bullet train. Welcome to another planet. This is not the earth you know.
It's OK to vomit at the station and people run to get to work on time. Car doors open automatically. Shops have special bags for wet umbrellas at the entrance.
In Japan every small detail of life is considered meticulously and thoroughly, with nothing too much effort. Even the garbage trucks are kept shiny and gleaming clean. All things are moderate, smaller and sensitive. The country works with precision barely imaginable from an Aussie perspective. Tokyo makes Australia look like living in the Stone Age. At the Melbourne airport there were just a few hundred people and it was so disorganised but Narita Airport had thousands of people and was so clean and organised.
Japan has welcomed me with open arms. As I now have permanent resident status I was given the red carpet treatment at the airport. Absolutely exhausted on arrival but the in-laws are lovely.
On my second day here I went for a run in the rain at 5am, barefoot for stress relief, and became so lost that it took me three hours to navigate home. I had run about 15 kilometres and four stations away. Eventually I arrived home on the train sopping wet from a monsoonal cloudburst. What a sight I must have been for all the Tokyo businessmen on their morning commute. Amazingly my wife and in laws are used to me by now.
Through tradition and culture the Japanese have kept an amazing focus on the small significant aspects of life: the changing of the seasons, preparation of food, the view from the window.
Mt Fuji looks great this morning.
The bullet train of Toyo has blown my mind, but one thing remains the same. Kindness is still kindness, no matter where you go.
Thank you, Wonthaggi, for your kindness.