Wednesday, March 9, 2011

My friend Steve

This post is a submission to the March 2011 Japan Blog Matsuri, hosted this month over at Haikugirl's Japan. Thanks, Ali!

The theme of this month's Matsuri is "Faces of Japan." I thought a lot about who I wanted to write about, and ultimately decided to break the rules of the theme. Sorry, Ali! I was supposed to write about a Japanese person in my life, and while there are plenty of people more than deserving of a blog post, I decided to write about a non-Japanese friend of mine. A friend named Stephen.

I have a knack for photoing people as they blink.

Living in Japan, I've met a lot of amazing people, both Japanese and non. Going through some old photos on my computer the other day, I came across a few of Steve and it jogged some memories. I'm really glad to have met this guy. Let me tell you a little about him.

Steve and I both entered the JET Program in 2008 and were placed in Hyogo-ken, right between Osaka and Kobe. I think we first met at the orientation for new JET ALTs at Yashiro (lovingly called "Yashiro Prison" by all who attend), where we were roommates along with two other guys. Incidentally, one of them was our very own Joe. I remember my impression of Steve was positive right off the bat. He was often grinning, friendly, and positive, though not in the same way that wide-eyed Japanophiles tend to be.

Over the months we met up a few times to either grab a bite or go hiking, and though we didn't hang out often, I felt like the time we did spend together was quality. I know this is sounding more and more like a man-crush, but I just mean he was both a fun guy to hang out with and the kind of person who one can learn from. And no, he's not dead or anything, but I'm gonna keep talking about him in the past tense anyway.

If he were a professional photographer, this would be his bio picture.

Our hikes to Fushimi Inari in Kyoto and Mt. Rokko near Kobe are great memories. He was a big fan of hiking and also into photography, so he set up a number of these scenic hikes and always issued an open invitation to anyone interested. Now that I'm thinking of going hiking once or twice in the spring, I regret that I didn't go with him more often.

931 meters up, baby.

On our hikes we had some good talks. He really was an interesting guy - originally a businessman working for Nike (apologies if I'm mistaken, Steve! I remember it was a footwear company), he decided that he wanted to try something different, something more fulfilling. While a lot of people would (and do) just stay where they are and be miserable (hey, at least they have a paycheck), he decided to go out there and try something different. So he went to go teach English in Japan. I remember him telling me that he used to be a stressed out person, often getting angry and worrying all the time. One day he decided that he didn't want to be that kind of person, and committed to becoming happier and more positive. He accomplished that, but still managed to maintain a somewhat cynical edge, which became evident especially when talking about business or politics. That's what I saw, anyway, and I greatly admired that about him.

Steve only stayed on for one year - his then girlfriend, now wife, was waiting for him back home. Though I wish I had gotten to know him a little better, we do still keep in touch, though infrequently. Regardless, I'm glad to have met him. He's one of the friends I've made here in Japan, and was a kind of mentor to me, as well. If you read this, Steve, thanks for all the advice and friendship. It's a small world - if our paths ever cross again, let's have a beer. It won't be at an udon shop at the top of a mountain, and it may not even be Japanese beer, but it'll be in good company!

This post is also a submission to Budget Trouble's Show Me Japan. Check it out for more posts about Japan! 


  1. Aw, this was really sweet. I know it's going to be hard when some of the people I've gotten close with leave this summer!

  2. Thanks! Yeah, it's tough to say goodbye to people, but one of the nice things about living abroad and being in a "community of expats" is that you get to meet some great folks.

  3. This is a lovely post - thanks for entering the Matsuri! :) I know what you mean about those people you meet so briefly while in Japan, but mean so much to you.

  4. Thank you, Ali. And thanks for hosting - looking forward to seeing what other people did with the theme.

  5. Awww yay, a happy post!!!
    Really appreciate this in the midst of everything. Being informed is one thing, but constnatly being inundated with bad news is more than I can take.
    Cheers for some serious "agepoyo" and yay for bromance. ;)

  6. Thanks, Ri! Yeah, hope to be back writing normal posts soon...just a little difficult, you know? "Normal" stuff just seems a little trivial at the moment, though of course it's not.

  7. Thanks, Ri! Yeah, hope to be back writing normal posts soon...just a little difficult, you know? "Normal" stuff just seems a little trivial at the moment, though of course it's not.

  8. I got terribly nervous when I started reading this post. OMG, why is he writing about this guy? I half expected you to drop the bomb that Steve worked in Sendai and can't be reached or something like that.

    I literally stopped breathing when I got to the last paragraph.
    This just tells you what kind of weekend we've been having...

  9. Steve is definitely a interesting and nice guy and I admire your knack:)

  10. Thanks, guys. Sorry to worry you, Anna!

  11. It's an entry that is worth reading on March 2011 Japan Blog Matsuri. It's a nice story. :)

  12. Nice post. I skipped this Matsuri because it seemed so boring and taking a picture of the Yakuza boss on my street might not be a good move. I can't think of another face that is of any real value (besides students and I can't post them on a site other than my own so...)

    Anywayz...sorry I'm late ;)

    Who is hosting the next Matsuri.

    I would love to volunteer.
    I got a couple of ideas ;)

  13. Hey Chris, thanks for stopping by!

    Yeah, you should host. From the looks of things not many people are volunteering. Think next is NihongoUp and Nippon the Bus?