Considering how many ‘returning from an unexpected hiatus’ blog posts I’ve read in the last ten years, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised at how easy it was to fall out of the blogging habit, but I am. Every time I thought about posting for the past month, I felt more like stomping my foot and throwing a fit.

It wasn’t like I didn’t have the time. Because of how my schedule works, I spend hours reading the news or books on Kindle each week, with a relatively small amount of time dedicated to actually being in class or prepping for class. Since I’m only responsible for the activities we do in class, it’s rare for me to spend more than 30 minutes per junior high school lesson, between paging through my educational resources, selecting an activity, modifying it appropriately for age level/time limit/grammar points, and actually producing it. Since I’ve started introducing them to tongue twisters as a warm-up, prep time has shot down.

Also, even though I have time, it’s all at work. I’ve found it surprisingly difficult to write with people chatting and answering the phone around me. I’ve also become a bit accustomed to my life here – it can be hard to put myself outside a situation enough to analyze it and write about it. This is my everyday life, why do I need to break out the camera again?

So, to break myself back in, a slightly related topic:

When I arrived, one of the first questions I was asked was ‘where’s your hometown?’. While many people in Japan obviously still live in or near the town they were born in, many more have moved to the larger cities or have been transferred elsewhere due to their jobs. Your hometown is where you were born, where you’re parents still live, and where you return for holidays in August and January. Even in a small town like Otobe, people keep track of which smaller unit of Otobe you’re from – Midorimachi, Motomachi, Sakaehama, Toyohama, Himekawa, etc. It determines where and with who you went to elementary school, your phone number when the office can’t remember*, and where you volunteer for traffic safety week.

I, of course, claimed Tucson as my hometown. Not many Americans would dispute this – I wasn’t born there, but I moved there before I started school and stayed through high school graduation. My mother lives there, it’s where I returned for holiday breaks during college. I vote there, register my car there, know every neighborhood and shop. If I have a hometown, it is Tucson.

A few weeks later, I was explaining to my co-workers how I still felt at home in a seaside town like Otobe despite my Arizona upbringing because Otobe is similar to Narragansett, RI, where I spent part of every childhood summer. I broke out my large classroom map of the US to show them Rhode Island, and mentioned in passing that I was born in Hartford.

This caused a sudden bout of confused consternation. Hartford? But you said your hometown was Tucson.

It is, I replied, I was only born in Hartford. We left when I was six months old and I don’t remember it one bit.

It took a surprisingly long amount of time to convince them that even though I was born in Hartford, and my grandparents lived nearby, it shouldn’t be considered my hometown. For them, that was all was needed to qualify Hartford as my hometown. I had to explain that most Americans would think it was silly to claim a city I barely knew (silly, and a bit pretentious, if I had gone around claiming that in southern Arizona), and more closely associate a concept of ‘hometown’ with high school or school, at least. It can be even more fluid in the US – a ‘hometown’ can be wherever you are living currently, if you are in a sufficiently strange and distant situation. If you’ve only lived in Sacramento a month, it’s still ‘where you’re from’ on a business trip in Australia.

*This produced a pretty amazing feat, in my eyes at least: Within Otobe, you only have to dial the last six digits of your phone number, and the first two refer to your area (Midorimachi for me). Last week, the office needed to contact someone, but had lost her number. Using the area she lived in and the phone number of someone they knew lived nearby, plus a little bit of house counting, they produced 4-5 likely numbers…and found her on the second try. Wow.



Filed under japan

3 responses to “Hometown

  1. Dad

    Very nice piece. You have to remember the perspective of your readers… your everyday life is absolutely fascinating to me! You’re having the kind of adventure I only dreamed about at your age. So keep those photos and blog thoughts coming, it’s all wonderful!

  2. Sus Baker

    Your post confirms the impression I’ve been feeling that you are very much at home and happy in Otobe. Though I’m very happy to observe that this is true, it doesn’t let you off the hook from your responsibility to entertain the rest of us. 🙂 Thanks for writing.

  3. Joy

    Yeah, I think there is a distinction between “where you were born” and “where you grew up”, and the latter is more likely to be associated with the word hometown. I always qualify these questions by saying New England, that we moved a lot, and that southeastern CT feels like home to me even though I only lived there from 18 months-6 years and 16 years – college.

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