When It’s Time to Move On

February is the annual JET contract renewal decision month. My supervisor asked me with a hopeful smile on her face that I would stay another year. Actually, if I wouldn’t mind, they would allow me to stay the full possible five. She’s been telling me this since November, and since November I wrangled with my heart and mind over what to do.

Many former JETs told me when I got here, “Don’t wait too long to leave. If you feel it’s time to go, then go. Don’t stay where you are just because it’s comfortable. You will regret it.”

I always hated the vagueness of these words of wisdom. What does the feeling entail? What does too long even mean? How is comfort a negative thing? I asked these questions and more, but none of them could accurately tell me.

They just said, “You’ll know.”

From experience now I understand what they meant. The feeling isn’t just one feeling, it’s an accumulation of different feelings attached to certain things associated with working and living in one area.

I’ve lived in Itako for two and a half years now. If I let it sink in, that fact astounds me. Didn’t I just arrive yesterday? Where did the time go? Unbelievable, and yet true. I made a home in my 2DK apartment, putting up pictures of friends and family. I rearranged the entire place ten different times, added my own little touches here and there, tried to put my identity in a cozy space. I went on several amazing adventures with countless inspirational, caring, and beloved people. My Japanese skills improved with time, to the point I no longer need aid when it comes to complicated tasks like getting a new phone. I owe all of this happiness and warm memories to Itako.

What I didn’t expect was that the feeling can be a misnomer, because for me the big part of my decision came from a lack of feeling. I realized in December that the thought of not renewing my contract didn’t inspire feelings of panic or sadness at all. I felt excited at the prospect, and even started looking online at jobs in other areas. I knew on a cold December evening a few days before Christmas that I wanted to move to Tokyo.

Nostalgia goggles are tricky. I knew that come next year things that bothered me in the past wouldn’t change. On the weekends I’ll probably be left with few options for entertainment, probably opting to leave town to go to Kashima, Kamisu, Mito, or Tokyo to meet up with friends. Most likely, I’ll be watched, talked about, and monitored by everyone in my community. For dating, the options are limited in a country side area where there isn’t much dating material, and dating means “with intent to marry” and I don’t want to get married.

I now understand that staying too long means deciding to put your mental well being at risk of stagnancy instead of pushing for growth. I heard from many an ex-JET and ex-Interac how easy it can be to “get stuck” in the same place every year until it’s time to go. A routine is vital when living abroad. It gives stability when in all other situations we ex-pats feel out of control or lost. Going to work, teaching the same textbook year after year, I felt like I wasn’t in a routine anymore but instead getting into a rut. I tried to mix up the lesson plans, but even that didn’t make me feel like I was actually pushing my limits. I realized when I came back from winter break that staying and doing the same thing every single day for two more years could do more harm than good for me.

And that’s how I discovered how comfort can be a trap. The comfort of a routine, of daily activities and habits, means I can feel safe in the knowledge that I know what to expect. I see the same people every day, and I can usually predict how they’re going to behave. When I first arrived in Japan, I felt extremely unbalanced because I didn’t know what to expect for the first few months. The idea of starting all over again is scary, and that fear can be paralyzing. What if it doesn’t work out? What if my new situation is worse? What if I mess it all up? A thousand doubts pop up, but it’s easy for me now to say, “I did it once. I can do it again. I’ll make it work.”

I felt no urge to return to the United States. Even though I missed many people I love dearly, I couldn’t imagine going back home. Honestly, I can’t imagine leaving Japan for another couple of years at least, because in my heart still resides in Japan. I might return someday in the far future, but for now I’m not ready.

When I told my supervisor, she seemed disappointed, but she understood. Three years was a good run, after all, and she wished me luck. After she left, I felt guilty for leaving her with the chore of finding my replacement, but I knew I couldn’t say yes. I went back to work, determined to get things done.

In July, I will move on to a new life.

I normally don’t do this, but please forward! Garin Dart Missing

Garin Dart Missing

Foreign Volunteers Japan co-founder, British citizen, long-term and well-known Tokyo resident Garin Dart, has been missing since last Wednesday (May 22) at 13:00. Anyone who knows Garin - either as a friend or businessperson - will appreciate that this is really out of character. Garin runs a highly successful events company, Bluesilver, and has a young family here in Japan. I've been asked to support with the search; if anyone has any information, please call Bruno Damizzio: 080-9573-8846 (And, please share this update if you think it might be helpful.)

Foreign Volunteers Japan co-founder, British citizen, long-term and well-known Tokyo resident Garin Dart, has been missing since last Wednesday (May 22) at 13:00. Anyone who knows Garin – either as a friend or businessperson – will appreciate that this is really out of character. Garin runs a highly successful events company, Bluesilver, and has a young family here in Japan. I’ve been asked to support with the search; if anyone has any information, please call Bruno Damizzio: ((_080__9573__8846_))


Foreign Volunteers Japan co-founder, British citizen, business manager, long-term and well-known Tokyo resident Garin Dart, has been missing since last Wednesday (May 22) at 13:00. Anyone who knows Garin – either as a friend or businessperson – will appreciate that this is really out of character. Garin runs a highly successful events company, Bluesilver, and has a young family here in Japan. If anyone has any information, please call Bruno Damizzio:  ((Bruno_080__9573__8846_))

Garin went missing in Tokyo one week ago in the middle of the afternoon, and police are looking for any information about his whereabouts. As CEO of event management firm Bluesilver, he was last heard from by his colleagues on May 22nd as he sent messages about an upcoming meeting with clients at the Tokyo Hilton Hotel. The messages cut off at roughly 13:00.

His worried wife, Yukako, who is pregnant with their second child, raised the alarm when he did not return home that evening, and has already filed a report with the Tokyo police, who have begun investigating the case.  The British Embassy and Garin’s family in the U.K. have also been contacted. Interpol and the British police has also been notified.  The Tokyo police have already confirmed that he has not been taken into custody, nor has he been admitted to any local hospitals. According to reports, his bank accounts and credit cards are untouched.


Garin moved to Japan in July 2003 and launched Bluesilver, an event company that he had originally founded in London. After a decade of successful projects, the gradual expansion of his company, a loving family and many close friends and colleagues, it seems unlikely that he would just disappear by his own will.

In the days following the March 11th 2011 disaster in Northern Japan, Garin was instrumental in setting up the network that would become Foreign Volunteers Japan. He used his extensive business and personal networks to connect people of all means and abilities to be able to secure donations, deliver goods, and to directly volunteer in the tsunami-hit regions.  Besides sending aid, supplies and volunteers up to Tohoku directly, the FVJ network quickly became an essential information hub for the International communities in Japan to assess and debate the safely of the Fukushima reactor meltdown, and to find practical and feasible means to best get involved in tsunami relief activities.  Currently the community is on alert, and trying to do all we can to help find any information that may help in finding Garin.


Ayako Kawauchi, a Bluesilver employee and the last person to see Dart, says that on the day he went missing they first thought he may have fallen asleep somewhere, since he seemed tired from working so hard recently. But she adds that the behavior is not at all like Dart, and Bruno Dammizio, also with Bluesilver, says the company is the busiest it’s ever been in its history.

“He has literally vanished into thin air. There has been no trace of him in any shape or form. No communication with friends or family.”

If you see or hear of anything that may lead to information regarding Garin’s disappearance, please contact his colleague at Bluesilver, Bruno Damizzio: 080-95_73-88_46
Information regarding Garin’s disappearance and updates from his concerned friends and family can be found on the FVJ forum:
Thank you for your concern.
沢山の外国人が参加しているForeign Volunteers Japan network(日本在住の人も、日本を訪れる外国人にも情報提供しているネットワーク)の創設メンバーの一人でもあり、東京に住みながら長期ボランティアをしているゲリン・ダート(Garin Dart)さんが、先週の水曜日13時以降から行方不明です。(5月22日)彼を知ってる人も、仕事仲間も、連絡無しで消える人ではないと言っています。ゲリンさんはBluesilverという大きなイベント会社を経営していて、まだ子供も小さく、日本人の奥様のお腹の中には二人目のお子さんがいて、とても心配しているそうです。上記時刻に自社の社員と電話で次のヒルトンホテルでのミーティングの話しをした後連絡が途絶え、警察では留置されていないことも確認済み、病院へ搬送されていないことも確認済みです。下記が彼の写真です。もし情報がありましたら、ブルーノ・ダミッゾ(Bruno Damizzio)さんの電話までお願いします。: (__080__9573__8846__)

ゲリンさんは、被災地への物資搬送他支援活動に熱心で、Save Minamisoma Projectの物資搬送のフレームワークも、彼の力があったおかげでできました。もし、先週の水曜にヒルトンあたりで何か変な事象を見たり、聴いたりした方などいらっしゃいましたら、教えてください。


– Foreign Volunteers Japan*note:  Some information above is collated from comments by friends, colleagues and reports in the following articles:

My Lolita Adventure!

It was a fine three day weekend. I started it off by heading up to Katsuta to have some fun with a few friends, one of whom will be leaving shortly to return to America. He’s the one with the ginger beard below.

You shall be missed, King Jason.

I had an excellent time drinking beer and eating a “chicken fajita” at the Katsuta Duck. I received fantastic news that night from Shayla about a new Sailor Moon anime that will be coming out possibly within the next year or two. I did my little otaku squeal of joy and now I’m avidly reading through the anime forums for any talk about it. So stoked!

The following Monday, I had the day off. I made a date with Kriss, a wonderful friend and highly knowledgeable about Lolita, to go into Harajuku and/or Shinjuku to see about a Lolita outfit.

I’m nearly a complete Lolita n00b. I know not the best designers from the chumps. To me, Lolita looks pretty. That’s about it. Kriss happily told me he’d be my guide through this land of fabric dreams made real.

Mother of Fantasy!

Kris and I met at Harajuku Station. From there, we walked down a road looking at people in a variety of lace, ribbon, and poofy skirts. We went into several small shops, and most of which didn’t allow for pictures inside.

Kris Leading Me into PopLand

I highly recommend this store! Pop Land has many, many reasonably priced Goth-Punk and Lolita outfits. Also, killer accessories!

Of course, I ignored this rule for the most part and took pictures anyway. I lost count of how many stores we went into all together, but they all made me feel so happy. Kriss has officially got me hooked, and I need more, more, MORE!

I want the one on the right so bad. I love the black/white maid looking outfits the best!

The store I ended up buying my outfit in was called Putumayo. It’s Kriss’ favorite store, and I can see why.

I found Lolita Wonderland!

I intended to buy something on sale. That day was a holiday and nearly every store had 50% to 70% off most items. I promptly turned to the new section and fell in love with a dress that cost about 13,500 yen. I tried it on and it not only fit but actually looked good on me. Fully sold on the dress, the adorable saleslady was very helpful in destroying the remnants of my money with a small hat with a white rabbit attached and a white blouse to go underneath.

And that’s how I ended up with this number:

I’m ready for my Un-Birthday Party!

I ended up getting the necklaces with clubs and spades at Pop Land for much cheaper, but the majority of the outfit came from Putumayo. I love both stores and I’m going back with Kriss in the near future.

I love you, Harajuku!

Have a Very, Merry Un-Birthday!

My friends and family would probably be the first to tell you I’m actually not so big on birthdays. Today, for example, I’m spending my 23rd birthday more-or-less alone. The year before, I don’t quite remember what I did, but I think it involved just going out to dinner with some friends and eating cake.

It’s not that I don’t like parties or celebrations. I actually love a good party! I’m just not very good at planning them. I also don’t really feel all that inclined to make a big deal out of turning another year older.

This year, I think I want to try something different. In Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass there is a rather interesting holiday that I love. It’s called the “un-birthday” in which a person celebrates any day that is not their birthday. You only get one birthday per year, but you can have 364 un-birthdays.

And so, on my birthday, I want to wish everyone in my life a very, merry un-birthday! Thank you for being a part of my life, and for making all 23 years an epic adventure. Please, eat cake and be happy! I love all of you!

Seriously, how has this not caught on? It’s a great idea!


It’s funny how things worked out. Not long after I wrote this little tidbit, my friends and I made some plans to do an “Un-Birthday Party!” which included a trip to an Alice Cafe in Ginza, Tokyo. The restaurant was actually pretty amazing! Completely covered from floor to ceiling in Wonderland things.

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How neat is that?

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My friends and I at the booth

And the day after that, I went to the Biohazard Cafe (aka Resident Evil Cafe) with my friend Marcos. Honestly, between the two, Biohazard Cafe won for having an epic performance. At one point during our meal, the waitresses prepared for battle, grabbing “guns” off the wall that I thought were just there for decoration and “shot” at this monster inside a large plastic container. The sounds effects were loud with monster roars and “gunfire.”

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The monster the ladies shot at with the toy guns

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The ladies shooting at the monster

Afterwards the customers, such as Marcos and myself, could take pictures with the monster and strike a pose using the guns.

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We were so bad@$$

All in all, it turned out to be a very cool belated birthday party. Yay!