Japan — this country has been my life for the last two years. It has changed me in ways I could never have imagined, lead me down new roads (both physical and metaphorical), introduced me to some of the kindest souls imaginable, and left me with a horde of memories I will treasure forever. But, despite all this, it is time to say goodbye.

As I write this, my last weekly Japan column for the Bolton News, I am actually sat on my parents' patio — right here in Bolton. I arrived back from Japan and I’ve already been inundated with the dreaded question — “Why did you leave?” So, that is what my final piece will be about. The highs and the lows, but mostly, the whys.

In Japan, I worked as an English teacher, which was nothing new for me. I’ve been teaching since I was just 16 years old. But, what was strange, was the attitudes of the Japanese staff. It’s a difficult thing to get used to, but everyone sticks to the status quo in such a way, that even when things are unnecessarily difficult — they refuse to change. This, personally, led to many frustrated conversations with staff as you tried to point out the much simpler, quicker way to do things, but were always greeted with a head tilt and the infamous “maybe…” that the Japanese use instead of saying “no”.

I’ve written previously about what life is like living as a woman in Japan, and as someone who believes very strongly in equal rights — as my time there went on, it became harder and harder to deal with and accept. At work, it was never really an issue, it was walking on the street, in bars, and when I was walking alone that it became a real problem. Even though I felt safe in Japan, I often felt ‘creeped out’ when old men would spend an entire conversation staring at my chest, rather blatantly.

As with any country, there are always reasons to stay, and reasons to leave. I don’t regret a single thing about living in Japan, it was the best two years of my life. But, now that I’m home, I’m ready to begin my next adventure whatever that may be. If you want to read more about my time in Japan, my reasons for going, and my reasons for leaving, then check out my blog at www.geekgirlgoes.com which is always being updated with new content. But now, I would like to leave you with a quote that has helped me put my transition into perspective — “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”