In search of home

Around five months ago, I left Australia for Japan. I never intended to live permanently in Australia again.

Ever since I was a child, I was always disappointed by my country. I lived most of my childhood immersed in books, which are still, for me, the most important objects in the world. It disappointed me that none of the authors I loved were from Australia: not Alfred Bestall (of the _Rupert_ books), not Enid Blyton or Tolkien. As a teenager, I felt the separation from the culture of the American fantasy and science-fiction authors who inspired me, and later I was away from all the literary writers and philosophers from the Northern Hemisphere whose work preoccupied me at university. I felt let down, too, by Australia’s dry landscape, compared to the mountains, the lush forests and snowbound winters of England and North America, that I knew from fiction and from film and television. And as it neared time for me to enter working life, I felt that there weren’t any opportunities for work that interested me in Australia. Not any at all.

“As Yoda said”: of Luke Skywalker, so one might say of me:

bq. All his life he has looked away… to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was.

This is not the way I wanted to be my whole life.

For a long time I’d thought of leaving. It’d stopped me from working out issues in my first relationship, which lasted six years. I always figured I’d have a way out. And I always figured it’d be pointless to start something new if I’d be gone in months, a year, two years…

Through university, I was fascinated by Japan. It seemed a place where I might be able to carve some kind of life, as a valued outsider. I applied for a job on the “JET Programme”: in 2002, but failed. The following year I got a place after having been put on a waitlist, but I turned it down, partly because I was infatuated with a woman in Melbourne, partly because I was disappointed by the calibre of the applicants who’d been accepted before me. I felt I was better than them, and felt bitter about having been passed over.

Finally, in 2005, I made it here. Japan has been nothing of what I thought it might be. It’s a beautiful country in parts, but Tokyo and Osaka can be dirty and ugly, and they literally stink, thanks to sewage vents placed in major pedestrian areas. The work culture is unforgiving, and makes most lives and people dull. The creativity seen in Japanese anime, manga and videogames is not an expression of joy in life, but an escape from drab reality. The quiet and charm of traditional Japanese culture is something largely lost in the past.

Certainly, I’m a little bitter. I found that I don’t like being an outsider at all. What I wanted, leaving Australia, was to join a culture and participate in it. I wanted to find a career, a community of minds, a woman to love and a place to live and one day raise my children. Since I was about 8 years old, I’ve wanted to be a novelist, and I also wanted to find a place with a strong literary culture that I could be a part of. Japan cannot be any of these things for me. And so I am, still, _in search of home._

_The new header image shows part of the “beautiful Vancouver skyline.”: For my next destination, I’m currently torn between Vancouver and Montréal. More on this later, but if anyone can help me decide, please let me know._

Author: Ben Hourigan

Ben Hourigan is a novelist from Melbourne, Australia. His books Kiss Me, Genius Boy and My Generation’s Lament are Amazon category bestsellers, and are available wherever good books are sold online. Ben also works as an editor, copywriter, and self-publishing consultant at his own firm, Hourigan & Co. For news and book release updates, sign up to his email newsletter.