Twenty-five years later...

Posted by David Chester on 31 March 2018

IMG 0128Twenty-five years ago today, I landed at Narita Airport. I was filled with excitement to start my adventure in Japan. I had given up my apartment in Los Angeles and basically said goodbye to everything and everyone I knew. My reasons for coming to Tokyo require their own special post, but let's say I sensed there would be opportunities for me here. 

I had no intention of staying in Japan as long as I have. But even though I’ve had many moments where I’ve asked myself: What are you still here for???... I am glad I stayed.

Most importantly, for me, my decision to come to Japan helped me grow up. I had lived a very, very sheltered life in Los Angeles and I knew very little about the world and other people – despite the fact that I had actually traveled around the world as a musician. But in Japan, I found myself in situations where I had to use every ounce of knowledge I had, and then, if I didn’t have the knowledge, I had to make things up. After so many years of flying by the seat of my pants, it occurred to me that I could probably produce a major motion picture (I did end up producing/writing four short films, one which won several top prizes at film competitions), if not run a major company. Japan has made me a better, smarter person.

The list of unique experiences I have had here is way too long to even start discussing. Part of what I experienced I put into my book, Freelancing in Tokyo, which is, I can say from recent events, as valid now as it was the first day I published it. Many things have changed in Japan, but almost just as many have not.

The one thing I have learned from being here is: Do what YOU want to do. I did so many jobs here, anything I could, to make money and improve my life and my world. Underlying all of that was a strong desire to write… specifically screenplays. After years of just taking any kind of job I could to survive, a recurrent theme kept surfacing: Write a screenplay! Well, after a twenty-year struggle, I can now say I am a professional screenwriter, and I hope my future efforts will reflect all that I have gained from living here.

I miss my family, my friends, “my L.A.” – but I have come to accept and appreciate that my decision to move to Japan has allowed me to experience so much that my life has been enriched in a way I don't think it would have been had I stayed in L.A.

So, what’s coming down the pipeline? A new book, a new screenplay, a new teleplay, and, I hope more films. I love to express myself through the written word, specifically how it translates into film, but I’m also embracing fiction, as I have quite a few tales I have gathered after two and half decades here.

Will I ever “go back home”? This is my home now. I am comfortable, loved, happy in many ways that I never was before. I have also learned how to be grateful, something I don’t think I understood how to be when I was younger. Los Angeles, though, will always be my home, and if my screenwriting talents (and health) allow, I will return. 

Several days ago I was biking home from my local supermarket. As I rode down one of the narrow lanes that leads me back, an older Japanese woman, maybe 75, was approaching from the other direction. She looked at me do sweetly, so I smiled and said “Konnichi wa!” ("Hello!") Her face brightened and she responded in lightly accented English, “I’m so glad!”

Was it the fact that I said a Japanese word to her? Or smiled? I don’t know. But she made my day. And so, after twenty-five years here, I can say, “I’m so glad!” too.