Moving On: Finding Love Just Before I Started Anew In Tokyo

Mastering Long-Distance Love While Pursuing My Dreams In A New City

By Kiri Falls
August 28, 2017
Lifestyle, Up Close & Personal

Sometimes people move for love. In some ways, I did the opposite.

Shortly before I quit my job and packed up my life to travel to Japan, I met someone. Actually, I’d known him for years, but suddenly I wanted to know him better. He wasn’t so keen on the idea of me taking off for a year, but I’d been planning it for ages and at that early stage, I wasn’t about to give up my dream for a boy, great as he was. So we decided to try long distance.

When I arrived in Tokyo, I’d already been on the road for eight months. From London, across Europe and Russia and South Korea, to Sakaiminato port in sleepy Tottori Prefecture, my boyfriend had stuck around. He’d joined me for part of the European leg, but we’d gotten through most of that time with regular Skype calls and video messages, constant texting and the odd handwritten letter.

For the first two months, while I was finding my feet by studying Japanese, looking for part-time work and navigating the city hall, I was also looking forward to our reunion after a long spell apart. Between saying goodbye in Germany and reuniting in Japan months and months later, we had missed each other terribly.

The Hard Days

One of the challenges of this time, however, was that I was excitedly setting up a new life while he was still in the familiar environs of home. This sense that I was having a bunch of experiences that he wasn’t a part of had already come up while I was traveling alone, but it was more pronounced now. The first time I saw that convenience stores sell business shirts and underwear in neat little packages; the first time it snowed overnight and I went crunching around my neighborhood in the morning; the first time I took a solo day trip outside of Tokyo – all of these experiences were fun to me on my own, but I often wished he was next to me to share the peace by a lake, or laugh together over a strange ice cream flavor.

There were also the kind of days when I found myself behind the train station, crying over the phone to him after a bad day at a job.

There were also the kind of days when I found myself behind the train station, crying over the phone to him after a bad day at a job – the fact that he wasn’t able to give me a hug made that moment harder. The smaller frustrations of trying to get a local bank account with only a working holiday visa, or trying to find wholemeal bread, or figuring out how to live on a new, low income also made me wish he was there to meet me in a café and listen to me complain.

Traveling while apart has enough difficulties, but it’s different to actually just living in two different countries, doing regular life things.

We started to feel like we were at the end of a line, like something had to give – and we didn’t want it to be the relationship.

New Job, New Challenge

But just after my boyfriend had flown back to Australia after our first Japan rendezvous, I was offered a full-time job I knew I’d love, and that I’d have a hard time finding back home. We had a dilemma on our hands.

The biggest thing long distance teaches you is communication. It needs to be frequent, it needs to be clear and honest, you need to give the other a heads-up if you are going to be incognito for a day or two, and you need to find creative ways to be affectionate. Needless to say, we’d had a lot of practice.

But this was a problem we hadn’t expected to deal with. I had planned to try Tokyo for a few months, possibly see out my year-long working holiday visa if circumstances (namely flight schedules, holiday leave, and my boyfriend’s patience) allowed. But I didn’t want to just quit the job after a few months, and I was loving Tokyo. Yet I didn’t want to give him up either.

We started to feel like we were at the end of a line, like something had to give – and we didn’t want it to be the relationship.

I flew home to surprise him for his 30th birthday and we talked. We talked about how often we could visit each other in the coming year, the minimum time I would want to be on the job, how tired we were of being apart. “I’m going to have to move to Japan, aren’t I,” he sighed. I was quietly thrilled that he might consider it, but acutely aware of what I was asking him to give up: the life he had planned before I came along with my dreams of foreign cities, his financial and career goals, his proximity to his family and friends. The fact that he was willing to put all of that aside for a while to be with me was a huge affirmation of how much he loved me.

But it would be a while before everything came together.

Moving On – Together

© Photo by Crew on Unsplash

Over the next few months, we settled into a new routine of long-distance. Getting my own apartment and having regular work hours was better for our relationship than when I was on the move. We could keep regular Skype dates, he knew roughly what I was doing every day and that I wouldn’t suddenly be out of contact for 24 hours due to unforeseen circumstances. 

We sent photos. We texted constantly. I learned the Japanese term for long-distance love (enkyori renai). It was still difficult, but there was also a certain frisson brought on by the romance of calling long-distance, of hearing his voice in my ear when I hadn’t heard it for a few days, of thinking of fun ways to show that we were still sweet on each other.

A new city can be a little like falling in love, and for a long time I felt I was only just getting started with Tokyo.

We also flew both ways a couple of times, keeping the golden rule of long-distance relationships: always know when you’re going to see each other next. But it was a while before we were able to keep the second golden rule: have an end point for when it won’t be long distance anymore.

But eventually, he had a date. He was quitting his job, putting his furniture into storage, and booking a flight. And now, nearly two years after I arrived, I’m still here in Tokyo – and so is he. This city can be seductive. I thought it would just be an experience, but it’s become a life.

I’m thankful I didn’t have to make a choice between Tokyo and him. Of course, I would have chosen him, but it would have been tough to leave. A new city can be a little like falling in love, and for a long time, I felt I was only just getting started with Tokyo.

When my boyfriend was job hunting and people asked him why he’d moved to Japan, he’d say: “for love.” That’s still true, but he’s also discovering some of the same things I did. That Tokyo is comfortable and easy at the same time as being challenging and stimulating. That you can live in a quiet, friendly neighborhood but still be in easy reach of so many uncovered gems, whether places to visit, foods to try, festivals to dance at or people to meet.  

That Tokyo is a city to fall in love with, but also a city where you can fall in love with each other all over again.


Moving On” is Savvy Tokyo’s new personal stories series about taking new challenges, leaving the past behind and embracing the future — even when nothing makes sense and the road ahead is blurry. Are you new to Japan? Did you leave behind something to move here? Have you closed a door to open a new one recently? We’d like to hear your story. Contact us at editorial@gplusmedia.com

Nearly twenty years after first being introduced to Japanese language and culture as a kid in primary school, Kiri finally found her way to Japan at the end of a long trip across Europe and Russia. Having previously worked for two small book publishers in Australia, she now copy-edits at an English-language newspaper in Tokyo, where she enjoys being immersed in various aspects of local news, from food and pop culture, to economics, politics and social issues. Kiri loves traveling in Japan and discovering new parts of Tokyo whenever she has the chance, especially if there’s an onsen or some flowers nearby. When she’s not exploring, you can find her cooking, swimming or reading.

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