(i apologize if the last ask sounded ignorant; when i said non-English-speaking i meant that it isn’t the first/primary language, not that no one in Japan speaks or knows it)
Living in Japan taught me just how much I depend on white privilege in every day life in the US. In Japan, there’s a hierarchy of cultures and people because of its insular nature as an island nation and its history of colonialism and empire (not to say this doesn’t exist in the US, but that I lost my place at the top of it when I moved to Japan). The hierarchy places Japanese men at the top, and American expats at the bottom. And I’ll be honest - the helplessness that came with no longer being able to walk into a store and be able to know exactly what to say and who to ask for it was a massive stressor during that time. I already had anxiety and depression issues at the time, and not being able to communicate made it very hard for me to force myself to leave my apartment to go places.
I’m hesitant to speak ill of my workplace, but I have to acknowledge that it was a factor in my negative experience. I loved the students I worked with (and am still in contact with several of them thanks to the wonders of Facebook!). But I also suffered from a lack of support in the classroom and major culture shock for how Japanese schools function versus American schools. In America, we’re very direct and forward when we have problems or issues with something. In Japan, that kind of directness, especially to elders, considered very rude, so if students had a problem with something I said, I would find out about it through a roundabout way two days later - which was frustrating for me because I like to be able to correct and deal with problems right when they happen, not two days later.
But, I would not be who I am without my time in Japan. I do value it and, looking back, I can see some good coming out of that time of my life. And I would like to go back on a visit some day, as I wasn’t able to see nearly as much as I would have liked while I was there - despite being only an hour from Hiroshima, I never made it up there, for example. There are things that I’m still nostalgic for (the mountains! the shinkansen! the weird flavors of kit-kats!), and things I don’t think I’ll ever miss (the wet season! the ginormous bugs! the lack of actually functioning cold medicine!). In an adapted form of The Doctor’s words, it’s a pile of good things and bad things, and the bad things don’t erase the good things.