The most common question you'll likely be asked upon making a new Japanese acquaintance is "Why did you come to Japan?" In 13 years here I've been asked this question by our hosts hundreds of times.

My response has varied so much over the years I can hardly keep track of what I've said, but each answer is generally some variation on the truth. Recent events, though, have given me some added perspective on the why.

In my time here I've met and spoken intimately with my fair share of non-Japanese Westerners. Most of them were Caucasian, but quite a few were of African descent. Many of these black folk — that is, those originating from countries where English is the official language (Canada, Britain, Jamaica, the U.S., etc.) — initially worked as English instructors in some capacity. However, to teach English is rarely the reason they left friends, family and familiarity behind. Doing so just happens to be the surest way to get situated on these islands.