The first writing I ever published on life in Japan was for a blog I launched in 2008 — 10 years ago this month, in fact — called Loco in Yokohama. And in recognition of this occasion, I would like to revisit the blog post that got the ball rolling for me, career-wise.

The first post on my newborn blog was titled "An empty seat on a crowded train." If you're a conspicuous non-Japanese living here who rides the trains or buses, or goes to cafes or anywhere in public where Japanese people have the choice of sitting beside you or sitting elsewhere, then you've likely experienced the empty-seat phenomenon with varying frequency and intensity.

I had been living in Japan for four years before I wrote that post, during which time the empty seat and I were constant companions. Our relationship has gone through several phases in the 10 years since, and during that time we've gotten to know one another very well. You could even say we were intimate. And like with most intimate relationships, there comes a point where you've got to accept your partner, flaws and all, or call it quits. Interacting with the empty seat in this way helped me arrive at an idea that sustained me through the most trying period of my tenure here. And that idea was this: