When I first came to Japan as a university English teacher in 1993, the hydrangea were in full bloom and I was 29 years old. Four years later, in 1997, I met my best friend here when we both started working for the same company at the exact same time. Both still relatively new to Japan, we bonded quickly over the strange customs, challenges and fathomless possibilities presented to us each day.

Since we both worked full time, we met every Sunday morning over coffee, often at a cafe where we chortled, gesticulated and expressed outright wonder as we struggled to understand Japan. We didn’t care what others thought — we were playful, untamed, carefree.

When I met her, I had just recentered my life by moving to Shiraishi Island in the Seto Inland Sea where I could satisfy a longing to live closer to nature: Where I could watch the tide whisper in under a full moon, taste the dew on the morning glories and swim in briny waters with swaying seagrass tickling my toes.