This is Part II of a five-part interview. For Part I, click here.
Christopher Carr: My experience coming here was kind of the same. I actually never really chose to come to Japan, so that's always a tough question for me to answer when the students ask. From the time I graduated college to the time I had kids I just kind of floated through life. Would you say you had a similar experience? If so, do you believe that there was a kind of force of Fate or Destiny guiding you to Fukushima, or was saying "sure" a conscious decision?
Kevin Kato: Well, I certainly made the decision on my own to come here to Japan. Coming to Fukushima was part of the job offer, something I just accepted without much consideration. “Fukushima, Shimafuka, whatever, I’m going to go live in Japan!” was pretty much my take on the whole deal. Even if I knew I could have requested another location – which I could have – I don’t think I would have because I hadn’t done a whole lot of homework on Fukushima or anywhere else. So at the moment one place would have sounded just as good as the next – as long as it wasn’t Tokyo. ‘Fukushima? Never heard of it, sign me up.’ So in a sense, yeah, I can be a bit of a floater, taking the road that happens to roll out in front of me.
But really, in my years after getting my grad degree – in forensic science...you know, CSI Miami type stuff – I wasn’t floating; I was naively determined to wait until I got exactly the job offer I wanted, which from the outside can seem the same thing. I knew I wanted to work for the FBI as a profiler, and I was ready to accept nothing but the shortest route to that end. Fresh out of grad school I was rejected by the Bureau, so I said okay, I’ll work on the state level for a while first, or I’d go local but only in a place I thought would be cool. I applied for jobs in San Fran, Tampa Bay and Portland, Oregon, passing on jobs in Tulsa and Detroit and such. And I think I pretty much shot myself in the foot being so choosy – I ended up working further and further outside my degree until I found myself an operations manager at a storage and moving company in Colorado. ‘And you have a Master’s in forensics?’ No one could quite get their head around that one, and so a lot of people probably nailed me as a floater, even if that wasn’t the term they had in their head, you know?
By this time I knew one thing about myself: money did not motivate me. ‘You can become a millionaire in this business.’ This is what one of the owners of the moving company said to me once, no joke. But I just wanted out of that entire industry pronto. That was when I found this teaching job in Japan, and my wanderlust exploded to the forefront. And that is why I’ve been in Japan for 9+ years now; what I’ve been doing here has allowed me to travel far and wide and often, and even when I’m home I’m in a different world. Having a family has changed that dynamic, for sure, but since my first son was born 3 years ago we’ve spent...I don’t know, probably close to twelve months outside Japan all told. I do think about moving back to the US, and I think it would be good for the boys as far as their schooling, but in the back of my mind I feel that once we do move to the States, that’s it, we’re going to settle. And now even with another little boy in diapers I don’t think I’m ready to do that. There are still way too many places to see.
Yet getting engaged, and thus suddenly facing the prospect of having a family to feed, did change things. As soon as my brand new fiancée left Osaka, where I was living at the time, to go back home to Fukushima, I started scribbling like mad in any old notebook I could find, striking out on this new dream of becoming a writer. Five, no, almost six years later I am as deep and committed to it as ever. So to answer your question, as far as living, I feel like I’m floating a bit, because I’m in this self-imposed purgatory, and I won’t let myself out until I’ve gotten to a certain point with my writing. But like I was after grad school, I know right now what I am after, and I’m giving it all I’ve got. In this regard, no I am not floating around. It just looks that way!