Home > Friends, Japan > Merry Christmas, Mr. Jones!

Merry Christmas, Mr. Jones!

The first post in my reader this morning sent me tumbling back in time.

I once lived and taught English in Japan, where I called three separate towns home.

In my first home, I had roommates in a smallish but bustling ocean town. A couple of cats would leap through open windows to visit me.


In my third home, I lived in a small town-subsidized complex with many of my students. I loved working in a little garden out behind my apartment, and would open the apartment’s front and back doors so my students could run through during their playtime. The town was incredibly rural, but it felt anything but to me!

So, so many hours of work to clear the plot by hand!

So, so many hours of work clearing the plot

Not much to look at, but all mine

Not much to look at, but all mine

My time in my middle home was far and away the hardest on me. The town was smallish and nestled away in forested area some drive from more substantial towns. I had a car, but had little money to buy gas, and so used the car almost exclusively to get to and from the even smaller towns to which I’d drive for work. Internet was unavailable. I paid Los Angeles rent for a studio smaller than my current living room in a complex so quiet I felt more thoroughly alone than I ever did before or have since.

My brother-in-law made sure to write at least one 500-character email to my keitai (cell phone) almost every day, which eased my loneliness for a spell each day. Otherwise, I felt constantly, physically starved for signs of life, or any sense of connection outside my work.

I ended up buying a small living Christmas tree for how it evoked memories of Christmases past, and reminded me of life still whirling on without me somewhere I couldn’t feel it.

I decorated the tree with ornaments from the hyaku-en (hundred-yen, or dollar) store. and called it him Mr. Jones. I talked to him as if he were simply the quietest of my friends … which, in very real ways, he was. He was “only” a tree, but he relieved my loneliness enough that I could eke my way through those otherwise crushing days.

I searched for a photo of him before I began writing this post. I couldn’t find a single one; my house was burglarized soon after I moved back to the U.S. and I lost all photos I hadn’t uploaded–or, in other words, almost all my photos. I’ve long since accepted the loss, but there are moments it stings anew, such as when failing to find a single picture of a highly improbable but uplifting friend.

I scanned through my photos once more, bursting into a grin when I saw what looked like a shadow of Mr. Jones in one picture. I opened the picture and cheered–quietly, so as to not awaken my light-sleeping toddler–when I saw little blurs of green and gold at its edges.


mr. jones

I’m sorry I can’t show you a full picture of Mr. Jones, but so glad I can picture him just beyond the edges of my photo. That he photobombed it without moving an inch tickles me so!

Looking at these little slivers of green, my heart is full of gladness for this friend I’d never have made in less trying times.

For learning to survive. For silver linings. For signs of life.

For Mr. Jones.

Wherever you are now,
merry Christmas, Mr. Jones!


  1. December 24, 2015 at 8:49 am

    This just made me smile….thanks for sharing your happiness!

  2. December 24, 2015 at 10:16 am

    Christmas is here, but the rest of the household is still asleep. My introverted self is gathering strength and revelling in the predawn quiet.
    Happy Christmas to you and yours.

    • December 24, 2015 at 1:34 pm

      I hope you found plenty of fuel in the predawn quiet! Happy Christmas to you, too, with tons of love.

  3. December 24, 2015 at 11:23 am

    This made me smile as well. Love to you and the family (and Mr. Jones)! ❤

    • December 24, 2015 at 1:36 pm

      😀 That little tree did my so much good between care packages such as yours and texts such as Nick’s! Much love to you, and hopes we meet up soon now that I will soon be able to take longer trips. (YES!) Miss you!

  4. December 25, 2015 at 9:11 am

    Merry Christmas! (And to Mr. Jones his tree spirt must be rejoicing someplace!)

    • December 31, 2015 at 3:58 am

      Thank you! It was merry indeed, as is my heart recollecting Mr. Jones all over again. 🙂 I hope your Christmas was merry, too.

  5. December 25, 2015 at 4:22 pm

    Merry Xmas🎄

  6. December 26, 2015 at 4:50 pm

    Searching for new inspiration to blog and I came across this post. Just want to tell you it is beautifully expressed.

    • December 31, 2015 at 3:59 am

      Thank you so much for reading, and taking a moment out to share this! I’m grateful.

      • January 1, 2016 at 8:34 am

        You’re most welcome. Come by MiddleMe and say hi!!

  7. December 28, 2015 at 4:32 am

    Catching up with reading after a long but happy Christmas holiday and found this, smiles lit up from my heart to my cheeks. How do you nearly always do that? Hope your Christmas was full of giggles, joy and love.

  8. December 28, 2015 at 11:33 am

    Working with what you’ve got in a difficult circumstance, I love it! Loneliness is a difficult thing to tackle without looking desperate or flat out crazy, but you handled it the best you could. If we are honest, we all have a Mr. Jones in our life. That amendment object or imaginary friend, that keeps you grounded.

  9. January 3, 2016 at 12:14 pm

    Oh my. The similarities here are almost scary! I also lived in and taught English in Japan twice, in two separate towns. My first home-I had roommates and was in Tokyo. My second home-I lived on my own in an apartment in a rural area with almost no other foreigners and I felt a similar loneliness as to what you describe. One Christmas there, I ALSO found a small living Christmas tree to have in my apartment! It was tough to find, as Christmas there is not really celebrated… in fact it was a time to buy cakes -not trees. I did manage to find a small one though. It was so nice to read your post and see that I sparked a memory and you and now you’ve sparked a memory in me!!

  1. February 27, 2016 at 7:26 pm
  2. May 21, 2016 at 8:37 pm

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