When I looked back over 2016, I said there'd been lows but it was good overall.
At the time, I wasn't in the mood to go into detail on those lows. I wasn't in a good place. I was running out of cash and time, and prepping to leave Japan. Not by choice, either.
But. Remember I said that my 2017'd depend on how the first 3 months went? It turned out that the first 3 weeks were all I needed. My Mum came to visit in mid-January, and I had a job interview lined up around the same time. I got that bloody job the same day she left.
Maybe visiting a shrine for luck on the first day of the new year really worked...
February: off to a roaringly good start
I started the job in early Feb. Apart from accidentally shaking a fizzy drink and it exploding all over me, I think my first month went well. They kept me on after the trial period, anyway.
Outside of work, I visited an art exhbition in Kyoto and attend a whole bunch of birthday parties. Probably shouldn't have done that much socialising until I got my first paycheck.
The walls were covered in rainbow-coloured origami vaginas. Those things aren't easy to make! I got to take one home for keeps. It's still blu-tacked to my wall.
March: kawaii-ness and cheating death
There was a cosplay party in town! I went dressed as a Japanese high school girl, as you do.
Mind you, that was nothing compared to the madness at Nipponbashi Street Festa. Elaborate costumes, pervy guys with top-of-the-range cameras, and zero room to move or breathe.
At some point in March, it seems I ate something called 'cucumber so delicious you might die'. Seeing as I'm alive and don't remember how it tasted, I'm calling exaggeration on that.
I also found a Hello Kitty-themed car park in Shinsekai, near Osaka Tower.
April: winning at J-life
Achievement unlocked: got a Japanese SIM card for my phone. Almost a year without 4G was driving me crazy. Mobile data, J-phone number, new LINE account, all good. Didn't cost as much as I thought, which is always nice.
2nd achievement unlocked: got a commuter pass transferred onto my contactless subway card. A task that could well be one of the most needlessly complicated here.
April's also sakura season, and 2017's was my first in Osaka (seeing as I arrived in May).
Definitely time I bought a better camera. Those night pictures suck the most. Wait and see how my sakura pics look this time next year.
May: STAY INDOORS
My first Facebook post of the month was:
"May 1st. 4 fresh insect bites. Must be summer."
I tried to stay out of the sun, and as coated in mosquito repellent as I could handle. Over the Golden Week holidays, I ended up at a food festival. Drank some soda out of a plastic lightbulb and felt glad to be alive.
Another adventure was to a hidden, dark and tiny submarine bar. Seriously, it was like drinking inside a sub. The owner's speciality was gin and tonic - at least 10 types of gin to pick from.
It was good that May was so action-packed, because it marked my first full year in Japan. I honestly didn't think I'd get there. That's a whole other blog post, which you can read here.
June: fouund out what 'lie on your stomach' is in Japanese
Company-sponsored health insurance means a full annual medical, for free. I'd been told about this back in April. Something like 12 different tests, from basic blood samples to drinking barium and rolling around on a table.
Yep, you read that right. The barium comes after drinking powder intended to expand your stomach, so everything shows up better on the x-rays. Sadly this all happened before they took my weight and stomach measurements.
(When the results came back, my body fat percentage was the only real issue. Typical.)
If someone had told me in July 2016 that I'd have my 30th birthday in Osaka... yeah, not what I expected. It was a milestone birthday, so I went for it. I chose 6nen4kumi, a classroom-themed izakaya with school lunch-style food.
Holy crap, it was so much fun.
It distracted me from the Japan pension service writing to say they wanted backdated contributions. Payments totalling 6 figures in yen - roughly a grand in pounds.
Things were scary for a few weeks. And then they wrote to me again, explaining they'd made a mistake and the whole amount was being written off. My luck knows no bounds.
August: instant summer, just add water
A typhoon rolled in, and we all got sent home from work early. By early, I mean around 5pm instead of 6pm. There was nothing wrong with the subway lines, after all... but once that cleared out, August got back to being stupidly hot and humid.
For Obon, the summer holidays, I went to Tokyo. On a Seishun 18 train ticket, which gives you unlimited travel on local trains for 5 days. If you're thinking of going from Osaka to Tokyo with a Seishun 18: don't. Just don't. It took 10 hours.
Once I got there, to a tiny but well-maintained room in Shinagawa, it was great. I went to a maid cafe, experienced a Pikachu invasion in Yokohama, saw the largest game of Pac-Man in the world, and took photos of (plastic yellow) poop.
Came back to find I'd failed JLPT N2 by 4 points, so a December retake got pencilled in.
September: quick, let's go out while it's cooled down a bit
Some friends from home visited, and I spent a national holiday (Respect for the Elderly Day) dragging them around the city. We took purikura, so I consider it mission accomplished.
Some friends from Twitter showed up, and we went to a half-assed Mexican festival under Umeda Sky Building. Is this authentic holy water? You decide.
Some coworkers wanted to go out for dinner, and one of them got way more spice than they bargained for.
Yeah, September was a pretty good month overall. Except for the spicy food.
October: taking a break from various things
Didn't manage to write or publish a single blog post in October. Was I that busy? I guess so.
With the weather still nice, I took a road trip around Wakayama. Had to get the train there first, but after that Wakayama's 'you're gonna need a car' territory. It's beautiful, though. Even with fallen mikan oranges all over the road.
Partway through October, I made my first million in yen. It's nowhere near a million in pounds, but I feel proud anyway. And I totally didn't celebrate by going out on a shopping spree. Not me.
Halloween was split into 2 parts this year. First, I ended up at Universal Studios with 2 coworkers. Dressed as a school girl... again. And for the Halloween weekend, I donned a 'This Is My Halloween Costume' costume.
I'm ashamed to say that's all I remember of it this year. So October became the month I decided to seriously cut down my drinking. Japan's problem with 'hidden' social drinking affected me and almost everyone I know.
It's definitely not for diet reasons, because I've replaced alcohol calories with cake.
November: memorable, to say the least
Caught the very last of the autumn leaf colours in Kyoto at the start of the month. The weather was beautiful if breezy, and there was a busker with an amazing voice singing by the river. I ate soup that was served inside a bread roll. Such a good day.
A big achievement at work was handling what could've been a Twitter PR disaster. There was someone on an angry rant about my company. I got them to apologise, delete all the tweets, and retweet a link to our website. We got sales off that link the same day.
Another big memory from November is when I ate a half-frozen cheesecake that took 20 minutes to arrive. Not just for that - it was a crucifix-shaped cheesecake, at a gothic restaurant that was partly under construction.
December: pretty... pretty... something
Tried JLPT N2 for the 2nd time this year. Results due in Jan - keep everything crossed for me.
Christmas in Japan is something I've now learned not to get hyped for. As someone on Twitter described it: 'a beautifully wrapped box with nothing inside'. Great example: the Kobe Luminarie illuminations.
Hot damn, it's pretty. Is the sight of 400,000 lights twinkling in the freezing December dark worth the crowds, cold, waiting and pushing? I went to it, and I still don't know.
The season's been full of food and lights, but felt particularly hollow. But this year, that doesn't matter to me. Because I'm going to see my family for the first time in a year and a half.
2018: go on then, throw it at me
The best prediction I could rustle up for 2017 was 'flip a coin'. I've always been pessimistic about new years. Glass half empty, that sort of thing. And I wasn't in the right mood to commit to predicting it, one way or the other.
I'm going to be brave this time.
I reckon 2018 has potential to surpass '17 as contender for the best year of my life. Come back in 12 months and find out.