Posted On June 14, 2009
While I’ve done the odd event report and some bits of poor Gonzo journalism, during my–at this point–two and half months in japan, I’ve yet to lay down any solid opinions about this place on my–sadly neglected, as of late–weblog. I plan to change this now. Not the sadly neglected part, though.
So yeah, it’s been two months. The bright and clear shimmer of being in Japan has long since faded, and I have eased into a normal routine. The first thing I’d like to bring up is my distinct lack of culture shock. I mean sure, some things did take me by surprise–like just how crowded the “crowded Japanese train” can get, and the fact that men wear purses–but overall, nothing thus far as phased me too much, and forced me into hating this country. In fact, I like most of the things about this country that are different from America. To be quite honest, being in Japan has made me really not like America. I am not like one of those whiny, annoying, and absolutely stupid American kids who misses their pizza and hamburgers–I couldn’t care less for that shit. I love a lot the things here, and quite frankly I’ll miss them when I return to America. That said, I do kind of miss grapes, but that’s it.
As you can gather, I really like this place. When I first landed, I really liked this place. Some of that love was in part driven by the intense amount of Japanophile inside of me, but once everything balanced out, I still came out liking this place. The first couple of weeks are pretty rough though, especially if you’re a dumbass American whose image of Japan is painted entirely by Naruto and J-Rock bands, and your pristine image of this country is destroyed right when you realize that yes–you have to use fucking Japanese, here! Even if you’re not like that, and, say, like me, it’s still rough, but mostly because of jetlag, and just adjusting to the pace of the country.
One thing that probably really helped me settle into this country was that I already knew a good amount about it. In fact, I’ve probably collected too much information about Japan throughout that years that I’ve wanted to go, to the point that nothing phases me here. I actually wanted a bit more culture shock. I wanted stuff like, say, casual racism to blow my mind, but I went in fully expecting every single Japanese person to always, at all times, look at me with a strong look of disdain. In fact, my negative expectations were so high that the fact that they haven’t been met surprises me more than anything else. This isn’t to say that I wasn’t totally fucking excited about coming here, but I also came fully ready to despise this country. That hasn’t happened.
Anyway, I think I’ll dispense you all from the intense amounts of elitism and take on a more humble tone. While I do love this place, the language barrier is an issue. Yes–I know basic Japanese–but listening and speaking can still be a challenge. For one, I can’t really effectively communicate with my peers. I do have conversations with a lot of the people in my manga club, but they slow down their speech when talking to me, and even then I sometimes misunderstand. I’ve slowly been improving, but it is something an annoyance. I came in knowing all I’d be able to use with people was Japanese, and I knew my Japanese was bad, but I didn’t realize it was this bad. Practice in the field does help, though. I can now have pretty casual–albeit slow–conversations.
In the previous paragraphs I’ve mentioned that I really liked this place, but I haven’t expanded upon the whys. There are many whys, so I’ll just cover a few of them. One of them is something really simple, but I love the design work in this country. By that I mean, I love the way buildings look, and the way towns are arranged. I love how close together everything is, and how small the living space is. I suppose most Americans would hate this, but I can’t help but love it. I also love being swept away with the waves of people in the hot spots in Tokyo. Once again, I can’t explain why, but I just like it. Another thing I like are the service people–they’re just so nice! Except at hole in the wall places–in those places, they’re charmingly grumpy, and make some damn good food.
One big thing that surprised me was that I actually care about the real culture here. I love the otaku culture, yeah, but the fact that I actually like the real culture is quite surprising. Before I came I had little interest in Japanese culture, but when one’s surrounded by it–especially as an American–you kind of get the feeling of, “Ah, so this it what it feels like to be in a country that actually has culture.”
When all is said and done, I really don’t want to leave this country. In fact, I’d be happy living here forever, never to return to America. I love the people here, I love the food, and I love the life style. This place is great.
Here’s all of the photos I’ve taken so far. There’s about 2000, but they’re all not that interesting. One may notice that I didn’t really cover otaku things here–I plan to do that in forthcoming posts, which may or may not happen. I’m sorry for the snooty tone of this post, but one develops a lot of pent up anger when around some of the stupider not-Japanese people.