To Japan and Back

Last week I had lunch with a friend whose ideas got me thinking. It has been over six years since I have been in Japan, and there has hardly been a week (if not day) that has gone by without me thinking about someone I met, an experience I had, or a feeling I felt while in Japan. I came back determined to go back some day in the near future. I could not have guessed that six years later I would still be scheming on how to get back there.

Lucklily enough, however, I have been fortunate to live in places in the U.S. that have large Japanese populations – Hawaii and New York. Consequently, I have been able to make friends and have kept up my Japanese language skills to some degree. In Hawaii, I actually improved my Japanese.

Yet, why do I want to go back? Is it because being from the U.S.  provides me with some type of “rock-star” status in Japan? Or is it because I enjoy large cities, something Japan has plenty of? Or is it because I enjoy being emersed in a homogenous society where I am a minority? Regardless of how well I ever learn to speak Japanese or how long I were to live there, I will never be fully accepted as Japanese. I will always be a gaijin, or outside person. There was a time that I thought my whole life had prepared me to marry a Japanese girl from Japan, but the time came for me to get married and I chose to marry someone else. 

It’s possible I could go back to visit Japan and wonder why I ever wanted to live there in the first place. But I doubt it. I like Japan. I like the people, not to mention the food, culture, and living standards. I find that I get along well with people from Japan, sometimes more so than with people from my own country. But I can no longer think about me anymore. Were I alone, I would have gone there by now – perhaps several times already. But I’m not. I am part of a team, with another member on the way. And so I go on, thinking often about how my interests can be utilized or intertwined with what I am doing now. I have ideas, but so far, they are only ideas . . . .