Almost a year ago when I came back to Japan for the first time in over 3 years, I wrote about having to adjust to several aspects of the culture. Work hours, language, you name it. After 8 years away, for better or for worse I had become Americanized and some things about the Japanese culture were so blatantly foreign, even shocking to me.
This time feels less like a holiday and more like real life – in a good way. It feels like coming home from a long summer in America and settling into the daily routines. I know the system here. I feel like I can express my personality like never before. That’s the part of learning a language (or in my case improving a language) that is fun. And in the oddballs, dead-beats and misfits that make up many a hotel staff, I feel like I’m accepted as one of their own, perhaps especially because I don’t quite fit in here either.
It is an interesting phenomenon. Whether I’m in Japan or America I always feel like somewhat of a foreigner. In America my foreignness is more subtle and I can hide behind knowing about the culture. In Japan it’s unavoidable. When I meet people in America, I sound more and more foreign as the conversation goes on. In Japan, I am less and less foreign. Neither is better, I just find that Japan allows me certain privileges and advantages that I might not have in America.
There was, however a situation last week when I learned that I still have a ways to go. Let me set this up by saying I’ve eaten a lot of rice in my life. I have to admit that being here, I get a little sick of eating it 3 meals a day. Growing up, my siblings and I would make fun of my parents for not knowing the different between good and bad rice. Brown rice was even worse. Hard, dry, tasted like cardboard. So some Japanese friends took me to a restaurant in Obuse, Japan that is famous for cooking their rice the way they did hundreds of years ago. My Japanese friends were all commenting on how good it tasted, and although I agreed that it was good, I couldn’t necessarily say it was better than any other rice I had eaten. Alas, I will never be fully Japanese. And that’s alright, I’m learning that it’s more important to be me.
In other news, the video of winning nationals came out! Check it out when you get a chance: