Wow, what a year this has been. Flew by so fast, I didn’t get to do much, really.
My one resolution last year was to get out of my slump. I did. Sort of. It’s been a rollercoaster. Me and Japanese? We’re love-hate. But it’s alright.
I rather like living in Japan. Sometimes I get all-Japanese experience. Other times I remember that I don’t interact with Japanese people, like at all. Sometimes I get along with them; sometimes I think it’s a bit too much of a bother. So, like normal people I guess. It’s really hard to de-orientalise things. Sometimes I chat with people on FB and they start asking things about how Japanese people are, and I can either honestly answer that it kind of depends really, or give them what they want, which is a really generalised desscription full of stereotypes that I learned about from the Internet and reinforce whenever possible.
I like Nagoya and its inaka like atmosphere. I managed to face Tokyo for the elections and found that I can find a nice relaxed atmosphere there as well. Guess they’re just normal cities after all – who would’ve guessed?
Sometimes I’m all hurr Japan is a weird place and I live an unstable and uncertain lifestyle which changes too quickly but that’s me more than Japan. It’s a bit weird how people come to sort of represent the places they’re at, even though if I were to describe myself in one word it would be ‘exception’. I lived a sheltered and good life in Romania so I am not really one to talk about what counts as normal there. I live a sheltered and good life here in Japan so I’m not really one to talk about what counts as normal here.
I am afraid or wary of many things and I am critical of many things but to be honest half the time that is because I didn’t even try, or it’s just me. I see all these lovely coffee shops and want to go it but find myself unable to do so, and many of my friends here stated that they share my fears but no one really knows why. I definitely feel that I stand out as a foreigner but to be frank almost all the Japanese people I’ve interacted with here have been nothing but lovely. I’ve seen very few acts of blatant racism, and I’ve had more words or obvious gestures of ‘you don’t belong here’ back in Romania.
Though I notice every 日本語は上手ですね.
So I guess all in all I don’t really know how I feel about Japan yet?
I keep waiting for the culture shock to hit, and am uncertain whether it’s hit me yet (it’s funny how ambiguous the whole thing is). I don’t really feel that much different from when I was just switching cities back in Romania. I have some moments where I outright blame Japan for whatever trivial matter bothers me, even though it’s not really the point. I sometimes complain about things ‘in Japan’ even though I’ve never experienced them differently, or had it way worse in Romania. I really, really, feel that I am expected to generalise things and do so without putting much thought into it. Been reading about Edward Said’s Orientalism lately, and trying to figure that shit out.
Speaking of Said, I don’t really do that many Japanese things. I’ve gone to like 5 festivals and events and it all felt really normal after a while. The first float I saw was amazing. The second was really cool. The third was with a tourist friend and I realised that I had very little interest in the whole matter. Weird how fast you just get used to it. Sometimes my friends post things about exotic or cool Japan on Facebook and I’m all ‘yeah that’s totally normal?’. Maybe I’m just a very blase kind of gal?
What I do, instead, is read like a motherfucker. Part grad school, part my own bookworminess, part my everlasting dread that I am really ignorant of worldly matters. I also spend a concerning amount of money on books. Almost all of them online, because *shrug*.
Grad school is interesting. I think that for me life in japan is maybe 90% normal grad school, 5% Japan, 5% first time of the country experience. Lots of anxiety, lots of worrying, lots of blase, a rollercoaster of emotions and books and theory and learning and reconsidering the world and worrying a lot.
(sometimes, having mochi thrown at you is a great reminder that oh my god you’re in Japan)
One thing that stood out for me is the consumerism around here. The conbinis, the stores, the convenience of it all. I’ve become really consumerist. Aside from the remarkable 30 pounds gained from all the conbini sugar that I’ve grown addicted to, I’ve really become rather disappointed with myself as a corporate being. I’m trying to cut down. I was blaming Japan for this.
But then I realised that my town has quite a few farmers markets and second hand stores (though book off is by far the biggest, and all of them are chains). There are non-chain coffee shops, though they *are* a fair bit more expensive. There *are* alternatives, I just stopped seeing them for a while there.
I mean, it’s not like Romania doesn’t have malls. I’m fairly sure my experience of never having bought anything at a mall is a really individual one. I just avoided them. Part of it was the convenience; malls are expensive, local second hand shops are cheap. You have to go out of your way to go to the mall,whereas the local shops are everywhere. My lifestyle was definitely easier in Romania, but that was because I had trained myself for it, and because I stopped considering the malls and retailers as viable options. Here, I embraced them instantly. I’m trying to slowly change that.
There is definitely a lot of peer pressure against it, though unsurprisingly it’s not just Japanese. My host in Tokyo had never walked from Shibuya to Roppongi. My friends here take the subway. When looking for an apt, I was met with a lot of surprise when I stated that I wanted to live a bit farther away from Uni to avoid convenience. Frankly, whenever I say no to convenience I feel like a prick.
And though it seems to be a general thing, it is definitely worse with Japanese people. I like them, I really do, but going for a night out with Japanese people is *weird*. It’s oddly organised and quite expensive, and I’m never exactly sure why.
A tax on convenience? A tax on social life? it sounds rather legit. I’m sure they’re normal everywhere.
I guess I should just try to figure myself out more.
Oh, but one thing about Japant hat I *can* generalise. The weather sucks balls. Throughout the year. If it’s not the amazing heat it’s the od-awful wind, the way too strong sun which burns my sensible European skin, the cold, oh my god the god-awful cold, it’s 30 degrees warmer than my home town but I feel constantly cold. The weather here is awful. Seriously awful. I mean, May and October-November were Ok. But aside from that? AWFUL.
And what is up with these houses? I am seriously freezing inside my own hourse. And at school. my knees have started hurting like an old man, and the constantly-on AC (cold in Summer, hot in winter) might have something to do with it. Why don’t these people thermally isolate their houses? Dear god. And I live in a corner room, so all my walls are FREEZING to the touch. The cold is embedded in everything. I feel it in my bones. Even though, temperature wise, it is what I would call late autumn.
I mean it; This is the kind of weather in which I go outside and take off my coat, then I go back indoors and put on a few sweaters while cuddling with my hot water bottle.
So yeah, that’s about that for this year. It was a good year. I guess. Now, to gather up the courage to leave the bed…