Japan. Where the background music is in English, but nobody can understand it. The land of the rising sun. Where any amount of time I spend trying to get to know it feels like it’s not enough. There’s just so much to it. It’s a whole ‘nother world.
For my last post I decided to put to paper my deepest feelings about the struggles of moving here. It’s been a journey of discovery. About the world and about myself. And it’s certainly been a struggle. Some days feel like I’m in some kind of exotic theme park, while others feel like there’s an impenetrable barrier between myself and everyone else. And those other days can really break you down. But it takes some breaking down to see what you’re really made of.
The move to northern Japan went relatively smoothly, but going from a comfortable western-friendly city lifestyle to being dropped in the thick of rural Japanese culture has been a huge shock. Another bout of culture shock. I feel I’m closer to the core of Japanese culture, but there’s still so much I don’t understand. And it doesn’t help that the accent is so different here. But to be fair, I was warned about this before I came here. Japanese friends told me they couldn’t understand anyone out here, even though they’re still speaking Japanese. I feel like I’m in the Newfoundland of Japan. (Canny a word adem Newfies.)
Everyday it’s as though I’m sent down the rapids to navigate through my day. It’s a bumpy ride, and I have no idea what’s going on on a daily basis, but whatever it is, it’s happening regardless, so son-of-a-bitch, I’m in. I’ll figure it out eventually. Hopefully.
But even if I don’t, I’m at least enjoying myself. Picking up whatever responsibility I can, trying to learn and do my best.
I keep thinking to myself, “it’s probably just a matter of time before I really get it.” But how long do I have? And how long does culture shock last? Until I fully integrate with this new place I find myself in? Can I really do that? It’s all so different here, compared to back home in Canada. Part of the same world, yet somehow worlds apart.
I don’t know the answers to these questions. I feel like I’m missing something. I find myself feeling nostalgic for old Canadian things I used to use, eat, watch, experience. Maybe I’m finally homesick.
Sometimes it’s hard not to just feel like I’m some kind of spectacle out here. Allow me to paint the scene: I walk into class. Emphatic surprised noises echo amongst the students. The Japanese teacher says something along the lines of, “BEHOLD! as I attempt to communicate with this foreigner.” And there I stand, trying not to embarrass myself (too much), trying to speak in this strange balancing act of actual English and something they might understand.
But those everyday struggles, – the simple things that wouldn’t even cross your mind back home – they feel like big accomplishments when you don’t know the language or the customs or the rules. Somehow something so small begins to feel so big. Baby steps, I suppose. Even if you fall flat on your face every time, at least you’re getting somewhere. Getting through those everyday struggles, breaking down, and rebuilding yourself – that’s when you start to find out. What’re you made of? Something that sinks? Or something that can swim? Maybe you’re someone who can tread water after all.