Monthly Archives: July 2012

Fantastic Baby

“高く空中に オレは操縦士さ、初めてなら今から連れて行こうか 宇宙に” –BIGBANG, ‘Fantastic Baby’

To help myself cope with the fact that I will be leaving Japan in less than 12 hours, I have decided to compile an admittedly underwhelming list of things I will and will not miss about Japan. That, and I can’t sleep.

Things I will miss about Japan:

  • Constant politeness by store clerks and restaurant workers
  • No tipping!
  • Chain convenience stores that are clean and sell fresh, edible food for a reasonable price
  • Being able to step out of my front door and travel virtually anywhere in the country without a car
  • The overall feeling of safety and the level of trust among strangers
  • Availability of good art supplies, music, and comics
  • Attention paid to detail and the taking into account of every scenario for the convenience of the general public

Things I will not miss about Japan:

  • Constant staring and (mostly) unintentional racism
  • Smoking sections in nearly every restaurant
  • Overcrowded trains, streets, and shops
  • Overpriced movie tickets (along with everything else)
  • Having to dodge cicadas and killer hornets on the way home

So this is it. Tomorrow I will get on a plane and go home. Although the definition of “home” is not particularly clear to me anymore. I feel like this is my life, and it seems like a dream to remember when it wasn’t. And now all of a sudden I am being thrown back into my “other” life as if I never came here to begin with. Not that I’m not thrilled about seeing my friends and family; I am. But I think the hardest thing will be having to accept the fact that my life will never again be this. Looking back at my very first blog post, going back to the United States seems so unexciting and  anticlimactic. I am not venturing to a land uncharted, nor am I returning with a specific purpose. I am going back because, well, my time is up, and I have to–like legally actually have to–go. It’s hard to share my feelings, as I’m not quite sure of them myself. Perhaps I’ll elaborate more in a later post after I have adjusted better to life back in the States.

To be honest, reality hasn’t really hit me yet. I’m not sure when it will, or if it will be gradually or all at once. I don’t feel like I’m leaving. It’s more like I’m going home for summer break to see my family and friends. While my mind knows it’s not true, my heart is convinced that I’ll be back in the fall in time for classes to start up again with all of the wonderful friends I’ve met here. I’ve spent the past couple of weeks singing my heart out at karaoke, saying goodbyes, traveling to Tokyo and Disney Sea, and overall having the time of my life while at the same time not knowing how to handle saying goodbye to people I have become so close with over the past year. Just today on the train I was joking and laughing with my friend, who I may not see for quite some time. My other friend who was sitting on the opposite side of her said, “You realize that this is goodbye? Your stop is next.” And I looked at her and responded honestly, “What am I supposed to say? After all this time?”

Of course I then proceeded with a Doctor Who quote as I hopped off the train car and onto the crowded platform. Maybe I’m just bad at goodbyes. But making faces and doing k-pop dance moves as their train pulled away from the platform while receiving strange looks from the surrounding Japanese population is a pretty damn awesome goodbye if I do say so myself. Always better to end it laughing than crying, although I am sure the tears will come.

So where do I go from here? It seems that so much of my life has been building up to “going to Japan.” But it doesn’t mean I am “done” with Japan by any means. I have learned so much from this year-long experience, and will likely continue to do so after I return to America. I have been so fortunate to have been able to come here, to get a scholarship that has allowed me to experience innumerable things that I otherwise would not have been able to experience, to meet such wonderful people and to have made friends from all over the world, and to better understand a culture and a people through learning a foreign language. I could go on. And for all of you who have encouraged me and helped me get here, I cannot thank you enough.

See you stateside!

I spent my last week in Japan going to Pokemon Center Osaka and Tokyo and going to a Sailor Moon cafe. I haven’t changed a bit.

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It’s No Game

“I really don’t understand the situation, but it’s no game.” –David Bowie, ‘It’s No Game (Part 1)’

I realize the lateness of this post, but with finals and my trip to Tokyo and getting ready to leave Japan, I must confess that I have not had much time to update. But as promised, I will talk a bit about my Japanese baseball experience!

Earlier this month I went to a Hanshin Tigers game at Koshien Staduim in Nishinomiya. A friend of mine lives within walking distance of the stadium, so he got us tickets and accompanied me and another friend to a Friday evening game.

For those of you unaware, Japanese baseball, and in particular the fans, are viewed by most outsiders as…enthusiastic? Insane? If you think you know crazy sports fans, I implore you if you are ever in Japan to go to a baseball game. You have seen nothing. Every time the Hanshin Tigers win a game, it is tradition for fans to jump off of a famous bridge near Dotombori into the not-so-sanitary water flowing through the city of Osaka. Local officials have tried to prevent this behavior to no avail.

Balloons!

My experience at the game itself was loads of fun. We sat right in the thick of yellow and black jersey-wearing fans (myself included), and even though we were foreigners and didn’t know the ropes, we had some noisemakers and were welcomed by the masses. When up to bat, each player has his own unique theme song that everyone sings together, and the woman in front of us was kind enough to give us a sheet with the lyrics. During the seventh inning stretch, everyone blew up special balloons and released them at the same time, providing for an exciting (but admittedly phallic) experience. What really surprised me was that everyone was allowed to bring food and drinks into the stadium! And not only were we allowed to bring in our own beer, but they opened it and poured it into cups for us before we entered the stadium. I love it! Even though the Tigers lost by a point, the game was still exciting and unforgettable.

The rules of Japanese and American baseball are very similar for the most part, but I find the overall feeling at a Japanese baseball game to be very different from that of its American counterpart. There is a strong feeling of group unity, which is likely derived from and reinforced by Japanese collectivistic society. It felt like the act of being in the stands with all of the fans was more of an event than the game itself! I wish I had had more opportunities to go, but baseball will definitely be on my to-do list when I return to Japan in the future.