There are two YouTube videos I watched recently that have caused me to think, and to rethink my approach to Japan.
It is true that Japan has some frankly amazing things going for it, but it’s not all great. One of the videos I watched were about “things that can get you arrested in Japan”. It was sobering enough that many people in the comments posted that they had made plans to go to Japan and they cancelled them. And the other video was about a young woman who made a trip to Houston, which is a city nearby to where I live (Austin).
The first video made me realize that Japan is a very different country than America, for good and for bad. Some of the things that make it so great – a sense of community, a conformist society, a reliance on knowing your place in society and speaking with deference, politeness, and respect, are things that also can make it a very oppressive place, especially for gaijin such as me. The authors of the video were careful to note that it’s not likely to happen, but still, it made me think.
In the second video, the young woman (who goes by “Cathy Cat”) was so excited to be in Texas – she tried out a Texas hot dog, met a bunch of American people, modeled “lolicon” outfits, and was basically just having a grand time. She was so excited to be in America, even as she was attending an anime conference.
And here I am, wanting to learn about a different culture, and one that is not in all ways superior.
Here’s the thing. I live in Texas. This is a state – pert-near a country – where people from other countries really want to go. They see cowboy hats, steaks, cows, ranches, etc. And these things are here. But there’s also shopping malls, grocery stores, foot markets and stores of all different types and nationalities – even Japanese. And I’ve explored very little of it.
Why would I want to explore Japan when I live in a place that many Japanese want to go and haven’t even explored it yet?
I intend to continue learning Japanese. But I don’t think I’m going to spend quite as much time exploring Japanese culture as I have been. It’s been interesting, and it’s served its purpose, and I know a lot more than I did. And I’ll, by the very nature of the studies, be learning even more about it as I learn Japanese. But truth be told, I think I prefer to put on my cowboy hat and my cowboy boots, hop in my pickup*, and explore where I already am. After all, Japan is interesting, but so is Texas.
And maybe someday I will go to Japan. But not anytime soon. And I may never. But here I am. I think, next year, I will go to Ikkicon if it’s still in Austin. I will try to figure out why the heck people cosplay (I have absolutely no idea). Maybe I will pick up some fun anime stuff (it’s not completely my thing, but why not). But here I am. In Texas. Time to make the best of it.
*not really a pickup. Okay, it’s a blurple Chevy Cruze. So sue me.