I am going to push through on a post here, and I’m not sure exactly what form it will take when it comes out. I honestly don’t want to write it, and I’m not sure why. Maybe it sounds stupid, or maybe it even feels stupid.
I have lived only in America for what feels like a hundred years, but is really only somewhere around forty. I have never been outside the country except for one very brief excursion to Canada, where my sole impression of that country was “someone needs to fire all of their traffic engineers”. And yet there are some countries, some locations, that fill me with such emotion that it is almost as if I have been there before.
There are two places like this. Ireland, and Japan. I don’t think there are any other places in the world that I even give two figs about, but something about those two places feels like home, and I feel like if I were to go there, it would be like coming home to a place I’ve never been.
And I have absolutely no idea why.
It’s not because of the entertainment. To be quite honest, I find most anime inane. It almost feels as if anime is a disrespectful caricature of Japanese culture, even as, being a product of Japanese culture, I have no right to feel that way. Japanese music has a very odd feeling to it, like memories of Japan are built into it, and as you listen, the memories are transferred to you. Or maybe the memories were always there, and I don’t understand why, considering I am about as gaijin as they come. Even the language seems to be making a kind of sense to me, in a way that I would frankly not expect it to.
I have such mixed and conflicted feelings about Japan – it’s as if I feel a kind of connection to their culture that I have no right to feel. As I’ve mentioned, I am so keenly aware of their shortcomings, but I see fujisan, or a Japanese school room, or other things, and it’s almost as if I have memories of a childhood I never had. I feel so strongly about their shortcomings for the same reason that one might be overly critical of one’s family. It’s a kind of caring that only comes from intense familiarity.
And I’ve never been there.
I am a gaijin. I am a tall, white, bearded, pudgy guy who would probably be looked at funny by most Japanese people if I were to walk down any street in Tokyo. Maybe they would think I were a “weeaboo” or “otaku” (I’m not), maybe they would ignore me as an inconsequential gaijin, and maybe I would chafe under all of the restrictions of their culture, only some of which seem to make any sense of all.
I learn Japanese, I think, because a part of it is like home to me, and I could never even begin to tell you why. Maybe some things are just not to be known.
And what makes it far worse is, it’s not. It never will be. Even though it has never truly felt like it, America is my home. It always will be my home. All Japan will ever be to me is a bunch of memories that aren’t even mine, and maybe aren’t even real.
Life… is nothing but a mystery sometimes.