As a child growing up in Los Angeles, it was always such a burden being caught between two cultures. Moody, dramatic child that I was, it was seriously, such a burden.
Twice the school (“regular school” and “Japanese school”), twice the homework (the math was way too fast in J-school), a million more characters to learn. Which also meant, half the mall trips, half the time for SAT prep, half the confidence (an issue that will be addressed at a later date).
I was convinced the hours spent memorizing kanji characters instead of dancing to Janet Jackson’s “Nasty” at drill team practice would ruin my life, not help me one day. (What a song to build routines to, junior high drill team!)
Of course, we all know the story. That I grew into an adult who spoke two languages, thanked my parents just like they said I would one day, returned to Japan – the motherland, and understood everything there was to know about the Japanese culture. I would not experience a bit of culture shock, I would understand all the little nuances of the people, I would become the country’s leading ambassador for like, umeboshi (pickled plums, people) or something.
Wrong. Though umeboshis are really my thing.
After 30-something years, I’m still building that bridge to carry me (mentally and emotionally) from one culture to the other, and back again in one piece. I’ve met many travelers, natives, and locals along the way, and I’m well into my journey now, no longer content just being a random (中途半端な) traveler.
Today, after an eye-opening conversation with a thoughtful, insight-filled guide, I find myself pondering this: What are the restrictions that “culture” has placed on me, if any? What freedoms have I gained, from having not one culture, but two? And most importantly (at least to me) how can I become that bridge I always wish I had?
A bit of a contemplative post today.
Tomorrow, I want to go back to talking about food (love food), and the wonderfully Japanese concept of “Jyo-ren”（常連), or how the Japanese show their appreciation when they truly love a top-quality restaurant. (Opposite of yesterday’s post.)
See you tomorrow! Thanks for being contemplative with me.