Japan Is A Real Place


As the trip is winding down we’re taking it a bit easier and reflecting a bit. Whenever I ride the trains and look out of the window, I’m usually thinking about all of the people out there living their lives. Going places, meeting up, doing things, maybe staring at my passing shuttle and thinking about who’s inside & wondering about their life. Or maybe in too much of a hurry to consider things like that because they have their own matters to attention to after all. A lot of conversations I had with my friends are about how things in America are the same as they are in Japan. People are still trying to live as best they can, trying to make sure their kids & families are ok, talking about salaries, working, taxes, retirement, not going out as much as they used to, health, growing older, kids these days, & a number of other mundane topics that aren’t featured in your favorite anime. Between all of the happenings, I would read articles about things going on back home and felt a bit of detachment. I was half a world away physically & emotionally and that can be a good thing when I think about the layers of my life. I live in Detroit, but it’s not always what comes to mind when people conjure images of the city and I’m also privileged enough to be a home owner a bit outside of the city, in a quiet neighborhood that mostly keeps to myself & avoids a lot of things thanks to that. I also have the grander narrative of the African-American in that country which adds another complex layer to it. Even if I’m lucky enough to not have to deal with the brunt of the worse of society, there’s still others that look like me that are dealing with it. But, all of the social issues that are happening, concerns of the day, & other worries didn’t linger in my mind as a tourist. Not that they weren’t still a factor to some extent, but the sense of it all is dulled. I don’t have that feeling of constantly being watched in stores, uneasiness around police, no chance of the eeriness of going down a neighborhood with a lot of Trump/Pence signs on the lawn, no microaggressions, no overzealous acts to prove their down-ness, & no confederate flags. I may be judged totally differently here than I would be elsewhere. Context matters. Some could be thinking (but not saying) that maybe I’m from an African country, I could be a business person, engineer, or in entertainment while abroad, and those separate groups could be looked at in a different way than an American would be. They could simply see me as a non-Japanese foreigner. Nobody’s checking for my AncestryDNA results. Whereas in America, identity doesn’t factor as much in some eyes “black is black”. Sometimes brown may as well be black. Either way, it’s not always the warmest of welcomes even if you’re from there. I just happen to be the kind of black with a passport and in a position where I can see whichever parts of the world that I like. Japan just so happens to be the place that I like. The people are lovely, the cities are nice, & to some extent I feel a bit fewer to simply be than when I’m at home. I feel more sincere and don’t have to have my guard up as much. I can be silly, I can make mistakes, I can fumble through conversations in a blend of terrible Japanese and English. I’m sure if I lived here there would be some problems, but I also feel like I can adapt & blend with this society a bit. Maybe it’s my personality? Maybe it’s because I’ve always had a bit of familiarity? When I was younger, it would’ve been because of anime, toys, and video games that made me want to come to Japan, but now that I’m largely in a different state of mind, I come back to reconnect with those I’m close to, soak in the atmosphere, & escape from my American anxieties. Ok and some anime, toys, and video games...! Again, it’s not perfect here. No society is, but there’s enough good here that keeps me coming back for repeat stays. Ok, now that I’ve rambled & possibly burst a few bubbles about the ‘cool Japan’, ‘Nippon is so wacky!’ myths I can get back to the travel notes:

  • Spent the day on the bullet train and taking taxi rides

  • As I always do I’m going to miss things when I get home like the easy access to things with a quick stroll down the street or discovering something new tucked away in an alley, vending machines every few feet, shops everywhere, cute mascots on everything, walking after a tasty meal (ok, I can actually do this one at home), snacks that I can only get here, the atmosphere, fashionable people, etc.

  • Japanese tv is a special thing.

  • Ate at a place called Golden Olive Chicken. It was pretty darn good!

  • Paying for stuff with Suica is pretty convenient.

  • This is the most walking & outdoor activity that I’ve had in a long time.