I received an email from a friend who is visiting Japan, my home country, ranting about how much she hates being there. After reading her email and reflecting on her thoughts and my inner reactions, I felt better about myself because I did not become emotionally disturbed. Although I felt a bit sad reading her anecdotes, especially because her observations were accurate and persuasive, I found myself curiously calm. I’m sorry about how you felt. You hate Japan, I love it, for the same or different reasons, and we are both right. That was a good feeling.
I have always aspired to be an “International” person in my mind, without defining what exactly that clunky term meant, carrying a mental image of a free-spirited traveler who easily crosses borders, cultures, races, languages…whatever barrier that exists. That image is fading away (better be), but the idea of “internationality” is getting clearer. It is to accept many truths, all equally. To clarify further, I list below what is international and what is not (local), for me.
Who chose his community because he loves them
Who chose his community because he thought people will love him more
…Maybe the list induced further confusion. If so, please just move on.
I used to look down on “local” people, especially who try to protect their tiny ego under the name of patriotism. My ears picked up their comments fairly accurately amid waves of fast-pitched Japanese, English, Mandarin Chinese, or even local Taiwanese dialect. "This is not sushi" "China invented football" “What is Italian Noodle?” “Give me a real bread, please” “Service doesn’t exist here”
Of course, deep inside I was looking down on myself, projecting my then-current state on those conversations. What am I doing here? Right now, probably I am finally getting closer to the person I have envisioned, at least in terms of that internationality.
Or is this accepting piece of mind a coping mechanism? Japan’s speciality has always been absorbing foreign elements and turning them into something cute and harmless. Being still a Japanese, am I just doing the mental version of cutransformation? I have no clear answer yet. In the meantime, I keep picking Chinese pancakes at a food stand (read: everybody keep standing from start to finish), saying hello to gigantic cockroaches walking by. The pancakes taste damn good, that’s all that matters.