Saturday, June 12, 2010

君の記憶がどんなに優しい言葉より / 誰も消せない僕の痛みを消してくれる

+ What's On: Metamorphoze, Gackt

Oh, Japan.

Where to start?

Rather, where to start again?

Any time I try to write about Japan, it becomes a rambling essay choked with useless asides and occasional snarking. Explaining why Japan is so important to me, and what a tangled mess it makes of me, is difficult to do concisely.

Let me try to explain.

I love Japan because I was born there. My father was in the military, so my older sister and I were born in Okinawa. Funnily enough, my mother was also born in Japan, in Fukuoka, thanks to her father being in the Air Force.

I don't remember anything about Okinawa, because I was less than a year old when we left, but growing up, I knew—"I am not from here. I am from there. I am from somewhere else." It was a thought reinforced by having a nomadic childhood, and it makes up the core of everything I am—that this, THIS, is not home. No matter where I've lived, it's never felt like home. Even when we were in South Carolina, with the same permanent address for 12~13 years after my father chose not to reenlist, even then.

Japan was part of growing up for me, from pen pals in middle school to anime and choppy, self-taught Japanese lessons in high school. I said earlier I studied international business. Not my first choice, but it gave me an excuse to learn Japanese. One requirement of the program was that I had to study abroad or do an internship with a Japanese company in the states. Of course I chose the former.

I went to Japan before I was ready, but I don't think I could have waited any longer. I was there for an academic year, living in Nagoya, with barely a year of Japanese lessons under my belt. I couldn't have an intelligent conversation with a rock, but I was trying to make it on the other side of the world. I survived only because the international studies staff was looking out for all of us.

I made few friends. I have only one Japanese friend from that time, who I sporadically keep in touch with, and have mostly lost touch with the other foreigners from my class. My Japanese actually got worse doing that time, since I was hanging out with English speakers all the time. I learned absolutely nothing in my classes. I gained weight like mad, because I am probably the world's third pickiest eater and don't like the majority of Japanese food.

I loved almost every second of it.

Despite the strange looks, the signs that said NO FOREIGNERS ALLOWED, the food, the almost solid language barrier, the weight issues—Japan was home. It was a bone-deep feeling.

It ended; it had to. I came back to the states to finish my degree and regretted it immediately. The only positive was that my Japanese improved dramatically. Apparently my subconscious had been paying attention even when I wasn't. By my senior year, though, I hated the language program at my college and started sleeping through all my classes. Goodbye, Japanese skills.

I spent all of college waiting to go back to Japan. A couple others in my degree talked about going overseas as language teachers, and I got sold on the idea pretty quick. After I graduated, I applied to a couple language schools, and snagged a position with Nova Group Japan. That December, I moved back to Japan, this time to Fukuoka.

But I don't want to talk about Nova yet. My experience with Nova didn't kill my love for Japan, didn't even dent it, but the experience was pretty sour. We'll save that for a different time. Also for another time: entries about life in Japan.

Bit of Trivia: Chukyo University is where I got the name "marynoel". My history teacher was convinced that was my name, despite my best attempts to correct her. Oh well.

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