Untethered Territory

“All my friends in America—my whole circle—are Japanese. It’s weird, but I just felt more comfortable that way. I had really no connection to anything non-Japanese in America, where I’m from. I don’t know why but I love Japanese. I’ve been studying the language for six years. I even worked in Japantown. I went to college and my best friends were all the foreign exchange students. When they left I had no friends. I had friends again when the new batch of foreign exchange students came. But then they’d leave, too. But that was my pattern. So I had almost no reason to stay in America. In some ways, I feel like my life started when I moved to Japan. I was very sheltered back home. My first time paying rent, paying bills, buying a ‘kotatsu’ (a small table with electric heating and covered by a quilt) or other furniture, were all in Japan. For me, becoming an adult equals Japan. I was always a student, living with my mom back home. And she paid everything. I had choices but I didn’t know where to go with those choices. Here, I feel so much more free. I can do whatever I want. So I like it here.”

JR Yamanote Line in the background of busy Shibuya

“Before, I wanted to be a Japanese person. And I wanted to be treated just like them. But now I don’t want to be treated just like them. I love Japan. But if I was Japanese, I would not like Japan. And I see that in Japanese people. So I’m so happy I’m not Japanese but I’m so happy I’m in Japan, having my privilege and my freedom. It’s kind of sad though. Although at the same time I hate it when I say, ‘Ohayo gozaimasu’ (good morning) and people go ‘Wow your Japanese is so good’. I’ve heard so many times that it’s a conversation-starter but it really bothers me because I do really work hard on my Japanese and I say one word and they praise me. Makes me think, ‘Wait, I’m not done yet.’”

Shibuya’s Nonbei Alley(渋谷 のんべい横丁)

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Finding diversity and inclusion. Breaking down barriers one post at a time. Stories and snapshots of foreigners making their way in Japan.

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