Another thing that's great about Asian American Month, is learning from people who are Americans who have been able to experience true Asian culture first hand. Today we have a guest blog from Amy from My Friend Amy who talks about her trip to Japan (I've been in the Tokyo airport on a layover to Malaysia)
Moving to Japan wasn't my first choice, but at the time, it was my best choice. I had really wanted to move to France, something that was and has remained impossible for me. So when I arrived in Tokyo in the heat of summer, the humidity thick and my apartment without air conditioning, I did wish it was a different place. And that's how I started my brief stay in Asia.
Add to that, I was suddenly rendered illiterate. Since reading has always come easy to me, I usually get my information through reading. That was no longer an option. I couldn't speak, I couldn't read.
Did I mention it was hot?
I was teaching English, adjusting to life with two Australian roommates and wondering just how quickly a year would go by.
Thankfully, two things happened. One, I started trying the amazing food. And yes the food is really amazing. And two, my roommate gave me Memoirs of a Geisha to read. That book made me fall in love with Japan.
I should be clear. It bore absolutely no resemblance to my life in Japan or modern Japan as I was experiencing it. But it made me care..it made me want to find the heart of such a place in the middle of where I was living, and it made me excited to be there. So books really can change lives!
This isn't what Deborah asked me to talk about, though! Life in Japan was definitely different from life in the United States. For one thing, there's just not as much space and there's still a lot of people. As a result, people are generally more respectful in their living spaces. I miss that everyday here. The food is different...a lot healthier and I tried many things I never thought I would. I was lucky enough to be sort of "adopted" by a Japanese family who made it their mission to show me Japan. They brought me to many tourist spots where I was able to see Japanese temples and shrines of the Buddhist and Shinto religions respectively. They tried to teach me some Japanese and force me out of my comfort zone in public places by actually using it! And they brought me into their home, cooked for me, showered me with gifts, but most importantly their friendship.
Of all my memories of Japan, trying the food, falling in love with karaoke, seeing the many beautiful sites, my best memories are of the people of Japan. Of my adopted family, of my language partner, and my students. The way they opened their hearts to me and patiently put up with me, and yes okay laughed at me, as I a clumsy gaijin (foreigner) tried to get around in their country. Because I cared for them, I still care about Japan when I hear about it in the news. I do love the culture and history of Japan, but I love the reality of its people, too.