Sunday, May 19, 2013

Lost in Kyoto

I’m overwhelmed, head spinning, crying in the rain in downtown Kyoto.

This was not the start to a good day. Now, I will say I was crying more from exhaustion; jetlag always makes me weepy. The silent tears flowed behind my over-sized sunglasses, which hid my embarrassment for the most part. I took a deep breath and reminded myself that I was the luckiest girl in the world, that this rain would end eventually and that I would just hail a cab to take me to my hotel, which I was most certain had got up and moved across town while I was away.

Japan has almost always been my dream. I can’t pin down one particular thing that lead me to my love of all things Japanese but I can remember exactly when I fell head over heels.

When I was 13, I moved to a new town, thousands of miles away from my previous home. (That home only had been ‘home’ for 2 years before the move before that one and so on…) No friends, awkward and alone.  It’s your typical sob story of an angsty teen so I won’t bore you.  But there was a specific turning point that I distinctly remember, changing everything in my addled teenaged brain.

 I was given a horrible schedule by my high school councilor which gave me a ‘lunch’ break at 10:30am. Rather than brave the cafeteria alone, I went up the library and sat at a desk near the stacks, trying to be invisible. I would sneak away and pick a book to occupy my time for the 45 min period. This particular day, I picked Fodor’s guide to Japan. I hadn't given much thought to Japan before really. Godzilla movies and ninjas were the only thing that came to mind.  But this book took me far away from the ugly little desk in a place I didn't really want to be.  And the more I read, the more I realized that I felt a lot like the Japanese. Americans thought they were strange, so alien in their manner and ways. They were so different. Just like me. I felt to alien and different from everyone else too.

I thought that perhaps one day I could go there and I would be accepted and I could find ‘my people’ as my mother called it. As I got older and read more and more, I knew that to be untrue as well. Regardless of how well I could speak Japanese, know the customs, trying to fit in, I would always be an outsider. I could never truly belong here. I wasn't born Japanese in Japan so I would never really be anything but Gaijin.

But as I sat having coffee yesterday in the heart of Kyoto, watching the Dekotora trucks and white gloved taxi drivers go by and I realized something. Even though I would never belong here, I am as different and strange looking as I feel. I stick out like a sore thumb, which is exactly how I feel all the time. I don’t blend. I don’t mesh. I am a 5’10”, redheaded, white chick in a yellow silk dress in a land full of… well, not that. It’s a little validation on how I still feel, that feeling my 13 year old self has yet to shake.  It’s a bit of a weight lifted.

And there are still many things that Japan and I share. A value of careful thought and what  many consider ‘introverted’ thought patterns. Finding perfection and beauty in all things. Consideration and respect  for those around you. A love of all things cute. Desire to fit in yet every person is so different, which is ok and not at the same time.

So dearest Japan, even though we can never truly be together, let's settle on this glorious love affair from time to time. We will come together, make beautiful music, and leave each other feeling more enriched for it. 

What do you say?

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