Hitachinaka. I’ve spent the past two weeks in a bit of a fog. Physically, I have been a bit drained. And mentally, I am over winter…well, at least, this winter.
Still, I have been keeping busy learning new things about myself and living in Japan.
Spring is almost here. Lately, I’ve been reflecting on the (almost) three years that I have been living in Japan. I’ve been wondering about the person I have become as a result of conforming to Japanese cultural norms.
I have become even quieter, preferring silence to talking. I enjoy nature even more than before. And I am less forthcoming with my opinions and more likely to go with the flow.
Of course, this could just be a part of getting older.
I’ve learned to compartmentalize even more. My personal life is shared in slivers. And, from what I have experienced, I perceive this approach as the norm here.
I’m still learning the art of keeping conversations light–which is no mean feat for someone who enjoys delving into and understanding the psychology of others. By the way, the weather is actually quite lovely this afternoon.
I’m learning to read the air (場の空気を読む, ba no kuuki wo yomu), to be more KY. That is, I am working hard to better understand (from a Japanese cultural perspective) the situations in which I find myself and to know what is the expected behavior (again, from a Japanese cultural perspective) in those situations.
Of course, the major challenge is my temporarily linguistic limitation. At the moment, my Japanese language abilities are basic and must be improved. That leads me to the next thing that I’m learning.
I’m learning Japanese. And while my initial thoughts were that I only needed to learn enough to survive while living here. I have come to the self-understanding that, regardless of how long I live here, I do wish to embrace all that I can of Japanese culture to the best of my abilities.
Reading, writing, speaking (formally and informally), and listening comprehension, beyond a basic level, are all essential.
Yes, here, I will, most likely, always be an outsider. That is the nature of what it means to be a foreigner living in Japan. However, that doesn’t mean that I can’t create a space for Japanese culture inside me.
So, now, I’m off to study Japanese (今、私は日本語を勉強しましう). Wish me well! And, as always, thanks for reading.