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An American Party

With my time in Japan coming to a close, but having no last plans that could be completed at night, a few days ago I finally accepted a running invitation to go to a party at this hotel that houses most of the American students that study at my university. I have managed to avoid much contact with my fellow Americans, the only reason being that I felt I should strike out on my own here.

What struck me was how… still foreign Tokyo seemed to many of the other Americans with whom I spoke. I suddenly felt really satisfied with what I have learned and experienced here, though I suppose I shouldn’t need to compare myself with others. Before I even got to the party, I was surprised to find that the few that had invited me didn’t even know where they lived. Yes, I have had my experience with that, as you saw in my first episode here in Japan, but that was filmed on the third day I was here. Seemingly, the other American college students with whom I spoke had only experienced the subway to school and back to their room.

Now, I have written before, and still maintain, that traveling abroad is so unique that even if you were to entirely shelter yourself you would still learn more than you’ll likely realize. I haven’t wavered on that front, but I can’t imagine coming so far at such great cost and not seeing and doing all I could. I haven’t gone to the greatest of lengths, but I tend to think I have done well for my time and means.

These twenty-somethings had come, or so it appeared having only met most of them that night, to have a typical American college experience, but in Tokyo. I am sure that studying in Asia has shown and taught them a great deal, but it didn’t appear that many had challenged themselves much. I made the mistake of getting into a conversation about Japanese culture with a couple of these Americans, and I was terrified to find that neither seemed to know anything beyond the simplest of clichés. Now, understand. I don’t, for even a fleeting moment, insist that I know much about anything, particularly not Japan, as I have only been here four months and seen through just my own eyes and what I’ve read and heard from Japanese friends and longtime residents here. That being said, I felt like I had lived in this country for decades in comparison to the two, who weren’t sure if Christianity was as popular here in Japan as it was in the United States.

I was truly awestruck by their ability to be in Tokyo for so long without finding, seemingly, anything about the Japanese culture. What troubled me more was that they seemed to speak as if their time here demanded that they had, indeed, become well versed in the culture. For one painful moment, I pictured the two of them speaking with friends when they returned to the United States, passing off what I found to be grossly inaccurate portrayals of the Japan I have come to know, not that my version is an accurate one either.

I suppose it is important to understand, however long you travel, you can’t much speak about the intricacies of a culture. I learned a bit about how some might over-perceive their knowledge of a place, having kept themselves from actually experiencing the place. I found it chilling that I might have allowed some fool have an effect on my perception of another country. I suppose it was okay to have an experience like home, and it was nice to see how other Americans were finding Tokyo, but I am glad I have been living in my own apartment and I was happier still that I had chosen to stick to my own experiences. I’ve done alright, indeed.

Jaa ne,

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