the “Average Son in Japan” sent this via email as his essay for the few colleges that require them. They all have a Choose your own topic section. Your thoughts would be appreciated.
Journal Entry: August 19, 2004
Trapped like a rat! That was the only thought rambling through my brain for the last five hours of the seventeen-hour flight. Now, as the plane touched down in Tokyo, my thoughts divert to what awaits me. What seemed like such a good idea and marvelous adventure seven months ago is now a terrifying reality. To arrive in a country where I cannot read, speak nor understand daunts me. I will become a seventeen-year-old infant, totally dependant on others to see to my basic needs until I can adapt, learn and hopefully flourish.
Looking back now at my arrival in Tokyo, I wonder how I could have felt uncertainty coming to a country as hospitable as Japan. The people of Iwai Rotary District 2820 have taken me not only into their homes, but also into their families, their lives, and their hearts. In return, I have found a deep bond that rivals the parent-child bond that took place so long ago in my life.
Yes, I have flourished. The satisfaction of being able to ask my host mother what I may do to help in words she can finally understand; speaking in class and being understood and smiled upon; having a sales clerk speak to me and realizing hours later that I not only understood, I answered coherently without pause.
My classmates are enamored with the West; my intrigue is in the East. We share classrooms, we share cultures- one never fully understanding the other. They no longer laugh as I hit my head on a 6-foot doorway or try to place size 8 slippers onto my size 12 feet. I no longer chuckle when they refer to Japanese mayonnaise, Japanese canoes or Japanese Apple Pie.
A realization creeps in that no matter how long I stay here, I will never fully understand Japan. You must be born on this island to fully understand the complex unwritten rules of etiquette, the century old traditions, and the honor and pride of being Japanese. Nonetheless, I will try. I will try to be as Japanese as a blue-eyed blonde can be, and I will carry with me the honor of knowing and being accepted by these people.
It has not been easy, it will not be easy. The months I have been here have been a spiral of highs and lows, the months remaining will be a continual quest to make the high points higher and the low points less severe.
I am and always will be a gaijin, a foreigner who draws attention as I walk into a room of slick black hair and dark almond eyes. I am no longer the Stranger; having become less an oddity, rather more a glimpse of what lies beyond this island nation.