When I was young, I was fascinated with cultures other than my own. I caught glimpses of China, of Russia, of Italy with every step I took. Little china dolls and pizza shops advertising authenticity seem to pervade every city, every town, every square mile of inhabited land in this melting pot called the United States. But what’s melted into this pot is no more than bits and pieces, generalizations and stereotypes. And when I realized this a few years ago, it ignited a desire in me to seek the truth of these cultures.
One, in particular, became the forefront of my obsession: Japan. Japan is a country often thought of and rarely understood (from my experience). As a child, I was enthralled with English dubs of Japanese anime and translated manga in bookstores. I loved their art, their values, their eccentricities, and most all, how foreign they were to my daily experience.
But as I researched more into this place called Japan, I also began to realize how misunderstood it really is in today’s culture. It’s generalized to the point where it becomes no more than a few meaningless words. It loses its real value more every day, every minute. And that saddens me. Because I find Japan one of the most fascinating places on Earth.
But I knew, that even within my own mental image that I’d conjured up from years of watching, reading, and searching, that my view of Japan was just as inadequate as the average person’s. I could witness no more than the average American, learn no more than the average child. And it humbled me to think that I was, in fact, one of the countless many who stereotype–without reprieve–the cultures that are foreign to them.
To dismiss my initial perceptions of Japan would be a mistake. I must build on them, transform them, and use them as an example of my own mistakes in relation to the misconceptions of others. So that’s exactly what I’m doing. I sit in class now, looking back at my old dirty slate of stereotypes and misconceptions and correcting those mistakes on a clean slate laid by its side. I seek to remedy my old delusion of Japan by replacing it with a more informed perception.
That, in effect, is why I’m here today taking Japanophilia.
I hoped this class would allow me to critically engage upon the misconceptions of Japanese culture that permeate so deeply our own, that cause us to solidify a false image of such a rich and wondrous culture. So far, it’s done just that. And I look forward to furthering the experience more.
But, for a moment, allow me to take a lighter tone. Below is a simple biography of myself, first written in Japanese, and then translated. It’s not quite as critical a look as I’ve already taken in the “depths of my soul”, but I think a little fun is in order here.
There are a few lists of my likes and dislikes that I’ve come across in everyday life, as a well as few random details about myself and my personal effects.
So, now you can relax, take a breath, and have a little laugh!
(This is the view from the driveway of my house.)
(PS: I’m very excited to be at William and Mary. All my professors seem like amazing people (thus far =P). I’ve made some awesome new friends in my first few weeks, and I sincerely hope the trend continues. I already can’t wait for second semester classes! After I pass all my first semester ones, of course. Anyway, it’s great to be here; the William and Mary community is amazing!)