I have a love/hate relationship with Japan.
More specifically, I love Japan as imagery and I hate Japanese in reality. I’ve been so intrigued by the world full of “Japaneseness” as in Zeami’s The Flower Spirit, Kawabata’s Snow Country or all the beautiful and melancholic Waka poems from Tale of Genji. And yet I’m always told by Japanese people that I should behave “more Japanese.” According to them, I am not Japanese enough, and at the same time I AM already Japanese for the sake of my biological traits. And so, I should try harder to behave more like one, they say.
I was born and raised in Japan, speak Japanese fluently and even read Classical Japanese fluently with which most Japanese people are not even acquainted. I have studied Japanese Literature for almost six years in collage and grad school. I studied Japanese Language pedagogy and taught Japanese in college in the US for four years. I have a Japanese passport and most customs pass me through the gate as a Japanese. And yet, I am not Japanese. At least, I don’t feel comfortable when I try to live as “100% Japanese.”
Then what separates myself with other Japanese who take Japaneseness for granted, living as Japanese without question? People think that I get into other cultures too much, that I am deeply influenced by what they consider non-Japanese. But is that really so?
I felt as though I had finally found a place of my own when I first moved outside of Japan, leaving from my “home sweet home” for the one-year study program in New Zealand.
Or that I was so happy that I found a language that I can speak smoothly without staggering when I learned how to speak English. I felt as though I found a language I could actually speak.
Of course I had hard times acquiring skills and experiences in order to make new things my own. But all the efforts I have done, I can say that it was all worth it. I can’t imagine myself surviving in the vast world of Japanese society full of Japanese-Japaneseness without hideaways like other languages or cultures.
Now I am thinking what Authenticity really is.
I feel like I can never reach the “Authentic” Japaneseness to behave like one. Or more precisely, the more I learn about Japan or practice acting like Japanese, the further I feel myself is from what I am pursuing.
I run after this almost imaginative Japaneseness because I, in some way, know that I can never reach one. That sort of attachment I have for Japan/Japanese. And this is my Identity.
I am really real. And at the same time, I am fake. Like I always am.
Let’s get back to the idea of Authenticity.
I am currently learning all about kimono, the traditional Japanese attire as you know it.
I have been working for this company that rents out kimonos for brides. I was first pursuaded by the owner at the interview that I should join them as they were planning to start services for in-bound guests. And I loved that idea as I thought I would also want to do the photo shooting with their really awesome kimonos and stuff. I also feel more relaxed when I talk with non Japanese people, or people with at least some international background so welcoming such people in the shop was why not? thing for me.
But in reality it never happened and I have the feeling that it never will, as long as the company stays the same way and I follow what they tell me.
There’s a big gap that you can never cross and I don’t want to bother spending my energy trying.
Someone asked me “why did you not try by yourself, when you realized others didn’t do? Why didn’t you start the project within the work place to do what you want?”
It’s something very small that many people probably miss out. It’s something very trivial. It’s some kind of feeling that it is not right. Feeling that rejects the idea that you think is great. Your “good” is their “bad.” And their “good” is your pain. And this small “something” piles up to eventually create a big wall after encountering it numbers of times.
I understand that they are not villains or anything. It’s just they are different. Different from me.
So I gave up to play in their field.
People may not recognize it as authentic. But I think it’s best if I make whatever feels is right for me. I had started my own journey as I wanted to make something Japanese, very Japanese that I fit in. I wanted to wear Japaneseness to appear as one. And now I have realized there’s nothing I can comfortably wear UNLESS I make one myself.
so, I guess I will make my own clothes that express my identity. Something that admits to the world that I am not Anthentic enough by being really truly anthentic. To myself, and to the culture I admire.