Miscellany » Sethisms » Going to Japan

Seth Price, 17 Jun 2017

I find the language and culture of France somewhat interesting. Alright, so I’ll go ahead and take a few years of French at my high school and work with it outside of class. Maybe I’ll take a trip to le Suisse or la Côte d’Ivoire to appreciate the culture, cuisine and customs of the Francophonic peoples. Acting on this, my classmates thought I was just another student taking a foreign language class out of interest; not so uncommon

Meanwhile, I’ve found Japan to be a topic of interest as well. At the first slight of curiosity, I’d never watched a minute of anime in my life, nor had I eaten a stick of Pocky. Within a mere ten seconds of discussion at the lunch table freshman year, I got branded as a “weeaboo”. A hardcore Japanophile, in other words. I thought to myself, “What’s wrong with finding an interest in other cultures?” At the time, I’d dismissed the topic out of shame. I didn’t want to be looked down upon for a piqued interest in something else than beer, fireworks and cheeseburgers, per se

Fast-forward two years later. My friend Cayleen convinced me to watch a few anime popular in the States. It didn’t take long for me to become hooked. Re-visiting my newly sparked interest in Japan, I envisioned what it’d be like to learn the language, customs and cuisine of Japan with the same dedication I put into that of France. I could converse with the natives, enjoy the attractions and lifestyle of the common Japanese… it all sounded rather enjoyable to me.

Fast-forward three months—about where I am now. Having wholly forgotten my classmates’ disdain and stereotypical views of otaku culture, I started researching what it’d take to learn Japanese to the point of decent conversation; customs aren’t all that difficult to make habitual, as I learned in Québec. As word order, honourifics, pronunciation and various other aspects drastically differ from any Germanic or Italic languages I’ve vaguely studied, I knew this would take an immense amount of work in comparison to, say, German or Spanish. I weighed the usefulness of my current endeavour in French with the learning of Japanese, as well: French is useful in a myriad countries around the world and is the official language of many international organisations; meanwhile, Japanese is useful only in one country: Japan.

Over the course of several days, I pondered one question: is this all a product of weeb fanaticism à la countless otaku across the States, or am I willing to genuinely dedicate myself towards this endeavour? My thinking led me to the conclusion I had a passion for foreign cultures altogether, and that neither anime nor manga had tainted my view of Japan. For weeks, however, this internal criticism of my interests plagued me. Should I really buy Genki I and take up Japanese? Should I even trip to Japan, even as a typical tourist? Most of all, was I wrong all along; am I simply weeb trash?

Even if I was to master all the aforementioned over the next four or five years of intense studying… what would they think of me? Why else would an American come to Japan other than to… y’know, I don’t even know where I’m going with this. As a foreigner, I’d likely be frowned upon. And, in the slim chance I’d move to Japan for some given reason, I’d more than likely experience trouble getting a job as a computer programmer, musician, translator, teacher… anything. Even if I’m more than proficient in any and all of those by then (especially English).

Looking back upon this, my restlessness is caused more by low self-estem than anything. So what if the natives, especially the elderly population, don’t particularly take a liking to me? Yet again, am I disrespecting their homeland my setting foot on the soil of the Japanese islands? It’s all so confusing. I’ve read countless articles on why to learn Japanese, why to visit Japan, why not to visit Japan, why to not even like Japan, &c. I’ve yet to make a real decision: should I embark upon the journey of “becoming Japanese”, as my friend Katie once put it?

Next on my to-do list: write an actual, informative article on this subject.