Thursday, August 25, 2011

Japan Retrospective

About two more weeks until classes start for my senior year. Until then, I don't have much to do besides reading and watching stuff and glutting myself with bon bons while reclining on silk pillows or whatever. ^_^; *scratches back and flops down on couch*

For six weeks, I commuted to three different sections within the Shinjuku branch of the company I worked for and did whatever was needed- ranging from helping set up events and orienting guests, sitting in at a conference with the heads of the international branches of the company (which really surprised me), meeting with clients from other companies (my company could be like, "Check out our international intern!"), and translating PR materials and a manual on information security to English (my two main projects), to the grunt work expected for interns, like filing, making copies, and stamping envelopes, delivered to my desk by co-workers smiling as of they were handing me candy. (Turns out I can map out my chromosomes using a blood sample more easily than I can use the office copy machine without screwing up. Ugh.... I did learn, though.)

Luckily for my wallet, I was treated for a lot of lunches by co-workers who wanted to ask questions. ("Why did you decide to come to Japan?", "What are your hobbies?", "How do you parents feel about you coming here? Are they supportive/lonely/worried about the radiation?", "What Japanese foods do you like?", etc.) What really made me happy were the repeat invitations, when I treated myself but knew that whoever invited me wasn't just doing it out of politeness or curiosity.

I'll admit that I became self-conscious about letting co-workers know that I like anime and manga whenever I was asked, because I didn't want that to be seen as my sole defining characteristic. I became really self-conscious that I wasn't being taken seriously behind my back after some old businessman I'd never spoken to smiled at me while saying, "Isn't she that Akiba-kei otaku who's obsessed with going to Akihabara and is only here because she likes anime?" to someone else. (I only mentioned my hobby when other people asked me about it.) When I expressed my concern about people bringing up my anime hobby often (yes, I know I was being hyper-sensitive), my superior said that a lot of foreigners who go to Japan like anime, so it was something they assumed would be something I would want to talk about. (The old man was the exception- most people did seem genuinely innocuous when they brought it up.) And the topic came up less relative to other topics after that (and I made it clear that I wasn't just in Japan to otaku it up to any new co-workers who asked about my hobbies), so word must have spread, in a good way. I wound up getting a great recommendation letter from my superior describing my work for the company and, at the end, a send-off party. (One co-worker gave me some Rose of Versailles stamps, since I'd named it as a favorite. It really is a favorite of mine, but I named it whenever co-workers asked me for a "favorite" example because everyone there knows it.) Despite the little bumps, it was an overall great experience and the people I worked with were really nice and helpful.

And no, I never brought up my sexual orientation at work. Nice as my co-workers were, I didn't think it was the best place to break out the rainbow flags.

When I came back, my dad asked how this trip compared to the semester I spent in Japan in my junior year of high school. This time was much better, no question. (And probably no surprise to anyone reading this.) I had much more independence- no curfew (my host family gave me a 6:00 curfew; you can imagine the warm feelings it elicited from me), no host mother exchanging a diary with the school assistant principal to keep track of what I host family trawling my internet history. (My host father pointedly said, "I know which websites you've been visiting" one day. I assumed he meant the gay ones like Afterellen, but I reacted with complete apathy- as if he'd said "Pass the salt"- even though I was sweating bullets on the inside, and he didn't mention it further.) Plus, I lived right in Ikebukuro instead of an hour outside of Tokyo by train this time. ^_^V (That said, the town I lived in in high school had its own charm, and it was good to experience day-to-day life outside of Tokyo.) Also- I was much, much more homesick back then.

Besides sightseeing around Tokyo, I spent a day in Yokohama (a woman two years older than me who lived in Yokohama, who someone I knew introduced me to, showed me around; she was also the person I did my one karaoke session of my time there with, in Shibuya; I/we sang songs from Utena, Sailor Moon, Marimite, Strawberry Panic, Kannazuki no Miko, Nanoha, Evangelion, Escaflowne, Serial Experiments Lain, and Railgun) and a day in Kamakura. (It was my second time in Kamakura. My first time was on a class field trip in high school.) Along with visiting several of the Shinto and Buddhist sites there, I visited the Yoshiya Nobuko Memorial Museum. It wasn't open during my time in Japan (it's only open a few days each year), but I still wanted to thank her and pay my respects. Right nearby was the Kamakura Museum of Literature, which Shimura Takako based Fujigaya's exterior on. (Including the path the characters take to school.) I geekariffically continued my Aoi Hana sightseeing by going to the Milk Hall on Komachi street.

By the end of my time there, I had a lot of fun memories and a mountain of doujinshi to drag back. (On the afternoon of my last day there, I met a friend in Akihabara and visited a relaxing, low-key maid café he highly recommended before hitting some doujinshi shops to see if I'd missed anything good at Comiket, along with the gajillion other nerds who had the same idea.) I'm definitely looking forward to visiting again.


Justin said...

Heh. Sounds like you had a lot of fun. I hope you'll find space to stash all your doujin :D

Katherine Hanson said...

@Justin- Haha, thanks. :D (Trying to make room for preposterous amount of doujinshi = best problem ever.)