It was just a year ago. How time flies.
I think this picture says it all for me, a summary of what I did for the past year. It’s a traditional Japanese matsuri, in the middle of Akihabara. It’s like the true culture, and then the subculture. In any case, it has been really a fruitful year, so many things happened. In fact, I may be in for a mini-culture shock once I get back home in a week. That would be because there are some things I would definitely miss.
One of the prime things would be the general peace and quiet. It seems so peaceful EVERYWHERE here. It’s like “no one’s gonna rob or kidnap you even in the middle of the night” peaceful. Not much crime happens here, which is one of the main advantages of a first world country. Because almost everyone works and gets paid well here, no one would commit crime out of poverty. I am a third-world citizen, and that kind of safety is so baffling. It really makes me want to live here, bringing as much of my family and friends as I can. I know it’s impossible, but one thing I try to aspire every single day is for all my loved ones to live as happily and safely as possible, that’s why I’m working hard.
On the other hand though, that kind of peace and quiet is generally because of another quirk in Japanese culture, the “mind your own business” culture. Since it’s such a busy life around here, they don’t seem to waste time. Their schedules seem on-the-dot, they walk and commute not minding other stuff happening around them, and basically they don’t even interact with a stranger unless the situation affects them dearly. Couple that with the generalization that some don’t like foreigners that much. Unless you’re a kakkoi (cool-looking) gaijin, no one would notice you.
Their on-the-dot culture is what I admire about them though. Their trains rarely become late, their TV shows start at the exact second, and work starts at 8 or 9AM “sharp”. This is the kind of punctuality that I’d like to endow within me, because “Filipino time” (the art of being ‘always’ fashionably late, a Filipino culture staple) is a no-no. As a result, my everydays seem to have a time schedule. Like an hour to prepare for work. 45 minutes for lunch. 8-14 hours of work. An hour for dinner. A couple of hours of internet or recreation, then sleep. Weekends would be going out to shop or watch a movie or some other recreation, buy the groceries, clean the apartment, do the laundry, more internet, then sleep again. Monotonous maybe, but such is work life. At the end of the day, your recreations will liven you up in this kind of busy world.
Of course, the recreations. What else would it be for me than the subcultures of games, anime, and general semi-otakuistic things? But then again, the nearer I am, the further it is. As I said, free time is limited, so I could only play few games, watch few anime, and express few otakuistic things. This blog is basically dead for the whole year right? The IRC channel I frequent would argue that I’m just being lazy, and somehow that holds some truth. This is another cultural quirk of mine, the “Juan Tamad” (Lazy John Smith) attitude. Of course, I’m working on that, I should set my priorities straight.
In any case, whatever recreation I do here is nothing short of FUN.
There’s a nearby game center where I can play all the DDR (Dance Dance Revolution) I want. It gives me my physical energy instead of being monotonous in front of computers (at work and home) everyday. And you know the recent game events I attended? Great stuff. I recently got this laptop strong enough to play me some bishoujo games and nice first-person shooters (favorite genre). And I saw the ongoing battle of game consoles here, where Nintendo is clearly leading the game. I really have to buy a Wii. There are stuff in X360 and PS3 that makes my mouth water, but then I would need an HDTV to enjoy it. Maybe in a year or two. For now, this Nintendo DS fulfills my gaming needs quite well. Expensive but worthy purchase.
Anime is a time-consuming hobby. My fandom is being tested when many of those shows come up at wee hours in the morning. Not being able to handle the yawn, I still turn to the raws to get my fix. At average I only followed three or four series per season. Not quite the heavy anime-eater that I was back at home. I do follow non-anime series too, like jdorama and US TV shows. That is aside from the utterly amusing entertainment that is Japanese TV. Their shows ROCK! Some of them are really unique, and it can tickle your senses. Because of this, I get to know lots of familiar faces like jidols, owarai comedians, cute news reporters, jpop artists, even more jidols, and the dreaded boybands. There are also annoying TV shows too, like all those food-related shows where they go to the restaurant and say “SUGOI/OISHII/UMAI” every single minute. They are a dime-a-dozen of them here, and it really gets to your nerves especially when you don’t like the kind of food they feature. Their game shows are great though, and I think you are familiar with some of them especially when they come out on video streaming websites. So as I said, not much anime.
But the wealth of my wonder and excitement is the semi-otaku stuff. While Japanese have quite a serious discrimination complex towards them so-called losers who can’t get enough of 2D bishoujo girls and oogling at ugly girls doing meido cosplay in the streets of Akihabara… WHO CARES? Again, “mind your own business” here, and unless you act like a baka-gaijin openly proclaiming some certain shounen anime (that’s actually for kids only) is the best anime thing in your world, no one will hurt or oppress you here. Of course, courtesy is demanded, do not show nekkid CGs in public, it’s just the same thing as regular crappy pr0n. In Akihabara though, the standard is lowered. There are bishoujos/lolis/tsunderes/meidos littered literally everywhere, and no questions asked. Fun place if you ask me. I love the look on their faces when I enter the shops, me pretending I’m Densetsu no Shounen A, buying stuff a regular gaijin ain’t supposed to know about. Why? Do Japanese believe that we foreigners only know the kiddie shounen things? This is 2007! Anime fansubs, anime blogs, the internets, and basically them otakus themselves spread this cuteness subculture into the whole world. One positive thing from the overload is that we are in tune, in the know (somehow), and finding a niche of our own. I came to like shoujo, I came to like bishoujo, and this is my kind of fandom.
Food, one of my main enjoyments here. I can eat all kinds of food. From the el-cheapo sandwiches, to the cheap bentos, to the normal fast foods, to the not so cheap ramen, to the not so expensive fami resto, to the quite expensive yakiniku, and then the grand finale, the expensive sushi. There’s a side dish too, in the name of “my personal cooking”. Yep, I learned to cook here, and though it is not the legendary food I would have liked to cook, it survives me almost everyday. I’m hoping to improve more.
Since this is one of my first outings at a foreign country, I ‘tried’ to travel a lot. Unfortunately, there are limitations. Sometimes I don’t want to be alone in some place, so I go with friends to places like theme parks, parks, and shopping places. Theme parks here are fun, coz I like roller coasters and thrill rides. They have lots of them, fun fun. Tokyo Disneyland and Disneysea are not bad either, lifts out the kid in you sometimes. I’ve also been to some parks, which is unique to me because we don’t have such things in our country (or they’re not popular). Spring is the best time to have a picnic, especially in hanami (sakura viewing) where the cherry blossom petals fall like romance is in the air. Too bad my timing wasn’t perfect for hanabi (fireworks) displays. Shopping places abound here, especially in Tokyo. We all hear the place names like Shibuya, Ikebukuro, Shinjuku and Ginza. Quite high-class shopping at ridiculous prices at the major stores, but then again there are bargain shops and the quality/fashion is not that bad either. Every financial segment served.
Did I say I ‘tried’ to travel? There are a lot of places I wanted to go. Like Kyoto. Like Mt. Fuji. Like Okinawa (err…). I would have wanted to go on some temple’s matsuri or something, but no one wanted to go with me. Since I’m not the hardcore otaku, I was quite scared to go to Comiket and other fandom-related events for lack of knowledge (and money). Surely I would want to go back here and go to those places.
There are so many stories, so many stuff I want to tell, but then it would lengthen this article making it a chore to read. I would like to cut it into segments, insert my Japan experiences all around here whenever I blog other things. Anyway, as you can see, even if it was busy, even if it had stress, even with the language barrier, even with the tsundere meganekko dorama (huh?), my one year of living here is quite positive. I would definitely, DEFINITELY want to go back here again, and right now I’m doing my uber-best to make this happen. This is not goodbye Japan, it’s goodbye Japan… for now.