Many people ask me what brought me to Japan.
That's always been a tough one for me to answer. I always fear that they might think I'm trying to be profound or self-important if I tell them the truth. So I usually just make a silent compromise and tell them that I find the culture interesting, or something simple like that.
But the truth is, Japan called me to it.
I don't think I was born in the wrong country. I'm thankful I had the chance to spend three decades in one of the Earth's most pristine and untouched places. I'm terribly glad I was lucky enough to enjoy America's educational system when I did, before huge budget cuts and standardization took its ugly toll on it. My childhood in latter oil-boom Alaska was magical to say the least.
But like the wind that catches the kite to lift it high into the air, when I heard my first notes of enka music drifting gracefully from the speakers of my father's short wave radio, I found myself being carried away, lulled by black-haired sprites into a dream of vivid green bamboo forests and crystal waterfalls. Little did I know how closely my imagination of the place would match reality. (It's kinda spooky when I think about it, actually).
|McHugh Creek waterfall along Turnagain Arm in Alaska|
|Small Waterfall in Arashiyama, Kyoto|
But my favorite thing in the world to do, would be to savor the magical view from my mother's screaming green Cadillac as we wove around the Chugach Mountains down the Old Seward Highway on our way to Anchorage, back when it was full of lethal hairpin turns. Cow parsnip and devil's club bushes grew untamed right against the road, emerald lushness broken by the occasional whoosh of a rushing waterfall. Japan to me would look exactly like this. It almost got to the point where my fantasies about Japan were enough. I didn't need to go to there to feel as if I'd traveled there. (Little did I know that decades later, I would come across the exact same type of landscape in Shiga, Kyoto and Hiroshima prefectures).
|Unnamed Waterfall in Higashi Hiroshima|
I do believe I was called to Japan. And I'm glad of it. You don't have to be 'native' or even a patriot to love where you are. You don't even have to know a place well to belong there. If a place resonates with you, then you should be there, by all means! It is my firm belief that people should be free to live wherever they are most comfortable. If only our respective governments and societies held this same belief!
Yet this remains another dream. I wonder what kind of work needs to be done to make that happen.
Good night from Japan.
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