When I first met Japan, it was love at first sight. We would spend all day, every day, together. Each day spent with her produced a plethora of experiences – new, and exciting. I looked into Japan’s eyes and I saw the world in a new and exciting light, bursting with possibilities, and 24/7 convenience stores. Together we would try new foods, explore new places, concepts, ideas. Days turned into weeks turned into months, but for me and Japan time seemed to stand still, as gazing into each other’s eyes the hustle and bustle of life passed around us.
I loved Japan and Japan seemed to love me. I would leave my home to be with Japan, throwing everything away I knew to devote my life to her.
But oh how time can be a cruel mistress.
Photograph by Jamie
At first it was only the little things. She had rules, quite a lot actually. But as the months passed by the cracks of time began to force their way into our perfectly built house and grew into great holes, exposing what lay beneath. The way she seemed to think and act seemed irrational, based more on tradition and conformity, than on common sense. She exhibited views on equality which to me seemed antiquated and dated. Even worse, I liked to drink only beer but she was more a fan of sake, and shōchū. Sometimes I felt so close to her but at other times I felt like we were inhabiting different planets, and those planet’s orbits were slightly out of kilt – each subsequent orbit sending us drifting farther and farther apart out into the cold vast void of space and on into the ever expanding cosmos.
I felt fundamentally that what she was doing and/ (or) thinking was wrong, and I was not afraid to tell her.
However at dinner parties back home, at which Japan was not present, a drink with a small gathering of friends and conversation would inevitably fall upon that biggest part of my life – Japan. Without not really knowing Japan or having a grasp of what she has been through my friends had already built opinions about her. Faced with a barrage of criticisms of Japan, I, backed into a corner, suddenly become her stalwart.
I saw projected onto my friends a vision of myself. I was looking at Japan with British eyes, seeing her through a lens culturally filtered. I now found myself in an instant transformed; protecting Japan instead of berating her. Explaining her Japan-isms through historical and cultural eyes. Avoiding the use of ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, ‘good’ or ‘bad’, “western” or “eastern”.
I felt enlightened, awoken to a new way of thinking.
Whilst Japan never really knew how I stood up for her on that day, our relationship changed for the better from that day onwards; gravity pulling us together and in synch once more. I accept our differences now. That is not to say that I agree with everything that she says and does, I think that is unrealistic.
For now Japan and I will keep on living in this imperfect, cracked house, and if alcohol is to be drunk it will definitely only ever be beer, Japanese beer.