I am Japanese, but…

13 Sep

These past couple of weeks at Kansai Gaidai have been fun and interesting! I have come to realize that despite how American I feel on the inside sometimes, I still look completely Japanese on the outside. Although for some reading this it should be a ‘duh’ type of realization, it sort of hit me for the first time. All of the Japanese students I have met so far have always confused me for being an actual Japanese student like them at first, until they hear me speak. One of my friends likes to joke with other people by making me tell them 3 things in this order, “Nihonjin” [I am Japanese], “Demo, America kara” [But I am from America], “Demo, Nagoya de umareta” [But I was born in Nagoya]. Everybody is really surprised to hear it and always comment on how they thought I was really Japanese. Some follow it with an “Are you half?” to which I reply, “No, I’m full.” And then there’s a round of “Sugoi!” [Wow!] and comments on how I’m “pera-pera” [fluent] to which I reply “zen-zen” [No, I’m really not]. They are often just impressed with the fact that I can understand a good portion of what they are saying!

I was with my suitemate one day last week. She is Canadian, but Chinese. It seems like the local Japanese students can tell that she is a ‘ryugakusei’ [study abroad student], but when it comes to me they are confused. She was talking with a group of people that I didn’t know so I was sort of standing awkwardly over on the side waiting for her because we were about to leave, and then one of them looked at me and asked if I was her speaking partner [most of the exchange students have a Japanese speaking partner]! I was sort of shocked, but just said no, that I was another exchange student, to which there was that look of awe on everybody’s faces.

In the first couple of weeks there was a lot of meeting people going on in the CIE lounge where all of the exchange students hang out in between classes. Lots of local Japanese students came in to school, even though they are still on summer break, and introduced themselves to the foreigners too. I think when it came to me, though, they probably assumed I was a student like them so nobody bothered to come and introduce themselves. Almost everybody I have met so far have been introduced to me by people I already knew. That isn’t to say that the students aren’t nice! They are extremely friendly and very entertaining!! This is just from the perspective of a Japanese-American student. I am learning more about myself in that I don’t really want to stick out from the crowd. I’m actually rather happy fitting in and looking like a local student! I love the friends I have made so far. They help me with my Japanese homework when I don’t understand and they always help me read the text messages I receive from other friends that are written in Kanji that I’m not familiar with. I also get to practice my Japanese with them, and help them with English in return! It has been a fun 3 weeks so far and I’m looking forward to meeting more people as the Kansai Gaidai students start their studies in the coming weeks.

Me and my friend Yukino @ Okinawa’s Eisaa Matsuri in Taisho Kuyakushomae

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