Spirited Away (and Back)

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Soooo… it’s been a while since I’ve written anything sappy and introspective. A bunch of my recent posts are about touring Japan’s coolest and weirdest sites – and most likely, your emotional state is going to feel quite similar! In the beginning of being here, you think about how different you are and it’s easy to focus on how much you’re struggling to be a part of a country that you don’t feel you belong to (not yet at least; I know a lot of foreigners who have integrated pretty seamlessly into the community by now). But it’s quite humbling to see the other Japanese students working twice as hard to put their English knowledge into use.

And all of a sudden you want to go explore everything when you realize that things are not as terrible as you’re making them seem! You also realize that you don’t have a lot of time left and then try to pack everything in on the weekends and experience things, while still trying to keep yourself together (and not completely try to assume the form of a Japanese tourist, because you want to be a local, not just another gaijin!) I don’t know about anyone else because, in my experience, people don’t even talk about adaptation at this point in the school year. Just like that, the culture shock is gone and so are the cloudy eyes! I think we’re all a bunch more capable than we think we are. 🙂

Although.. you do still feel homesick from time to time. Autumn marks the start of the holiday season (Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, other religious holidays, etc.) and while everyone thinks about the craziness that will be in Shibuya, there are obvious differences that make you think of home more than you usually do. For one, people might not understand your Halloween costume, if you’re referencing something more obscure in American pop culture. Kids don’t go trick-or-treating and instead, the holiday becomes celebrated by a majority of adults (something about that makes it feel… like the holiday has changed in its purpose? But anyway, I digress again).

But when it comes down to it, Halloween is not that much different! I heard that Halloween used to not be big in Japan, but it definitely is now. The Japanese Don Quixote (pronounced donkihote here) shops start laying out their Halloween promotional items at the end of September, and pumpkin starts taking over as the seasonal flavor. If anything, it seems like Japan goes harder than America in the costume department – so much face paint and glitter and metallics!! So while the holidays make you miss home, the differences between the country in which you’re studying abroad and your home can become less apparent.

Happy Halloween! This is the storefront of a little shop in Shibuya before the festivities. (And yes, there are still tons of girls dressed as cats.)

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