I’ve got Japan on the brain, and it can’t be stopped. Even in the most innocuous conversations concerning sport, work, school… it inevitably shifts to talking about Japan from my end.
A kiwi friend of mine was discussing the school system in New Zealand… eventually talk turned to Japanese education, conformity, bullying, and black hair.
A Sri Lankan girl mentioned she had studied abroad… a sudden shift to Japanese cities, how ugly Osaka was, how I couldn’t believe she hadn’t eaten ramen in Fukuoka. Though, to be honest, she was more keen on discussing the finer details of Twilight.
Ramblings with a co-worker over career possibilities, and I casually mention wanting to work in Hokkaido, perhaps even Nemuro, famous for its Russian beer runs.
It’s a little disturbing, this trend of discussing my travels. My thoughts don’t linger on my summer in Alaska, my few months volunteering in Thailand, and my current situation in New Zealand. The floodgates in my brain are opened with the mere mention of hot springs, sushi, teaching… even as I was skydiving in Taupo I casually informed my tandem instructor of jump zones in northern Honshu.
When can I get my tongue to stop, and accept the fact that I’m just a white guy with a crazy Asian fetish… though this being one of culture, not of women.
An unfortunate habit of travelers is losing the ability to just shut up and listen. We always want to be ichiban, the most well-traveled, the most experienced, the one who saved a group of orphans from a burning building and won the love of the beautiful princess, all while standing on one foot.
“Yeah, I did a homestay in Japan a few years ago. I was staying in Nagano and…”
“Ohhh, did you get to see the snow monkeys in the hot springs?”
“Yeah, that was cool. My family…”
“How about skiing? Did people still recognize you as a foreigner when your head was all bundled up? That happened to me the first time. I lived in Hiroshima and Kagoshima, and my Japanese experience was so much better than yours, excuse me. Did you know I can use chopsticks without using my hands? I met the Emperor as he was buying an onigiri in Sunkus! Such a nice guy, we went out for karaoke and had way too much sake. What else did you do over there?”
“Well, I mostly…”
“Me too! Isn’t it all so crazy? Well, I guess I’ve proven I know more about Japan than you, so I’ll be on my way and not listen to your other travel stories, which may be better than mine. Cheers!”
“Cheers… yeah… baka.”
I guess my best defense would be to get over to Japan, where people actually already know what living in Japan is like. Then I’d actually have to come up with new material.