This is a continuation of my top 3 lists. This list is about things I disliked during my stay.
1. The Stares
I have been in so many staring contests since landing at Haneda International Airport in August. YouTube had warned me before hand, that I would be stared at due to being a foreign, person of color in a homogeneous* country. I knew but I still wasn’t prepared. Within a couple hours of being at Haneda, I had my picture taken by a random salaryman. I was stared at on the train, on the street, even in my hostel. The ages of my contenders varied from very small toddlers to their grandparents.
And while I eventually became used to it, to the point where I almost don’t notice it anymore, it still is something I could do without.
2. Being the “Token Foreigner”
Since arriving at AIU, I have made a lot of friends and acquaintances. In Tokyo and Osaka, I also met some very nice and interesting people. In every situation, there is at least one person who will befriend me, simply to have claim that they have a foreign friend. It is disturbing and all to reminiscent of my experiences back in the States of being the only black friend in a group of people.
To some extent, clubs and social gatherings on campus are also like this. In certain gatherings, it has happened where I find myself in a social gathering comprised only of Japanese students or high-level Japanese speakers and I am the only foreigner who cannot communicate. In others, I have found myself only being asked to participate so as to diversify the participant pool, which of course looks great for publication photos. Don’t get me wrong – I enjoyed the experiences, I just wish they weren’t so obviously putting me on display.
3. Nothing Fits
From the boutiques of Harajuku to the Akita Aeon Mall, I could find nothing that fit me properly. Shirts had be in the largest size possible, just to accommodate my bust. Anything below the waist was a no-go. I have worn my jeans out from wearing and washing them so many times over the semester. Now, the entire population of women in Japan isn’t small and thin, so I know that the shops that carry my size exist somewhere; but I have yet to find them.
Bonus Fun Fact:
*For the record, Japan is not homogeneous. So many different cultures and people live here, that I have rendered this idea a myth. While ethnically Japanese people make up the majority, they do no make up the entirety of Japan. There is a large Korean population in Japan, as well as Brazilian. There are also indigenous groups of people here that do not identify as Japanese, such as the Ainu of Hokkaido. Here at AIU alone, a decent percentage of the Japanese students are actually half Japanese. Many of them have lived in another country and culture for most of their life and some even hold dual citizenship. Essentially, Japan is not as uniquely homogeneous as one would think. Food for thought.