There are times now that I look back at my old self and wonder how much I’ve changed since my time in Japan. I think a big impact on my change was the new environment I found myself in. This was the first time in my life that I had traveled alone. It feels difficult to express myself in words how much it feels like I am a different person now. At first, I felt like I hadn’t changed at all, it was almost a natural shift in my behavior and mannerisms.
I cannot help but continue to express my love for the transportation network in Japan. The extensive network of transportation and ease of access to it made a big impact during my stay. As someone with social anxiety, I was worried about going outside at first. I worried that I would be isolated in my room, too scared to go outside. However, when I went to Japan, I found a sense of freedom coming over me. I was able to slowly but surely explore Japan to find merchandise for a game I love. I wanted to experience new foods and sights, so I would use my interests as a goal to help me do so as motivation. Sooner rather than later, I became comfortable with taking the trains around different areas of Hyogo and Osaka prefecture. Sometimes I would go out to Kyoto to explore a mall and while there I would try new food. Sometimes I would visit popular sites to explore temples during festivals and order in Japanese. It was nerve-wracking but exhilarating at the same time. I had never felt happier than I did during those 5 months in Japan compared to my entire life in America.
Months before I left for Japan, I started playing a mobile game by Disney called “Twisted Wonderland”. This game was more popular in Japan since it had originally been a Japanese game later localized to other places around the world. I found the game entertaining and I found myself wanting to buy merchandise licensed for the game but found none in America. I decided to find merchandise while I was studying abroad in Japan and it soon became my motivation I mentioned above.
At first, I knew I had to go out to different stores to find merchandise only available for a limited time. I was unsure if I would find anything because I wasn’t sure if the popularity had been enough for it to spawn merchandise.
However, this all changed when I finally found merchandise when following a friend to a nearby store. I still remember it being the first few weeks before classes started and we had been looking to buy our necessities and explore some of the stores near our accommodation. That moment was the first time I found merchandise. I remember feeling ecstatic at finding some acrylic stands and plush figures, This moment snowballed into encouraging me to go out and find more stuff that was difficult to find. The game was almost already celebrating its third year since launch, so there was a lot that was no longer being sold at the official stores. This new quest of mine was to explore different thrift stores to find more of these limited items.
This meant I would take trains on my off days to several new locations, and even though I was nervous at first, I was motivated to continue my search. It felt great having a motivator that helped me explore Japan even if it was rather unconventional to others.
Returning to America, I felt less inclined to travel. Transportation is a hassle at minimum and a nightmare at maximum. America depends too much on having a car to go places rather than public transport or bikes as a mode of transportation. I knew since I was in Deklab that the city had horrible infrastructure as it lacked any walkability but I started to notice it more everywhere I went ever since I returned from Japan.
Cars in America are treated as more of a necessity rather than a simple want. It’s baffling how much we depend on our cars despite the environmentally and more cost-effective options of transportation we already have. I hope more American cities can adopt more “walkable cities” with safe bike lanes that don’t share the same road as a car.
These factors played a part in why I find myself less inclined to travel despite the vastness of America. This could be because nothing is interesting here that I want to explore, or because I don’t have the same goals I did in Japan that helped me go out more. I think the affordable nature of transportation also plays a part in why I no longer travel in America as much other than necessities like work and school.
In Japan, food was very affordable and delicious. While in America, most cafes can cost up to 15 dollars for a meal and drink, not including the tip and taxes that would be added to the meal later. There is also no guarantee that the food will taste good and would be worth the trip when I could simply cook the same meal at home.
In Japan, eating out was affordable enough that it wasn’t necessary to meal plan because it was not much different from cooking at home. Bento boxes, which I will mention in another post, were as low as 400 yen, that’s only 2.68 dollars! Suffice it to say, traveling was fun and affordable in Japan while it is more taxing were I to do the same in America.