Language and Culture: Part I




This is a topic I have been pondering for quite some time and I'd like to break it up into a few posts. It is my hope that what I write will compel you, the reader, to venture beyond the comfort of your own world, be it your culture, neighborhood, family, etc. Not just for curiosity's sake but to dive deeper into places, dare I say, that will change the very core of your understanding of the world we live in. For me, Japan, its culture, people, and language have been that place, and I'd like to share that experience with you. 

*As you've probably noticed by now, I'm not the best writer and I have surely lost whatever I learned in my college years having lived in Japan and spoken the language for as long as I have. If you bare with me for a while, maybe my writing will slowly make a come back.*

This post has been on the back burner for years. I have made some attempts to start it but failed at each try, mostly because life either got way to insane to handle or I didn't have the confidence to put into words what I was experiencing everyday. Although now I have the time to write,  I'd say the second reason still applies. As a result, some of what I may say could come off as unpolished, unfairly biased, and, well, plainly not well thought through, but I will do my best to give you only what I have really sorted through since having moved to this very mysterious and beautiful place we call Japan.

I'd only be fair to give you my credentials so that way you, the reader, can judge for yourself whether or not I sound coherent. Well, quite frankly, a lot of what I will say will NOT sound coherent because I'll be discussing a culture (Japan) by using a language (English) that is insufficient in its ability to accurately describe my thoughts and feelings on the subject (more about this in my next blog). On to my credentials...

I began my formal studies in Japanese and the culture in my freshman year of high school. However, I was exposed to the culture much earlier through foreign exchange students who stayed at my house when I was as young as nine. It was through these initial interactions with foreign students that I really began to foster an interest in everything foreign. I was and still am a soft-hearted push-over, and I will fall for just about any joke, which is partly why I think I grew a particular interest in the culture of Japan. There was something deep inside of me that resonated with the soft-hearted nature of the people and culture. This resonance would reverberate throughout me and grow stronger through the years eventually leading me to a double major in Japanese Literature and Asian Studies from the University of Colorado, my marriage to my lovely wife, and my eventual move to Japan. 

I won't go into too much detail but I think it would be appropriate to tell you how I got from nerdy anime watching kid to well-versed in the Japanese classics nerdy adult. I met my wife, at the time a foreign exchange student, in my high school Japanese class my senior year. We were both in the marching band...this is getting nerdier by the minute...and well, we hit it off. Sort of. Long story short, we stared dating after 4 years of friendship, and wedded 5 years later. I simply cannot put into words how I feel about my wife, those words have long since morphed into very complex emotions, but I will say, she is my life in every sense of the phrase.

I went to college for free riding off my GI Bill from a three year stint in the Army. Can you believe it? A nerdy push-over in the military? It gets worse. I think if I had to pay my way through college, I would have become a doctor or a scientist, but the fact I got it all for free is probably why I chose to study my wife's culture, language, and literature for four years. Not that I thought it was a waste, but as my wife always says: "Language is not something to study explicitly, unless you want to be a linguist, it's a tool to be used while studying something else you enjoy." Well-spoken, too bad I didn't listen. Although, now that I look back, I'm glad I studied it all as I am using every bit of it being here in Japan. I went on to graduate in the top 5 in my departments in both majors with honors.

Shortly after, my wife went on to finish up her post-doctorate in the states just as I graduated the Police Academy...I told you It would get worse. I graduated 3rd in my class as a result of my law exam score, but still failed to get a job because, well, simply put, pushovers don't make good cops. Luckily, at the time my wife got a job offer from a University in Japan, and within six months we found ourselves in the land of the rising sun. As a final note, I currently hold level two certification in the Japanese Language Proficiency Test. I apologize if that all sounded way too haughty, moving along.

I had always wanted to live in Japan but the opportunity was never there. My wife had spent 13 years in the states with me. She was so well assimilated she never dreamed of going back to her home country. She'd been through high school, 3 years of military with me (one year of which I was deployed to Iraq), and a doctorate degree at a major university. She was more American than some natives could claim. But it was time to move on. My wife was exhausted after having completed her doctorate, and I had just finished a school (police academy) that basically teaches you how horrible humans can be to each other. She needed to be back in the comfort of her own culture, and I need to run away from mine. In August of 2011 we officially immigrated to Japan, and a new adventure began to unfold...

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