My interest in Japan began with a deep and long-lasting love for Pokemon. Pokemon puts a lot of effort into localization for the American audience and when I was first exposed to the franchise at the age of 5, I didn’t even know it was Japanese. From there, my love for Japan spiraled.
I arrived in the United States for the first time expecting to obtain knowledge of the U.S.-Japan relationship from American perspectives, while also feeling concerned about how I would be viewed as a Japanese student. To make my one-year stay in Washington satisfactory, I read a plethora of books and papers on U.S.-Japan relations and believed that I was ready to expand on that knowledge. In short, the city of Washington, DC has more than lived up to my expectations.
One day, a coworker asked if I wanted a ride to the wedding of Hidefumi-sensei, another one of our coworkers. To be honest, at the time, I had absolutely no clue what she was talking about. Nor did I know that Hidefumi-sensei was getting married, let alone had a girlfriend. Even more surprising was that I was told two days before the wedding.
This past summer, I had the pleasure of visiting Japan for a two-week long trip with a handful of classmates from my high school in rural Kentucky. Part of me was quite nervous at first, and the thought of traveling around the world without the parental supervision that had surrounded me throughout my sixteen years made my palms sweaty.
As a Korean, I thought I had a grasp of the etiquette and norms of Japanese culture before traveling to Japan. However, my understanding and appreciation of these conventions were reinvigorated through an experience I had traveling through Hokkaido: I faced a minor crisis that only could have been resolved with the diligent aid of a native.