Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Like A Guest

"When are you going back to your country?" The question is always asked eventually. Some foreigners do adopt Japan as a permanent home, and as we get more fluent in speaking the language and functioning in society, we find that it would in fact be possible to stay. Visas and work could be arranged, long-term housing procured, schooling for children figured out, and thousands of foreigners do in fact do this. Yet our Japanese friends keep asking us when we are leaving. We know you came from somewhere, and sooner or later you are going back, aren't you? You are not going to stay here with us, not going to be part of our lives forever.

...I am often mistaken for Japanese over the telephone, bow reflexively when thanking or parting from others, read the morning paper and drink cup after cup of green tea at work. I have grown out of the nervous habit foreigners have of raising the pitch of their voice in Japanese, and have learned to speak more in my own natural timbre. Yet the question does not seem to have an answer, or perhaps I have been focusing on learning and would like to be recognized for what I have accomplished, not for the uncomfortable fact that I never will be Japanese and can only approximate being a member of this society.

Running the Seven Continents, Clint Morrison

1 comment:

Allison said...

Maybe the question is raised merely because the Japanese you encounter have only met foreigners who eventually do leave Japan. Perhaps the question isn't asked because of your foreignness, but merely out of their own experience with other foreigners. The Japanese I have met seem to think that I will just be here forever! Of course, I am under the impression that you live in a much larger city than I do - different worlds. I've also only been here 9 months, whereas you have been here much longer. Is that a question that people started asking only after you had been in Japan for a long time?

I've only recently subscribed to your feed; I'm looking forward to garnering some of your foreigner-living-in-Japan wisdom! Thanks!