Sunday, February 7, 2010

Why I Like Japan Reason #6: My Own Space

This, the last in a series exploring why I like Japan so much, is perhaps the hardest to write because it's the most complicated. In encompasses both a reason why I like Japan, and a reason why the country sometimes drives me crazy. Two sides of the same yen, as it were. I'm talking about being left alone.

I've always been something of a solitary person. As a kid I would spend hours alone in my room reading, listening to records and designing Dungeons & Dragons adventures. True to my nature, I enjoyed designing the levels by myself more than I enjoyed playing them with other people. This love of solitude has continued into my adulthood. I have absolutely no problem taking trips by myself, seeing movies by myself, and spending hours alone reading and listening to MP3s (I guess that's one thing that's changed). Of course, I don't shun interpersonal contact but I really do like spending time alone.

Japan, I have found, is the perfect place to do this. Since I don't fit in—I'm not Japanese—I am left alone to go my own way, do my own thing. And, because I'm no longer beholden to the strictures of my own society, I'm free to just be me. It's a very liberating feeling and one that, I believe, fuels most long-term expatriates.

Of course, it's not quite this easy. Another way to say "left alone" is "ignored," and in Japan the Westerner is often studiously, intentionally ignored. It's an odd feeling, to know you're being purposefully ignored. usually I can let it go but sometimes it drives me absolutely crazy. But that's the price to pay, I suppose, for the freedom I feel in Japan.

This is part of an ongoing series of articles exploring my fascination with Japan. Previous entries include:

Honor System


  1. It's good to think about why you like Japan. When people ask me I can't give them a solid answer. I'm not into anime but I guess I like the culture, politeness, and history.
    Don't be too solitary, don't become hikkomori :)

  2. This is exactly why I like Japan.