You must immerse yourself into another world in order to fully understand your own. In the game of life, people often change and develop as they begin to come closer to discovering who they truly are – whether it be a devoted father, music enthusiast, dedicated housewife, or self-proclaimed foodie. For me, however, I strive to be a zealous wanderer. More commonly known as a world traveler, the concept of adventuring to new and exciting places has slowly become a dream of mine.
While I have always possessed the desire to see and experience life’s many foreign wonders, I did not feel entirely comfortable with the idea of stepping outside my comfort zone into a whole new, unknown world. However, as I got older, I began to realize the importance of putting myself in uncomfortable situations and how doing so can led to a certain type of maturing. That being said, it was not until the sixth grade when I completed my first – less than perfect – sketch of Sailor Moon that I realized my passion for all things Japanese. From then on, I knew, without a doubt, Japan would be my first destination.
Nonetheless, in my mind, the thought of venturing to Japan remained an improbable and unobtainable dream that would forever remain at arms length. In high school, the closest I ever got to a true cultural experience was during Japanese class when I referred to my teacher everyday as “sensei”. Even then, I was still yearning for the chance to understand wholeheartedly what it felt like to live within the rich, Japanese culture.
Finally, during my senior year of high school, the opportunity presented itself. As a required class assignment, I was instructed to attend a Japanese speech contest where I would address a panel of judges – along with a sizeable audience – and share my thoughts and sincere condolences regarding the 2011 tsunami that – quite literally – shook the Japanese nation.
After all of the contest awards were distributed, The Youth Ambassador Organization of San Jose stepped forward to extend the invitation to any and all participants who desired to spend ten days touring Japan. Of course, I immediately presented the idea to my parents and, after much deliberation and prayer, was signed up for the summer of 2012 to journey to Japan.
Needless to say, the ten days I experienced abroad were more than I had ever imagined. Not only did I get the opportunity to travel to places like Osaka, Hiroshima, and Kyoto, but I was also chosen out of eleven high school students to present my original competition speech to the mayor of Okayama – in Japanese. Not to mention, the whole ordeal was locally televised. Overall, the invigorating experience left a lasting impression on me. So much so, I knew in my heart I would return one day the next possible chance I could; but this time for more than a mere ten days.
That being said, not only did I make my dream of traveling to Japan a reality once before, but a second time as well. As of March 25th, I made the eleven and a half hour journey back to Japan, this time to Tokyo. Never before has my wanderlust spirit felt so energized as it does now. Even as I sit here writing this, I still cannot believe this will be my home for the next four months. And, despite only being here for one week so far, I already feel like this is where I am supposed to be.
Granted, I am still getting adjusted to the hustle and bustle of the city. Coming from a small, suburban hometown in sunny California, Tokyo is completely opposite to what I am accustomed to. However, the biggest adjustment I have made so far is getting acclimated to the Japanese transportation system. For instance, before coming here, I had no idea the extent of the Japanese railway system, nor did I understand any of it. In California, if I wanted to go somewhere, all I had to do was hop in my Dodge Challenger, enter a destination into Google maps, and I was on my way. Luckily, each day I am getting more familiar with the various train routes and finally understand the distinction between a JR line and a metro line. But, I know once I master the different transportation systems, I will be able to go wherever I please, whenever I please – at least until the last train stops running.
Thus far, Japan has been nothing but a dream turned reality. I will say, I would not be here today to enjoy the memorizing cherry blossoms in their full glory, or taste the tantalizing Okonomiyaki, or observe Japanese people move through their daily routines with undeniable ease had it not been for the support of my parents – and more importantly – God. I truly believe I am exactly where I am supposed to be.