LOST IN TRANSLATION: Letter From Tokyo

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Assistant Editor Eva Liao recently moved to Tokyo where she is studying Japanese in an intensive two year program that will, upon completion, certify her to conduct business in the Land Of The Rising Sun. She will be dropping us letters semi-regularly about her experiences as a stranger in a strange land.

Dear Phawker,

So yes, I’m in Tokyo! For almost a month now. I think I’ve made a pretty smooth transition. Or as smooth as I could have hoped for, I guess. Japan is unlike any other place Ive been and there are many tiny obstacles to surpass. Although globalization has had its expected influence over here (mostly materialistically and superficially) its still a country far, far removed from the west. Unlike Europe or even South America, lots of people do not (or refuse to) speak English. In fact, they pride themselves on their autonomy. The habits and etiquette are super nuanced- not really things a foreigner will ever understand, so I’m told. And people- oh the people. There are so many of them, it can be hard to get used to. In fact, I think that may be my number one gripe with this city. Its so goddamn overpopulated, privacy DOES NOT EXIST. Oh how I miss large parks, long bike rides and whimsical roaming. But basically, except for the fact that I cant do simple shit like mail stuff from the post office, cant tell what half the stuff in the supermarket is, and cant read lables (all because I cant speak/read the language yet) I’d say I’m doing pretty good! Hahaha.

But Japan and Tokyo are beautiful in their own weird, surreal, odd ways. There are SUPER HELLA GA-GA GORGEOUS BITTIES EVERYWHERE! Cute ones, short ones, hoochie ones, classy ones, punk girls, good girls, weird girls, school girls, way-too-made-up girls. It can make walking down the street a dizzying experience. But to be honest (and you didnt hear it from me), my stay here has only further confirmed my belief that all Asians really do look alike!! HAHAHAH    As for the guys…. eh. Sometimes I see cute bike messenger dudes riding ’round, but for the most part guys here are all too small, too skinny, and dress way better than I do. Metrosexual is taken to a whole different level here.

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And oh yeah. Remember that video you had posted up on Phawker about the subways during Tokyo Rush Hour? PING PONG! That video, my friend, is for REAL. Of course, its only like that during morning rush hour, but still… I have to go through it 5 days a week. And I thought septa was bad. Hahaha. Lets see…what else. Food here is THE shit (if you like sea food). The cell phones made here are unlike any I’ve ever seen in the US. Its like having a mini robot in your pocket. Ive discovered some pretty dope Japanese music, which I am happy about.

But to be utterly honest here… Ive done a piss poor job discovering the city. Ive barely scratched the surface. The sad, sad truth is that…. I HAVE BECOME A SUPER GEEK!!! Learning Japanese has taken over my entire life and I do little else but study. At the very least  I spend 7 hours a day studying, often times more. In a way, I really enjoy it. I like learning new things. I enjoy the challenge of discipline but its like a full time job. And its far more stimulating than doing pint reps at McGlinchy’s or grinding crotch at Silk City. My class is filled with interesting people from all over the world! In a room of 15 people, there are people from Hong-Kong, Colombia, France, Portugal, Switzerland, China, Italy, Thailand and Korea. I am the only America, which is perfectly fine with me, but it often confuses people since Im asian. Ive been going through a weird Taiwanese-American identity crisis. hah!

To be dedicated to school is to sacrifice my social life. In other words– I don’t have one. Ive gotten drunk maybe once here and Ive been to one karaoke bar (which is super fun btw!) Other than that, I dont know where any of the hip venues, shops, music stores, bars, restaurants are… which is really sad to me. I haven’t been to any museums, art gallieries or seen any of the many dope Japanese films. I haven’t even been to a Temple yet. In that sense I feel very unaccomplished and unfulfilled, but hopefully with time I can find the balance.

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At this point, Japan is not a place Id want to stay forever. I haven’t instantly fallen in love with it the way I did the Illadellph, but every, every day I am grateful for my opportunity to be here. I can feel myself growing and it feels good to kick my brain into overdrive (even if I do complain about it everyday). I know two years will pass by quickly. Already Im thinking I may stay a 3rd year. But thats a long ways away.

Anyway, im sorry for babbling. I could go on and on and on about my life here. … but I say… YOU SHOULD COME HERE AND SEE IT FOR YOURSELF! I promise you, it will be unlike any place you’ve ever been  to before. You will mostly hate it as much as you like it, but in that sense its an experiencing worth having. Just give me a good year or so to figure shit out, eh?

F’real though, I do miss Philly. I’m glad I got out, I think it was the wise thing to do. But there are so many wonderful things I love about that city that I will always admire. I miss the people, obviously. There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t think of my friends. But I miss not just the posse. I miss the youth culture. If you think hipsters are like sheep, then Tokyo youngins are Grade-A rack of lamb at Smith and Wollensky. But of course, they have a different mentality as to what youth culture should be. But I miss how people in Philly kept it real (for the most part). I miss dancing… Asians can’t dance (except for me of course) and  I miss the old-ness of things. I miss the prices (Tokyo is fuckin’ expensive!!). I miss Mexican food, the Italian market, loud, drunk assholes on the street. I miss knowing where things are. I mean,  I cant even read street signs yet, goddammit!

OKOKOK. I told you I was gonna give you the long version. HAH!. I could go on forever but Ill stop. FILL ME IN ON HOW THINGS ARE GOING!!!!!!

XO

Eva

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