I would love to go to Italy someday! Right now, I’m learning Italian so I can speak to the locals. I want to go and visit Rome and maybe the Vatican because the history interests me.
England would be the best place to live. I want to spend time in London, walking down the same streets and going to the same places I’ve seen Harry Potter go to as well as Sherlock. There’s a few places that Doctor Who has referenced as well that I’d like to see.
One day, I want to be in America. I love watching their cartoons, especially Adventure Time. It would be fun to go to their public schools because they get to wear whatever they want, they’re not limited to a uniform.
Why are those perfectly acceptable reasons for visiting a country, or having an interest in a country?
But if I talk about wanting to visit Japan, I must automatically be a weeaboo? What is the deal with that?
If you don’t know, weeaboo is a pejorative term for someone who is obsessed with Japan and Japanese culture. Some of the entries on Urban Dictionary go so far as to say that a weeaboo gives up their own culture and says they’re Japanese, but others say that you’re not a weeaboo if you like all of the Japanese stuff and just respect the culture.
I’ve seen the term get thrown around at anyone who even likes anime or has some fun with anime-based images online. So if you post one Sailor Moon picture on your Facebook page, be ready to be called a weeaboo.
I hate the term, I really do.
You can try to learn any language in the world, for whatever reason. You can learn Spanish because you believe your country is being invaded by Spanish-speaking immigrants and you won’t be allowed to speak English anymore. You can learn German, Russian, whatever, because you’re obsessed with World War II and Cold War era movies and want to see how accurate the dialogue happens to be. You can learn French, either because you think you’ll sound fancy or romantic, or you want to watch Nikita without the English audio track or subtitles. You can learn a few phrases for any of these languages because you’re traveling abroad on vacation and may need to know a few things to get around. But if you’re studying Japanese, a language with a writing system that’s different from your own, suddenly there’s something wrong about you.
You can cook any food that seems interesting to you. If you live in the United States, you can definitely find restaurants that will do the cooking for you. What do you want to eat? Chinese food? Thai? Italian? There’s a restaurant for that. Japanese food? There’s a steakhouse, it serves hibachi food and sushi. You want to cook Japanese food because you were watching anime and a character made shabu-shabu, or omelette rice, or even okonomiyaki? You’re weird.
You can read whatever catches your eye at the library or bookstore. Want to read The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo? Excellent choice, it’s translated from Swedish. Into something a little risqué, such as Story Of O? How naughty of you, though your taste in French sadomasochistic erotica is rather nice. You want to read a comic about a girl who lost her mother and decides to live in a tent on the property owned by her classmate’s family, only to discover that they have a curse where the family members turn into different animals of the Eastern zodiac when touched by the opposite gender? At least read something that makes sense, such as nerds getting bitten by radioactive spiders.
You can watch whatever comes on the television. It’s okay to watch crime dramas. It’s fine if you’ve seen every episode of Game Of Thrones. It’s your prerogative if you’re hooked on a romantic drama, or even something with suspense. You can even watch cartoons, especially South Park, The Simpsons, Adventure Time, and whatever else is offered. But you can’t watch anything that comes out of Japan. It doesn’t matter if Food Wars inspired you to cook, or if Yuri On Ice made you want to try ice skating, or if you connected with The Wallflower because shutting yourself away from beautiful people sounds like a feasible option in life. You’re not supposed to be inspired at all, you’re supposed to get attached to characters as if they’re your own friends and that’s all.
If you want to live anywhere in the world, anywhere that calls to your heart, you can go there. Do you want to live in Greece because of its history? Do you want to live in Australia because there’s kangaroos and koala bears? Do you want to live in one of the Scandinavian countries because of their healthcare policies, the cost of going to university, among other things? All of these things are fine. But if you want to move to Japan because of their gun policy, the cherry blossoms, the cost of higher education, their healthcare system, city life and not needing a car, any of these things from Column B, you will still be a weeaboo if you have any interest in anything from Column A(nime).
That’s the way it is.
It is perfectly acceptable to have an interest in another country, in a culture that’s not what you grew up with. It doesn’t matter if it’s part of your heritage or not. But the second you say that Japan is where your interests fall, out comes the pejorative.
You know the funniest part of that? That Japanese Man Yuta made a video where he asked Japanese people what they thought of the word. The response is actually positive.
Japanese people encourage foreigners to take an interest in their culture. They don’t consider it to be appropriation if you wear a kimono. They might still judge you for your interest in anime, especially if you lock yourself in your room all day to watch it and don’t contribute to society. But no one is going to complain if you learn how to make a few new meals. No one is going to make fun of you for learning a new language, though I’ve heard that Japanese people will actually try to help you out if you seem to be learning or possibly struggling with the language.
The only people who want to make you feel bad about your interest in Japan are people from your own country who aren’t interested in Japan.
You shouldn’t have to prove that you still have an interest in your own country. Of course, you should still have an interest in your own country. When you go to Japan, when I go to Japan, when we all go to Japan, you won’t be interesting to anyone if you talk about your Japanese interests. Sure, I might make a few friends if I talk about Kyosuke Himuro music or L’arc en Ciel, and maybe I’ll cook something that my new friends will enjoy eating. But what fascinates me about Japan is… it’s not America. Keeping that in mind, anyone I meet in Japan will be bored if I talk about Japan, but if I regale them with tales of my American adventures, I might get someone’s attention.
Honestly, just do what you want to do in life. People can be mean and dumb, but don’t let it get you down. Follow your heart, not theirs, and just do what makes you happy, do what makes you think, do whatever makes you feel alive. And also, keep it within your budget and your means, because dreaming is hard when you can’t make your own dreams come true.