Tag Archive | manga

The Long And Short Of Why I Want To Travel Far And Wide

There are some things in this world that I shouldn’t have to explain.

Maybe I should rephrase that. There are things in this world that can go without an explanation.

No, that’s still not quite right. What about, once a person has made a few mistakes in life, they start to learn from them and can probably make better-informed decisions later on?

Well, I’ve made enough mistakes with this introduction. I guess all that’s left is to explain a few things. It seems counterproductive compared to the intro I was going for. Or, did I do everything as I wanted to do, and it’s now exactly what I was thinking?

Plotting and scheming aside, the point I’m trying to make is that I sometimes feel criticized for wanting to go to Japan. While it hasn’t been said in so few words, the statements come down to things like, “you should give up on going, I can’t understand why you would want to go to Japan, you will be disappointed when you get there.” I usually hear, “do you have to go now? Can you wait 10, 15, 20 years?” Why should I wait? I’m not getting any younger, my body isn’t becoming any more capable. I already have to wait until I get enough money put aside, and that wait will be long enough. But when I hear people ask why I can’t put off the dream of going, I feel like they’re really asking why I can’t give up on going altogether.

Clearly, I need new friends. Or I’m overthinking things.

The short answer is, Japan makes me happy. I feel like people who care about me should want me to be happy.

Why does Japan make me happy? It just does. I can’t really explain it, and I know if I try to explain it, I might lose the magic. But of course, I apparently need to explain the whole thing.

It didn’t start with Wakkanai.

My Dad was stationed in Wakkanai while he was in the Air Force. I don’t remember if there were slides. For you kiddies out there, slides are basically physical photos that you can shine light through, and you put a tray of them on a special projector to help a room full of people fall asleep quickly. Anyway, that’s not important right now. He was in the Air Force as a Russian linguist. For you kiddies, the United States had a grudge against Russia for a number of years, and it was called the Cold War. My Dad basically translated radio transmissions.

When his time had ended over there, he brought home some stereo equipment that probably still works to this day. I was raised with the knowledge that Japanese electronics were superiorly made in comparison to American electronics. I watched the movie Gung Ho, and admired the Japanese work ethic. I think I watched Big Bird Goes To Japan as a child. But, I barely knew anything about Japan, I barely had an interest in Japan.

I had an interest in the Moon.

By the time I became a teenager, I loved looking up at the moon and stars. Astrology interested me, and I learned that my sign, Aries, was a fire sign. And then I was flipping through the channels on TV one afternoon and saw a cartoon with these girls who defended Earth in the name of the name of the moon or one of the planets. I saw a bit of myself in the title character, Sailor Moon, but my favorite character soon became the one who’s a fellow Aries, Sailor Mars. When they weren’t saving the day, they were living their lives in and around Tokyo.

I started watching Tenchi Muyo as well, and even a bit of Yu Yu Hakusho. Eventually I watched Fullmetal Alchemist.

One time, I was near the comic and gaming store and decided to drop in. I found manga, and bought one book as that was all I could afford at the time. But after I started working and driving, one volume of manga turned into over one hundred. I was a bit addicted.

When I was still in college, though, I started getting into L’arc en Ciel. I remember looking up song lyrics and translations in the computer rooms while I was between classes or after I had finished up whatever I was working on. After I graduated, I bought an iPod while working at my first job, and I had some Sowelu and Utada Hikaru songs along with some L’arc on there.

It wasn’t an interest in Japan, just in Japanese media, but I was happy. Life seemed to be going well for me, I had both of my parents, I had started working and had a car to get around.

And then I met a guy.

When I first met him, he kind of had a significant other. She didn’t really want him, and had ended things with him by the time I saw him again. They were both at a party that one of my friends was hosting, and I was there as well for no reason other than I was invited to a party. He was there because his now-ex was going to be there, but he felt a need to heal his wounds by getting drunk and crying on the sofa. I had knelt down next to the sofa, the armrest being all that separated me from his feet. I wanted to help, I wanted to be supportive. He ended up calling one of his friends who drove over and picked him up to bring him home.

This guy’s life was a bit of a wreck. Someone broke into his station wagon and stole things from him. He was driving a station wagon because that’s all he could afford at the time, and it was already falling apart. He was also living with his brother, who looked Korean. He actually looked Japanese to me, but was apparently half Irish and half Korean. His brother had a different father and was full Korean, if memory serves me correctly.

Not that it mattered what he was, because to me he looked pretty good. I really didn’t feel worthy of being around him. Oh, I should mention that after checking up on him the next day, one thing led to another and I started going over to his place nearly every day. I thought things were going somewhere, but I had never had a boyfriend before and I had nothing to base my experiences on.

One day, he started talking about looking at newer cars, and had his heart set on one at a local dealership. Knowing his struggles, I did what any foolish girl would do. Well, because I felt a bit guilty for enjoying Japanese stuff while I had an interest in an Asian guy, I sold the manga and gave him the money to put towards the car.

After about a month, he didn’t want to see me anymore. I learned a lot in that one month, more than I really care to explain. But I lost my interest in manga, and my interest in everything else waned as well.

The second time wasn’t as good.

Eventually, I bought more manga, though my collection wasn’t as impressive as it originally had been. I didn’t read the volumes as often or as quickly. But I met a guy at work who became a bit of a friend, nothing more. To some degree, he got me back into anime, but I wasn’t as interested as before.

I went to an anime convention with him, my second ever anime convention. I remember feeling like I had outgrown anime. I was surrounded by people cosplaying characters that I didn’t recognize. There were anime titles I had never heard of. The finest moment was meeting Vic Mignogna, voice actor extraordinaire (seriously, look him up on IMDB or something, he’s in nearly every English-dubbed anime you can think of). Aside from that, the day was a bit of a waste.

Eventually, I was rescued…  by food.

While working at a well-known grocery store, I bought The Manga Cookbook. Unfortunately my ingredients were limited, and I could barely make anything in the book despite the grocery store having an Asian food section with imported goods. I did try my hand at making udon noodles, though, which turned out alright.

While working that job, I lost my Mom, which caused me to move to New Jersey. Okay, a lot of things caused me to move to New Jersey, most of which were bad decisions. While I was living in New Jersey, my boyfriend at the time introduced me to Mitsuwa Marketplace. At first I was interested in going, but after going I was in ecstasy! All the ingredients I couldn’t find before, I could find at Mitsuwa! And there was a bookstore nearby where I could buy manga in the original Japanese! And I spent more money than I should have, but it was necessary.

I returned a few more times after that. I always made sure that I ate something from the food court, because there was no way I’d be able to make anything that tasted quite like it should. I loved the feeling I had while I was there. I came home after my first visit, and realized that I didn’t have any L’arc songs in iTunes, just a couple of Hyde’s songs. I started tracking down all of L’arc’s albums on Amazon and eBay, which gave me a bit of an endorphin rush when I bought another album and when it finally arrived.

I had forgotten how happy I once was to listen to Japanese rock and pop music. I listened to Horizon, and it reminded me of a dream I once had. But the food also made me happy, because everything was new, and everything I tried was amazing.

Japan was where I needed to be.

The search for a job can make anyone go a bit insane. The thought eventually popped into my head that I could move to and work in Japan, so that became the plan before I even knew what I was getting myself into. But a plan like that is good to have when you think of all the angles, and in my case I realized that my then-fiance and I were two entirely different people. Ignoring what I had to consider for myself, I realized I couldn’t have my fiancé travel with me to Japan because the flight would be too lengthy for him to deal with his disability, and then he probably wouldn’t want to go out and do anything with me once we were there. Not only that, but leaving him behind meant that we were back to having a long-distance relationship.

I like to think that the entirety of that discussion was one of the many factors why we broke up. Our relationship left me broke, but it also left me with the freedom to go and do what I want to do once I’m not poor. Since I put more thought into going to Japan, I know what I need to do to go, and I don’t see a reason why I shouldn’t go.

So what else?

I’d like to think I’ll eventually meet someone while I’m in Japan, and maybe I’ll give in and have children, thereby helping out their birth rate and keep it from declining further.

If I’m in Japan before the Olympics, maybe I can get into hospitality and be of some use when the place is mobbed by tourists who speak more English than Japanese. Otherwise, I could always just assist in teaching the language.

My interest in Japan isn’t anime and manga. I might go to a concert, if time and finances allow. I might do some video gaming-related things. Or I might decide to be boring and check out as many temples and shrines as I can. If I lose interest in Japan, I could go elsewhere.

I’ll have to go over on a student visa and go to a language school, then work part time to make a living. I can’t get on a work visa because I don’t have the right credentials, and it would be cheaper to get my bachelors degree in Japan. But it is possible for me to go to Japan, I just need to get my finances in order before I can go.

Tomorrow, I think I’m going to make a PowerPoint presentation of this entry, then save it onto my phone so I can make the argument at a moment’s notice. Basically, the Japanese stuff makes me happy, and so I’d like to go to Japan and live there for a while. I know what I need to do to get there, and unless you’ve travelled abroad, you can’t say that I don’t know what I’m doing. But there are things I can’t plan for just yet, because airline tickets change prices, tuition costs increase, rent goes up, so those things will have to wait until I’m at a point where I have to consider such things.

This is what I want. This makes me happy.

I’ve spent enough time trying to make others happy. Now I want to do something for myself.


My Waifu! ^_^

All right, so after all the views that I’m getting for the entry about Charles (Charusharu), it seems like people out there are curious about him or are already watching his videos. If you haven’t, here’s his latest from his alternate channel:

If he said his waifu was Sailor Mars,… I don’t know, I think I’d be done with the internet at that point, because otherwise I’d sit here and be all, “OMG Sailor Mars is my favorite of the Sailor Senshi and I have her deck from the collectible card game that came out and she’s just my favorite and I…”

Relax, take a breath, don’t be awkward…

Scratch that, it’s too late. I’m already being awkward. Might as well own it!

So what is a waifu? As Charles’ video explains, using a definition from ye olde Urban Dictionary, a waifu is basically your two-dimensional wife, it’s the character you would marry if it were possible to do so. The male version is a husbando. It’s not really limited to anime characters, your waifu/husbando can be a musician, an actor, or a character in a movie or book or television show.

My comment earlier today was to say that my husbando was Hyde from Vamps and L’arc en Ciel. It’s not entirely true.

My husbando, right now, would probably be Kyosuke Himuro. He has a voice like black velvet when he’s singing ballads, and I think the perfect evening spent with him would be spent under the moonlight of a summer’s night with him singing to me. He also has a well-toned body, like he works out and eats a fair amount of protein. Some of his body language suggests he has an ego, which would be nice to be around a guy with that much self-confidence. I like watching his concert performances, because I like his energy and the way he moves along with the songs. He also seems like a bit of a playful badass with a heartfelt side, but I have no basis for that other than his songs and just how he seems to act.

My waifu would probably be Hyde. I know, he’s a guy. But he has a more slender figure than Himuro, and Hyde has also cross-dressed as Harley Quinn and as a geisha-like character, so he’s rather androgynous. Just like Himuro, I wouldn’t mind being serenaded at night by Hyde. Hyde has a slightly deeper, slightly raspy voice, but it’s still nice to listen to. Hyde’s energy on-stage is different from Himuro, in that it comes from Hyde’s shyness and bashfulness. Hyde rocks out to his music just the same, but his dancing and spinning seem to be more of his personal enjoyment of the music. Back to his bashfulness, I think I would have too much fun, every now and then, doing things that would make him blush. I think he would be fun to be around by day, sometimes even at night. If we’re on the same wavelength, he seems like the kind who could tap into my sadness when I’m feeling down and make me feel like everything is going to be alright.

If I had to pick an anime husbando, it would probably be Sebastian from Black Butler. At least if I promise to be with him for eternity, there would be the possibility of that actually happening. I mainly chose him because I’d likely do like Ciel and be a little shit towards Sebastian, taking sarcastic shots at him when possible but knowing he gives as good at he gets. But I’d be impressed by his work ethic and skills, because after all, he’s one hell of a butler. Can you imagine him as a significant other? If he plans a romantic evening, you know that no detail will be spared, and you’d likely have a really classy experience.

Another husbando would be Kyohei from The Wallflower. Okay, so he has his moments where he only cares about what’s in it for him, but at the same time he does care about Sunako. I might not be able to deal with him if he often thinks only of himself, but if he points out when I’m being unreasonable or otherwise lights a fire under me when I want to shut out the world, then he’d be good to keep around. Also, he’s one of the most gorgeous people in the story (not an opinion, that’s part of his character as a “radiant being” or “creature of light”), so if I really wanted to be superficial about my choices, I would go for the pretty boy who gets into a lot of fights because he’s so pretty.

Do I have more on my waifu/husbando list? Yes, yes I do. There’s at least two more, but if it wasn’t so late, I could probably think of a few others.

But don’t tell ME who your waifu is! Go watch Charles’ video and leave a comment over there. No, seriously, watch the video and comment over there, and share the video with your friends. We’re going to get 1,ooo views on that video within a week. Let’s do it!

J-Vlogger Spotlight – CharlesTALK

Okay, I’ve talked about Victor (Gimmeabreakman, Gimmeaflakeman) twice now. He’s not the only thing I watch on YouTube, either.

I started thinking about it, and I’ve only started watching certain YouTube channels because YouTube recommended them to me. If there was one thing I really wanted, it would be a list of people living in Japan, who do videos of Japan or their life in Japan. But then, would I watch them all because Japan? What should I watch for entertainment and what should I watch if I want to learn about society and culture?

So you know what? I’m going to try and review the YouTube channels I watch, or at least the Japanese ones. Starting with… Charles!

If you’re ever on my Instagram, you’ll see it’s nearly devoid of selfies. I have more pictures of Japanese food, especially whatever I’ve attempted to cook, than I have of pictures of myself. Every so often, someone subscribes to me who I don’t know. Usually it’s an actor who seems to be struggling in Hollywood, and their likes and subscriptions are their way of getting me to notice them and their work. And hey, if I watch the show they’re in, it’ll remain on the air and they’ll still have a job, and it all works out. But I don’t do the whole “influencer” thing, so I don’t follow back unless they seem interesting.

So one day I had someone follow me who has a YouTube channel, and his Instagram screen name is Charusharu. I looked over the pics in the Instagram, and I was like, “…okay.” So I followed him back and subscribed to his YouTube channel. Sometime after that, he released a video thanking his first 100 subscribers, and I was in disbelief. I never checked his subscriber count, or how long his channel had been around, and I was one of his first one hundred subscribers.

So what’s he like?

If anime and video games are things that interest you about Japan, then you’ll like Charles. His Instagram has a lot of Nintendo-related pictures, such as Pokemon, Legend Of Zelda and some Mario. Some of his pictures and videos reference various anime titles, between classics like Dragonball Z and Sailor Moon, and more recent titles such as Spice And Wolf. I think I post more food than he does, but he’s actually posting from Japan so he gets to post more authentic foods and things that can’t or just aren’t imported over here.

His channel CharlesTALK has the majority of his videos, but he also has a second YouTube channel, Charusharu. On the main channel, he doesn’t have too many videos yet, so if you start watching him now, you won’t be overwhelmed with where to begin or how many hours of your life you’re going to lose just trying to catch up. Make sure that captions are turned on, because he often speaks Japanese in his videos. Sometimes he switches to English, but not always.

If you want to see what he’s like before you check out his other videos, I recommend starting with his two videos about the ten things he loves about Japan. On one hand, it gets into his interests, but at the same time he’s talking about some of the best things that are either in Japan or that came out of Japan. No, it’s not all video games, anime, and Pokemon! He talks about the bullet trains, the vending machines, school culture, and…. well, I won’t spoil it, but his list might make you interested in visiting Japan if you weren’t already interested.

His alternate channel only has three videos so far. Of those, I recommend the video showing the Japanese cosplayers at Nipponbashi, which is related to a video on his main channel where he interviewed some of the cosplayers.

I do recommend subscribing to his YouTube channels, and also following him on Instagram. I won’t say he’s good at interacting with his fans, but I will say he does actively give “likes” to Instagram posts and will also read and leave comments. “Interacting with his fans” sounds like I’m putting him up on a pedestal, and while this entire entry is already doing just that, I don’t really feel like there’s much distance between Charles and those who watch him. Maybe it’s just me, but he doesn’t seem like a celebrity, he just seems like a nice guy who shares some of my interests (and possibly your interests as well). When I start to discuss other YouTube channels that talk about life in Japan, I’ll point out how it became more of a business venture instead of just posting videos for fun, and you’ll understand why I’m highlighting Charles now.

I suppose it would help if I added a few links.

He also has a Twitter account… so do I, but I don’t use my Twitter unless it’s absolutely necessary. Also, I don’t like being limited to 120 characters, as you can tell.

Go forth and enjoy his videos!

Meanwhile, before I get to some of the other YouTube channels I watch, I’d like to know if you already watch some Japanese YouTube channels or read any Japan-based blogs. I know I have a follower on here who IS a Japan-related blog, maybe I have more than one. Regardless, leave me a comment and tell me what vlogs and blogs I should look at next!

How I’ve Learned Japanese So Far

If you want to get a start on learning Japanese, there are many ways to do so without signing up for a language class.

A word of caution, however: you’re not likely to become proficient unless you put in the time and effort. Will you become proficient by just using what I’m going to talk about? Possibly, but not by using just one thing.

What’s the fastest way to start learning Japanese words? Just use Google Translate (translate.google.com) and type in English words (one at a time, not entire phrases). Again, that’s a start. You can also use Google to translate words that seem to come up all the time in Japanese music, tv shows, and anime, and then you’ll know when someone is talking about eggs, or love, or even dragons. While you can use the Google Translate webpage to translate entire websites and pages, you’re not likely to learn anything unless you have a grasp of the writing systems and you check the mouseover text to see the original phrasing. There is also a Google Translate phone app, in case you want to do word and phrase translations on the go.

In my opinion, and this is just my opinion, phone apps are the way to go. If you’re trying to learn basic vocabulary, at the very least, you’re going to do so when you have free time, and that might even come when you’re in line at the supermarket, or you’re in the bathroom (I’m not one to judge, you do you), or even just laying in bed at night. So let me tell you what I’ve used, what I think of them, and how they can help you.

To the right, that’s actually a screenshot from my iPhone 6S. I’m not listing the model to brag or anything, but I will say that if you have an earlier model, some of the apps might not work as well on your iPhone. As for you Android users, I’m pretty sure you have all of these apps available to you, so I’m not playing favorites but I am basing everything on my experience.

The folder is labeled “Nihongo.” Depending on your skill level, you might want to consider enabling the Japanese keyboard on your phone as I have done. If you don’t want to, that’s fine as well, because it’s one less keyboard to cycle through on your way to the Emoji keyboard. And that’s all it is, when you enable the Japanese keyboard, you’re making it so you can type in the Japanese writing systems (kanji, hiragana, katakana) when you need to write something in Japanese.

Moving on, before someone comments about the notifications above Memrise. So let’s begin with Memrise, shall we? Memrise is exactly how the name sounds, you are memorizing words and characters. It should call itself “Memerise,” because it sells itself by saying you can learn with the help of memes, those images that the kids are using these days to be funny. When Memrise isn’t teaching you a new word or reviewing one you should know, you are constantly in a multiple choice quiz. The quiz pulls words you’ve just learned and adds in words you should remember from previous lessons. The idea is that if you’re reminded about a word and its meaning, you will commit it to memory. The app has a simple interface, and you’re not likely to feel overwhelmed when trying to use it. As for my notifications, that’s how many words I apparently have to review. The app and basic features are free, but to get more out of it, you do need to pay.

imiwa? is a dictionary app. It’s pretty simple, you just type a word into the search box and go from there. If the word you typed is in English, it will give you the most relevant Japanese results. If you typed in a Japanese word, it will find it and you can look up what the word means in English. Each entry has sample sentences, so you can see how the word is used. I would suggest using imiwa? over the Google Translate app when you’re trying to “find the right word,” because of the fact that imiwa? will give you alternate words that you might find to be more appropriate. imiwa? has more features, but it’s mostly a dictionary app and that might be what you usually use it for.

Tae Kim’s Guide To Learning Japanese is like an e-book. If you want to learn about Japanese and how the characters are used, download the app. I recommend being familiar with hiragana before moving too far into the app, otherwise you’re going to hear silence in your head when you’re reading and come up to something that’s not in English.

Skipping ahead, HJ Lite is Human Japanese. It’s another app that’s like an e-book. I find Human Japanese to be easier to understand, and the look and feel of the app feels more welcoming. If Tae Kim’s guide feels mandatory, Human Japanese will feel optional but desirable. I do recommend having some form of text-based learning when you’re ready to go beyond vocabulary, and if learning Japanese sometimes seems complicated, download Human Japanese and give it a try.

The app that says “Japanese” with the happy face is Mindsnacks. It doesn’t really teach you, in the sense that it’s not like Memrise. It is, however, a great way to learn words by playing games. The app feels a bit like it’s meant for children, as the art is all cartoon-like and simple. However, it’s easy to pick up and learn new words this way, as it feels like when you were learning your native language. You will benefit the most from using other apps alongside Mindsnacks, and I’ll explain why later. You do have to pay for each language you want to learn, or there’s an all-language pass. I only paid for the Japanese pass, and I don’t really regret doing so.

The app that says “Japanese!” and has the hiragana for the “a” sound is an app that quizzes you on hiragana and katakana. It’s simple, it’s fairly nameless, and there’s other apps out there that will do the same thing. Why haven’t I deleted it yet? Because I have to buy the other lessons, and I don’t want to, yet I haven’t deleted the app.

Kana is a better app. It, too, is a lesson and quiz app that’s good if you’re focusing on just the writing systems. I’m pretty sure that one is free, because I don’t remember paying for it, and I’ve done more in it.

Innovative is brought to you by Japanesepod101.com, and I learned about the app through YouTube. The app makes you sign up for an account, and then you have a 7-day preview of everything the app has to offer. Free accounts are locked to the first few lessons of a level of learning. It’s the only learning app I have that makes you sign up for an account, so if that’s not your thing, then the app from Japanesepod101.com isn’t for you.

You do have to make an account for HelloTalk, but that’s different. HelloTalk is to make friends! Want to practice Japanese and teach English to others? HelloTalk is the app you want. If you’re a bit nervous about your language usage, give it a shot and practice more. The idea is for people to correct you so you learn how to be more fluent. I just started using the app today, so I might have to rethink how I’m going to use my tag for “My Japanese Friend.”

So you know how I said I recommended using a combination of these apps? Here’s how I recommend doing it. Pick a dictionary/translation app; I recommend imiwa?. Next, decide how you want to learn vocabulary; I recommend Memrise over Mindsnacks, but you can get both and use Mindsnacks on days when your brain is fried but you still want to move forward with learning Japanese. Now, pick a text e-book; I would choose Human Japanese, and you can get the Lite version like I did or you can get the full version. If you’re struggling with hiragana and want to focus just on that, add Kana to your apps. So you have a dictionary, a textbook, a game/quiz, and a means of focusing on the writing systems. It’s everything you could need!

Okay, but now you want to actually learn how to actually write the actual language. Human Japanese provides you a link to a page that you can print out to practice writing. Some apps also show you the stroke order. If you want to skip the paper, then you can get My Japanese Coach if you have a Nintendo DS of some variety, as the game cartridge will teach you how to write the characters using the correct stroke order. While it’s not a phone app, it is another option. If you don’t have a DS, just remember that kids who play Pokemon have to sleep eventually, so borrow a DS if you can easily get your hands on one. Otherwise, just use regular paper to write on and use the phone apps to learn about how the character is written.

Beyond that, you’re only going to get as much out of the apps as you put into them. If you’re not using any of the apps that often, you’re not going to magically learn Japanese. But, I’m just trying to get you started. I always feel like it’s a success when I hear a word and I know what it means, If that’s enough to motivate you to keep learning Japanese, then start by learning a few words and keep immersing yourself in the language.

Go do it!

Dreaming Of Japan

About two nights ago, I dreamed I was at an airport, or at least what my mind considered to be an airport while in my dreamlike state. I tried to get a flight to Japan, nowhere specifically in Japan, I just wanted to be in Japan. And then, I happened to remember that I didn’t have a passport. My mind could have kept reality separate from my dream, but no, I had to give up a wonderful dream for the sake of reality. Oddly enough, the bit of reality didn’t snap me out of the dream, it just kind of ended sometime after that.

About three or four nights ago, I dreamed I was sitting down to eat something, when I asked for help with using chopsticks. Some guy who vaguely looked like my Japanese friend, though it could have been anyone remotely Japanese in my mind, forced a pair of chopsticks into my hand, pushing the sticks into the padded parts between my fingers to the point where it was slightly painful. I do need to work on my chopstick usage, but I don’t think I learned anything from my dream other than the further realization that I have rather petite hands.

About a year ago or so, I had a dream I was in some kind of Japanese discount store. I suppose that’s a stretch, as it could have been an Asian-owned discount store in America. It had that kind of a feel to it, that’s all I recall. I remember thinking I was in Japan.

I still haven’t been to Japan, of course.

I miss the days when I was just an American otaku. I feel I have to specify the nationality, because in Japan, being an otaku means you isolate yourself to your domicile and surround yourself with anime and manga, the only person you love is a fictional character, and your hygiene is questionable at best. In other words, it’s a pejorative term. At least in America, being an otaku means you probably go to conventions, you seek out others like you and watch anime together when you’re not raiding the local Pocky and Ramune suppliers. If you’re an American otaku, you might even work on your hygiene because damn it if that other person doesn’t look sexy in cosplay and you want their phone number if not more than that.

It’s debatable, but I think people could call me a weeaboo. That’s the American pejorative. And yet, it’s not really a bad thing. You’re labeled a weeaboo if you talk like, “OMG Japan is the best country ever and they have all these awesome things and they’re way better than the United States!” In my opinion, Japan isn’t the only country that’s better than the United States, but that could just be me seeing some greener grass on the other side.

Pejoratives aside, it’s no secret that I want to go to Japan. It just never dawned on me that I could work in Japan; for some reason, I always thought the only way to visit Japan was to take a vacation and go there. If I knew such options existed, I might have attended a regular university or college so I could be in Japan already.

Then again, I was into anime in high school, and started getting into Japanese rock and pup music while in college. I don’t quite think I was in the mindset of wanting to actually go to Japan just then. It wasn’t until after college when I asked a half-Asian guy about how he adds an egg to his ramen, when ramen and sushi were about all I knew of Japanese cuisine. It wasn’t until that guy when I killed a part of myself, the part that liked anime and manga, because I sold all of my manga to help him out financially.

I made a friend at work one time, and he invited me over to his place after our shifts ended. He was into Gundam everything as well as cute two-dimensional girls, and didn’t think to hide the lotion and tissues that happened to be near his computer setup. I was never seen as a girl to him, and yet he didn’t need me to hang out during the times when he did have a girlfriend. That was fine by me, as my interest in anime and manga was nowhere near his interest and I couldn’t get back into it. I went to an anime convention with him one time, and I met a well-known voice actor while I was there, but there were so many cosplay costumes that I didn’t recognize and I felt like I grew out of anime altogether.

It wasn’t until my ex fiancé took me to Mitsuwa, a Japanese supermarket in New Jersey, that I realized my love of Japan hadn’t died, or if it did it was a phoenix that rose out of its own ashes that day. That was the day I realized I had stopped playing L’arc en Ciel in iTunes. That was the day I remembered I had The Manga Cookbook and couldn’t do some of the recipes because I lacked some of the ingredients that couldn’t be found at Wegmans. That day was one of the happiest in my life, all because I went to a grocery store.

After that day, I started importing as many L’arc en Ciel albums and singles as I could find, as well as albums from Hyde and Tetsuya, not to mention Gackt, Sowelu, Ayumi Hamasaki, and a few others who had interested me. I saw that Hyde’s band Vamps was playing in NYC, and I went. A few months would pass and I would go to Mitsuwa again, and then a few more months and I went yet again, each time I would try something different.

Eventually, a desperate job search got me down, and I was trying to figure out what skills I had which would be worthwhile. Well, I’m not bilingual, so I’m nothing special around these parts. However, where could I go where speaking English could be seen as a beneficial skill? That’s when it hit me: I could work in Japan, because most people do speak English as well as Japanese.

Facebook reminded me of the research I had done, which devolved into finding fun reasons which, by the end of the day, made me want to go to Japan in the worst way.

It was this burning desire to go to Japan which ended my relationship with my ex fiancé, though I can’t complain. I didn’t think he would want to go with me to Japan, or if he did go, I couldn’t see him wanting to do anything or go anywhere when I wanted to go somewhere and do something. I figured it would be easier for both of us if he stayed back in the States, that was my plan. In hindsight, it just pointed out that we were two very different people.

Which brings us to 2017. I’ve added to my collection of Japanese music, albeit digitally. I’ve been presented with songs that wrap around my heart in such a loving and painful way. I watch Japanese stuff on YouTube. I play Yakuza 0, a video game set in Tokyo and Osaka. And I have a Japanese friend. I’m still buying and making Japanese food in addition to my normal food.

And I still don’t have a passport.

I tell myself that I’m trying to see if I could find enough things to eat without becoming bored or searching for American food, if I had to survive over there. I tell myself that I’m learning Japanese, even if I’m just listening for words I already know, when I watch Japanese-language shows or play video games in Japanese. I tell myself I’m trying to avoid culture shock. Maybe it’s all true.

Meanwhile, I’m forcing my mind to think about going to Japan, that’s ultimately what’s happening. I’d like to think of it as motivation, but let’s face it, I’m just making myself think of Japan even while I sleep. I’m waking up to the sadness that I can’t just hop on a plane and go.

But I can’t just give it all up. It’s something that makes me happy. It’s my motivation beyond just surviving in this world. So if I must dream of Japan, then that’s what I must do.