Fifth and Final Installment. It has been a fantastic pleasure working with Christopher Carr on this, and I look forward to 2011 when I will begin contributing regularly to The Inductive. Thanks for stopping by, and best of luck in all your endeavors in the coming year.
Christopher Carr: As for connecting with a local person, I recommend couch surfing. Other than that, I've heard Akita is a special place. It's the only area of Tohoku I've never been, and I'm planning a big trip up there next summer, so we'll see how that goes. Here is my final question for you: what do you think lies in the future for Japan and your own relationship to it?
Kevin Kato: Couch surfing, of course! How could I forget that one? I’ve actually surfed all over the place, and I’ve hosted some great people here which has actually helped deepen my own appreciation for Japan and Fukushima. Yes, definitely glad you brought that up. I must be getting tired.
Now, you want my take on the future of Japan? I’ll be honest, for as long as I’ve been here I know precious little of the machinations behind this country’s political and economic behavior, I’ll leave that to the pundits and bloggers who know what they are talking about. As far as my place in Japan, I really do feel at home here, bewildering though it can still be at times. On a personal level I’ve met and been befriended by countless wonderful people who would give me the shirt off their back if I needed it. I’ve eaten dinner with many a welcoming family and slept in their homes. I’ve been invited to partake in festivals and weddings. I’ve been forgiven by policemen and treated like royalty by strangers on the street. I wandered into the restricted area at the Hakodate fish market and found myself being given a guest pass and a complimentary sashimi breakfast. And none of it took more than a smile or a friendly word. To anyone who says Japanese people aren’t friendly, I say you aren’t doing your part.
On the other hand, in the grand societal scheme of things I don’t think I will ever feel like I am a full-fledged citizen of Japan. But why would I? In Slovenia or Morocco or Peru it would be the same. I’ve heard foreigners lament over and over about how they will never be treated as “Japanese”. Well guess what, gaijin, you aren’t Japanese. Of course I’d hope and expect to be treated fairly according to the law if such circumstances ever arose, but I certainly have never wished that people would stop seeing me for who I am: an American guy doing his best to find a place and a life for himself in a foreign world.
I don’t mean to imply that I’ve decided to settle here, because I haven’t. I don’t see myself living here for the next fifty years if I’ve got that long. But with a Japanese wife and two boys here, I’ll have ties to this country for the rest of my life, regardless of where we eventually decide to live. Without this family I might one day leave Japan and never make it back. And that, on a personal level, would be a shame.
Assuming the dollar is worth something again someday.
** To view parts I - IV use the links to the right, or check out the interview in its entirety all in one shot here.