It was quite like a drive-by, minus guns and screaming. It was a dark night, cold and rainy. The light from the vending machines illuminated a small stretch of road. A vehicle crept up slowly and stopped behind me as I pushed the button for my drink. A window rolled down and a small voice crawled out. It started to ask a question, probably for directions to sennenakari (Thousand lights festival). I turned around to respond but the van sped away before they could finish the sentence, leaving me holding the beverage I just got out of the machine.
I don’t know if it was because they were scared or shocked, I guess, or if they thought asking me was a waste of time.
It hurt a bit.
But I certainly cannot hold it against them or take it personally. It is merely one event among many. What it really gets at is that there is a certain alienation living in Japan. I am different and it is obvious. Oh, painfully obvious. It is not a new thing. Not at all. I’ve always felt alone in almost all situations but it is so much more acute now. Back home, I could at least blend in, or should I say, not stick out like a sore thumb.
My experience in Japan isn’t always about alienation but it has given me a whole new level that I’ve never felt before. I’m not too sure why I’ve never felt it before. It never bothered me before, probably because I could still blend in somehow. There’s something about being so different that you can never blend in that influences you in ways you never thought about before. The feelings are incredible and intense, ranging from apathy to desire to frustration but there’s more.
I once gave a presentation on alienation at University. As one of my participation prompts I asked, “How does being alienated make you feel?” The answers were as incredible as they were diverse. The words fear, lonely, sad, angry, and frustrated were well represented. Then, from out of the back corner came a powerful voice. It said, “Strong and motivated.”
Now that was interesting!
The power of alienation can destroy you, or it can invigorate you, challenge you to rise to the occasion, overcome the obstacle, and to try your best to cultivate optimism.
Talk about a thousand lights!