Sunday, August 9, 2015

Japan Trip 2014 - One Year Later - Recollections: What I Would Change or Have Done Differently? Planning Our Next Trip

Hello everyone! This post has been a long time coming, but I figure I get this stuff off my chest now because it is now exactly one year since I've been in Japan, and frankly I've been a bit depressed about it. Not like, horribly depressed and cannot function, but you know just a little somber. This is a chatty post, mostly words. More of a reflection and more personal than some of the other things I usually write here.

I guess it's obvious, but I really love Japan. I know the country isn't perfect. There aren't a lot of people in Japan that look like we do, but in my experience, that didn't change the way anyone treated us. I barely have a single bad memory of being treated as an other while in Japan. Everyone was super nice to us, and happy when we spoke to them in Japanese. Maybe we got a few stares, but none of which seemed malicious.

I. Learning About Myself - Negatively

I was really anxious about being in Japan. I wanted to go there for practically my whole life, and then it hit me - I was finally going. I was excited, but very nervous. Forget all the plane anxiety, that was just a given, but just the fact that I would be in a place that is so different from where I am from here in America. The customs were different, the social order was different, and sadly I became overly aware of this.

I found when I was in Japan, I acted differently from how I do normally. I wanted so bad to "blend in" that I think it took away from some of my enjoyment. I calmed my mannerisms, I tried not to speak too loudly, or do anything even remotely out of the ordinary. I was anxious about taking pictures (even if it was allowed) because the thought of the "Japanese people don't like photos taken" thing kept looming in my mind, which made me feel nervous about taking photos anywhere at all. When I'm anxious about things, I usually act in extremes. It's a trait of my personality that I truly hate and wish would go away.

I feel like this really hurt our experience there, my boyfriend and I. I was so determined to make everything perfect all the time and not do anything wrong that it really took a toll on us as traveling partners. I remember one night in Shibuya, where we kind of had a breakdown. I was being very overbearing, controlling, and frankly quite mean because I was scrutinizing every action that my boyfriend did. I didn't want him taking pictures or video taping because it was kind of going against the order of things around us. My social anxiety reached an all time high, and when that happens I end up acting extremely. He was clearly upset with me, and I began crying in the middle of this outdoor cafe because I just couldn't bare the strain anymore. We talked things out, and managed to come to a sort of reconciliation.

Then it happened again when we went to Odaiba, where I didn't learn my lesson and became that controlling bitchy person that I hate so much. We had another fight, and I cried while watching the ferris wheel lights. At that point I was afraid that it might have been the end of our relationship - in the place that I love so much, which frightened me so badly that even today I try to repress that memory. I think this is the first time I'm speaking about it publicly. He really made it clear to me that he did not like the way I was acting. I was being bossy and only thinking about myself - which at times throughout the trip we were both guilty of. I was also being condescending towards him, which was unfair and unnecessary.

But again, we reconciled. I learned a lot about our relationship in Japan. If you really want to test your love, take a trip to a foreign country. You will learn a lot about your personal shortcomings. But you will also learn about your strength. You will learn to change. You will learn how to become a better person. I'm still not perfect today, but I have to learn how to deal with that fact. No one is perfect, but you can always make a change when it's due.

II. Regrets of Dressing Up

One of my suckiest memories about Japan is not getting an opportunity to dress up in any Japanese Fashion while I was there. I went in the depth of August, and I really did not want to deal with it heat wise. Even though I came home with a ton of stuff from shopping, which I do not regret, I just wish I at least brought one outfit to wear while I was there.

Being in the Lolita shops not wearing Lolita felt so...stupid. I felt like I didn't belong. Not that the shop staff treated me badly, but I think I would have felt so much better about myself and more confident if I wore Lolita. Most of the trip, I wore summery American clothes, most tight fitting and short, which really did not fit in with the Japanese way of dressing in the summertime - mostly loose, girly, and flowy. It was even more apparent when I walked into a shop full of long frilly modest clothing. I will never know what the shop staff really thought of me, but that's a good thing. I will just say to myself that they didn't care, makes me feel a little better.

III. Not Enough Memory

So going back to the pictures thing, since I was so anxious about taking photos and being on video, even though we did take lots of pictures, I still wish we took more. Especially more video. I always told my boyfriend not to film me, and looking back I regret it so much and I wish I could have seen myself in the future now, sad because I don't have enough video memory of my experience. I guess it's a selfish thought in essence, but I wish i took video more so I could look back on them and really relive the experience. But I should be grateful for the ones we got, I honestly should.

I'm thankful for all the times my boyfriend just insisted on taking video even when I didn't want to. Why? Because he had a point in doing it. It was our trip, he enjoys taking video, and I really put a damper on that. I really wish it was different. Nowadays I'm so much more comfortable on camera compared to then. I hated being filmed before, but now I love it. Yes, again, people change. When we go back again I will be much better is all.

IV. Shop Until You Drop - Literally

For the both of us, we really mused on the idea of shopping like crazy people wile we were there, which honestly took away from the experience. Shopping became a necessity rather than a fun activity, and it really drained us. I was looking for my dream lolita dresses and fun and funky everyday clothes that were unique and exceptional. My boyfriend was looking for Anime figures (and so was I, since we like a lot of the same Anime.) In doing so, we put the prospect of finding material items over our enjoyment, which I feel was a mistake.

We shopped through fatigue and frustration. Honestly, if we weren't feeling it we should have just stopped and did something else. Like the time we went to Harajuku in the rain, which was so miserable. We should have just skipped it and done another activity, but I was so anxious of hitting the stores as quickly as possible that I didn't think of anything else.

The Anime figure shopping was fun, but it seemed like we were doing it constantly, which was tiring. We probably went to every single store in Tokyo, and definitely in Akihabara - where we were staying. It got a little mundane after the 20th store. Yes we ended up with the mother load, but we used up so much time doing this. I think we could have balanced it a lot better.

I also should have taken the time to figure out exactly where I wanted to go instead of just trying to go to every single place, especially in Harajuku, where it was very crowded. I was trying to go into like every single shop. I needed to be calmer and more strategic. I also needed to be more aware of my boyfriends' needs, as I was dragging him all around places where he wasn't really interested in being. I wish I took moments to appreciate him more instead of policing his actions constantly like I did. Thus the breakdown in Shibuya. It sucked because I was into searching for Anime figures, so his shopping needs didn't bother me so much, but he didn't want to shop for clothes so it was very one sided. I wish it wasn't like that and I hope to avoid that happening again, even if it means shopping more solitarily.

Next time we go, less shopping. When shopping we must be more calm and rational and don't get crazy about anything. If we are fatigued, it's time to stop for the day. Be aware of your companion and their personal needs, or opt for shopping alone and reconnecting at a mutually agreed upon place and time afterward.

V. When The Next Trip Comes...

Next time I visit Japan, I'm going to learn from the mistakes I made on this past trip and make the next one a better experience. I hope to see more of Japan, outside of just Tokyo. I want to have more cultural experiences instead of pop culture and shopping. I want to relax more, spend more time in local parks, on boat rides or by the oceanside, on the beach, generally more leisurely things. I want to explore residential neighborhoods and get a feel for normal Japanese life. I want to take it slow.

Next time we plan on doing an AirBNB type of stay, instead of a hotel. We loved our hotel, but I want to have a more residential lifestyle. I want to cook my own meals and shop for groceries. I want to live with the people of Japan.

I hope on our next trip we can stay longer. My boyfriend was there for study abroad, so he had been in Japan (Kyoto) for five weeks before I arrived. I only had the twelve days due to work restrictions. You can't do Japan in twelve days, I've learned. I would like to stay for at least one month. I hope I can get to a place in my life where I am more independent economically and I can do that. That is the goal.

I also hope that we can have more friends with us. I would have loved for some of my girlfriends to be with me when I was there, that way I could have shopping companions that were excited to be there, and it ultimately would have been more enjoyable. It's not that I disliked shopping with my boyfriend, but I knew it was a strain on him, and I don't like to force people to do things they don't like to do. I just end up feeling bad when it's all over and done with. So I'm really hoping I have a friend for that.

I also wish I could have connected with some of my acquaintances who live in Japan. I could have had the opportunity to create new friendships. I should have reached out to more Lolitas I knew who are foreign and living in Japan. I didn't even attempt to and I'm ashamed of that. I guess I found the prospect to be overwhelming at the time. Next time I want to make good on that.

My boyfriend and I have been discussing, but we hope to visit again in the year 2018, preferably not in the summertime. We are thinking Spring or Fall, and leaning towards Spring. It's some time away, and you never know what life will throw at you in three years time, but I'm going to remain positive and hope that I do get to set foot in Japan again and do everything all over, and better.

Thank you if you got through all this, though ultimately I wrote it for myself.

Until next time!

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