The Japan news forum Crisscross has a great new feature in which users list their “goals.” I really don’t see the appeal of this, but it’s a revealing window into the collective hopes and dreams of the Crisscross readership. Let’s take a look:
1. go to Japan (72)
2. Learn Japanese (61)
3. become fluent in Japanese (38)
4. marry a Japanese girl (34)
5. Learn Japanese perfectly (33)
6. get a new japanese girl friend (31)
7. meet new friends in Tokyo (31)
8. teach english in Japan (26)
9. live in Japan (25)
10. be friends with Japanese girls (21)
11. marry a nice sweet Japanese man and shower him with affection and devotion! (19)
12. Be happy (18)
13. learn about Japanese culture (16)
14. see Memoirs of a Geisha (16)
15. get a kitten (16)
16. eat sushi (16)
17. go to Osaka (15)
18. learn aikido (15)
19. completely master Kanji (14)
20. get somewhere with an asian girl before I die (14)
The aspirations of these Japanophiles (presumably so if they read Crisscross) range from the mundane (Read Harry Potter, wear a kimono, grow out my hair) to the horny (“get somewhere” with an Asian girl) to the ambitious (completely master kanji, dance on bin Laden’s grave, hug a friend in a monsoon). But the goals throughout the list definitely center around “go to/live in Japan,” “score with a Japanese girl,” and “master Japanese”.
To many, these goals might represent the masturbatory fantasies of anime nerds worthy of nothing but scorn. But not to me – they were, in fact, my top three priorities at age 17, in precisely that order. Seeing so many like-minded people really takes me back…
I started learning Japanese at 15, and as soon as I mastered hiragana I was completely hooked. Japan and its new and unknown culture, mysterious and forbidding language, and strange women who actually seemed somewhat interested in talking to me came to be an obsession.
Now, at 24, after two years in Japan, a nightmare relationship that all but turned me off from Japanese girls forever, and landing a job as a translator/researcher, I’ve accomplished all three of the above-mentioned “goals” and can look back and see them for the self-absorbed, adolescent, small-minded yearnings of a high school dork that they were. And I’ve changed – even though I’m still a proud nerd, my interests have broadened beyond just Japan stuff, I don’t feel the obsessive need to live in Japan or befriend Japanese people (though I’ll never let my Japanese language skills slip), and I am not worried about “getting somewhere” with women.
It’s been a fun ride, and I don’t regret for a minute the path I’ve taken as a result of my earlier immature ambition. Living in Japan and learning Japanese first and foremost opened my mind to “world things” (as Mrs. Adamu and I like to call them) and expanded my palate for delicious food my friends in the US can hardly bear to look at. But it also served as the stage on which I ended up wrestling with a lot of my high-school era demons – and the process I learned humility, became a little less selfish, and found out who my friends are.
As corny as it sounds, it allowed me to find out “who I am” and become more comfortable with myself, surely moreso than I could have if I just stayed home. And if I may be even more trite, sometimes to get to somewhere interesting in life, you’ve just got to follow your dumb teenage heart. It may well get you killed, but in most cases it’s far preferable to having stayed at home.