Saturday, September 5, 2015

Thoughts from 35,000 Feet (Reid Knight)

As I set out on this journey, I am...
-thankful for the boatload of Frequent Flyer miles gifted to me from my mom’s boyfriend that allowed me to fly Business Class to Japan. Being in a more comfortable setting certainly helped me get the rest I needed to be a fully-functioning human being once I hit the ground.
Part of the authentic Japanese meal I received on the plane (although I neglected to take a picture before eating a portion of it). I had no idea what most of the food was, but it was all delicious.
-excited and in relative disbelief that this adventure is finally happening, and that it is happening in this manner. I have wanted to go to Japan for about 10 years now, and almost went when I was 16, but circumstances arose that made it impossible for me to go. At college, I took Japanese because of a chance opening in my schedule, never expecting that it would turn into a major and a passion. Going to Tokyo will be applying everything I’ve learned so far, and I’m eager to see if I’m up to the challenge. I know experiencing Japanese life is what I need to take my studies to the next level, and hope to gain a deeper understanding of Japanese language and culture during my stay.
-proud of myself that I’ve progressed so far personally that this experience is even possible. 6 years ago, I probably would have met the criteria to be labelled a hikikomori (a “shut-in”, so to speak). Now, I’m going to Japan to research hikikomori, and travelling across an ocean when before it was difficult for me to even leave my house. I don’t know exactly what I’ll find out from the studies I’ll undertake, but I’m hoping that any information I can learn through my research can be helpful to improving the situation of hikikomori in Japan, even if just a little bit.
-nervous, of course. Although I’ve been studying Japanese nonstop, I know adjusting to using the language as my primary mode of communication will be trying. It still feels like I have a tough enough time communicating in English most days. In addition, outside of being a foreigner, which I know immediately makes me stick out like a sore thumb, I am also “invisibly” disabled and LGBT. The understanding surrounding disability and queerness aren’t the same in Japan as in the U.S., and I’ve been fortunate to find a niche for myself at Beloit with friends who share these identities with me, but in Japan I imagine I’ll most likely have to stay “in the closet”. As a result, I worry I won’t be able to connect with people due to how much of an impact those factors have on how I experience the world. I’m going to try and challenge myself to talk with the Japanese students I meet as much as I can with the hope of fostering friendships, even though the language and identity barriers make me anxious.

After a turbulent 14 hours, this map was a welcome sight.
And with that, I will continue to bury my face in my Japanese textbooks, and try to calm down enough to get some food in me and sleep for a few hours. Hopefully when I wake up I’ll feel a little more ready to face the journey ahead.


Sarah said...

I think it's really cool that you are going to be researching hikikomori!
Since it is probably a bit of a controversial subject or one that people might not want to talk about if it applies to them, how do you think you are going to go about it?

Reid said...

I've actually already written the questions I would like to ask people in a survey format, and spent the summer translating it from English to Japanese. This way, the survey is accessible language-wise to everyone, and I imagine it will be easier to get people to fill out a short survey than have a full-fledged discussion about a sensitive topic with a foreigner. The surveys are also anonymous, so I'm hoping that helps people be honest with their views, too.

Eliza Alvarez said...

Your project seems really well thought out. I wish I already had a topic I wanted to research like you do. Hopefully people will be willing to help you out. Good luck! ^-^