The Japanese Role Playing Game. To most people it means… well, probably nothing. To me, its meaning is twofold: Firstly, the type of video game that I happen to enjoy too much. Secondly, and more importantly, my life at present. I guess those two things overlap quite well. As lapping over as they do, this blog will focus more on the life aspect. The games might help explain my views and certainly help along any urgent metaphors I might toss out there, but they are unassuming. The spotlight is cast elsewhere.
Right now, I am living in Japan. That’s probably important to know. Rural Japan, in fact. I have to drive thirty minutes to find an English-speaking foreigner. There are no convenience stores where I live; just little shops with unadorned wooden signs and expired goods. I stand out, but compared with city-living-foreigners, I think I have a chance to fit in.
What I’m doing every day of my life is, in a sense, role-playing. I am trying to learn how I should act. Should I be the clueless foreigner? Should I be something everyone here expects? What are they expecting? Or can I try to be Japanese? Is that a possible thing? Where I’m from, I know more-or-less how to behave. Whether or not I’m following the rules, I’m confident that what I’m doing is acceptable.
Here, not so much. Perhaps the problem is a lack of confidence. Could be that. I’m not so sure.
Part of the problem I have is not knowing who I should be. I don’t actually desire to be fully Japanese, were it even possible. As a foreigner, I’m happy to be more-or-less exempt from the societal rules that I don’t agree with. I’ll put in my overtime for instance, and I often do, but when there’s nothing to do, I stress little about going home.
But there are other traits I adopt as well. I pour drinks for others before I pour my own. I do my best to understand and follow the pecking order. When people ask me to do something I think is frivolous, I do it anyway.
And it’s hard to know what they want, because it differs from place to place. As a small town, some people want me to be the wacky foreigner that allows the town to safely “internationalize”. Some people want me to understand the local culture and do what they do. Many hope I won’t upset the balance of things here. If I become too much a part of the town, it threatens the small-town dynamic. Indeed, all over Japan foreigners claim they will never be able to fully become a part of their town.
In the end, I guess it comes down to a very Western idea: Do whatever you feel like. You can’t please everyone.
But I do want to please my town.
Sometimes I feel like Cecil, changing from a Dark Knight into a Paladin. But it’s not so black and white for me. I’m pretty confident I’ll end up somewhere in the middle.