I’ve always been in love with Japan. Since I could barely walk, their art spoke to me. The first time I got there (December 2015), I cried. I wept like a child who found his way back home, after being lost. Do you know how people talk about the first moment they met the love of their life? About how they know from the very first moment they’re going to spend their lifetime loving that person? I felt the same way about Japan.
I always felt I was made for something else, for something bigger, even bigger than my own existence. Every time I felt I belonged somewhere, there was a voice in my had saying: „You are not supposed to be here. Go out there and search for your life purpose! This is not it.” But this time it was different, it was like I was finally in the right place.
Getting to know Tokyo/ Japan
For days, I enjoyed Tokyo to the fullest, from the delicious cuisine and the magical shrines, to the unconventional Japanese fashion.
Before my trip I was pretty sure I will stand out in Japan, and not in a good way, because of my height (180 cm) and my athletic body. Contrary to my expectations, I was treated like a model, I could hear around me just kawaii (cute), utsukushii (beautiful), kireina (beautiful), moderu (model).
People would stop me on the street to take pictures with me, I would get me discounts and free drinks in the bars. People would secretly take pictures and videos of us, but I felt admired, even though I knew this is not exactly right, but it felt damn good.
I was standing out and I was treated like a rock star! Even my fashion style (really similar to the Japanese one – I love to wear over-knee socks and shorts) was appreciated here. Compared to Romania, in Japan people looked at me admiringly. I was so sure I found my soul-country.
Every evening, we used to explore the neighborhood: different shops, the famous convenience stores, the izakaya (gastropubs similar to taverns). The whole time, I slept about 5 hours per night, yet I felt more rested than ever. Happiest days of my life!
The dark side of being a gaijin in Japan
Shortly, after an intense period of „little miss popularity” I started to hear more and more often people whispering stuff like: „gaijin”(offensive word for “outsider”), „takai gaijin”(tall outsider). At first it didn’t bother me, but my popularity seemed to show its dark side.
Our accommodation was very close to the Red Light District, Kabukicho, therfore it was a must to explore the nearby bars and pubs. One of those night, while walking down the street, a Japanese man, I think he was about 60 years old, stared at us, spit in our face and said „gaijin!”. Me and my friends (3 other girls) were so shocked, we could barley react. I didn’t know how to feel about it, but there was an unpleasant feeling starting to bottle up inside me. That same night, we went to a club in Shibuya and needless to say, we were the main attraction! But shortly, my popularity turned against me. People asked if I work in Japan as a prostitute. I was about to slap the guy, but my friends stopped me. I was shocked. This never happened to me even in the lamest clubs from Romania.
I was touched by two different guys the same night, but I did slapped both of them. They were both really short. I would never do something to offend someone who is clearly bigger than me (I think they both weighted about 20 kg each J )! It would definitely scare me! I think I cursed them in every language I know! It was shocking, disgusting and I felt like crying. I was so fed up with Japan my only wish to go back home, never to return again.
In love with the city vibes
But the next days, I discovered other sides of Japan, which had a huge impact on me. One of those moments was the discovery of the Hanazono Shrine, a Shinto shrine located in Shinjuku, 2 blocks away from were we were staying. It was mesmerizing: a piece of nature in the heart of the city! I went there, I prayed (like my Japanese friends taught me), and I sat there for about 30 minutes, doing absolutely nothing. The most peaceful and relaxing 30 minutes of my life!I felt the energy of the place all over. So pure. So warm. Food for my soul. I cannot wait to go back there and recharge my batteries!
I went to the Tokyo Tower (which I also highly recommend) and it was great! Such an amazing experience, to view the sunset in Tokyo from about 310 m above . Almost as peaceful as my beloved Hanazono shrine. The girls from the staff were smiling and waving at us and the came and asked me if they can hug me (so cute, right?). I have also been told that my eyes are warm and show what a beautiful person I am. It might have been pure flattery, but it left a deep impression on me.
My final thoughts
A lot has happened in the next days and Tokyo grew a lot on me. I also realized I was too naive! Tokyo, Japan, is a city like any other city in the world where you can find great and not-so-great people, but it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be loved and appreciated for it’s unique way of combining tradition and innovation. When I left the country in January, 2016, I understood how much my feelings towards it changed in the past 2 weeks. I knew I loved Japan. And I cried again. 2 years later, I am getting ready for my 3rd adventure in my dream country!