“It was hard for me to marry the two Japans that I saw and experienced before and after coming here. My fascination for Japan came from a young age. I fell in love with the stories as told through books, film, animation and even video games, such as Final Fantasy, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Mario Brothers. There was something particular about them that distinguished them from a lot of the things that were developed in America and other places in the West. A lot of the themes and messages encouraged you to ‘go against the rules’ (in a good way), ‘stand up for what you believe in’ or ‘band together’. And no matter where you’re from, you could be friends with this person or that person. So in my head, I was like, ‘Wow, Japanese people have this amazing way of thinking that is all about crossing boundaries’. It inspired and helped me with my work as a writer. But when I came to Japan two years ago, I didn’t see that. It even shocked me somewhat.

“I saw a lot of rules and customs that were still very much of the past. And I saw a lot of following behavior, even to the smallest degrees. For example, if there were two doors, and everyone’s using the one on the left even if the one on the right is absolutely fine, everyone continues to use the one on the left. Another thing that struck me was people didn’t come across as very open to communicate to others who weren’t Japanese. It was hard to make sense of it because I thought all these inspiring things they created aren’t reflected within their society. It made me wonder if these were the same people who made these incredible stories. Also, they would have views on the world that are completely off the mark. For example, I’m from London, and many times they would say that all we eat is fish and chips in the UK. But you should know that this is not the case.

“So why are Japanese stories, anime, and media so different from what I see when I speak to people day-to-day or all around me in society? That’s when a good friend said to me, ‘These are the views deep inside our aspirations. We want to approach people and say hello or do certain things. But we can’t at this point. We’re shy and worried about what other people might think. A lot of times there’s a lot of pressure. So these things can sometimes stop us from doing these things in real life. But that’s why a lot of artists put that in their creative work.’ That’s when it dawned on me. These positive and forward-thinking messages found in their mediums are inner most desires many of them want to express but are unable to do. That’s why it’s so powerful. And that made me love Japan even more.”

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Finding diversity and inclusion. Breaking down barriers one post at a time. Stories and snapshots of foreigners making their way in Japan.

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