I am not in Japan to change the minds and hearts of the natives here…but because of my presence here things have changed…just a little.
In seven years, I have taught and personally interacted with over a thousand teens and hundreds of adults, through teaching in Junior high schools, doing private lessons teaching at NOVA, in my personal life, as well. I think this is the only way the minds and hearts of people here will change: through personal interaction of a positive nature.
So, in my mind, and in my heart, I have affected positive change in Japan. If I’ve moved even half of these people towards seeing all people as simply people (and I’m sure I have) then I have done more than my part to make the world a better place.
I’m proud of what I do and what I’ve accomplished. And it feels amazing!
Some people are quick to shoot down life as an ALT (Assistant Language Teacher) because of the pay (which is not so great) or the fact that we’re, for the most part, un-licensed teachers, etc… But, if you look through that lens the best part of being an ALT will be out of focus. Teaching English in Japan, at least for me, is not about teaching English. It’s mostly about relationships, as are many of the worthwhile and beautiful things in life.
Most of my kids will rarely if ever use English in their lives. That’s a fact. But, they will have spent 3 years seated before Loco, playing Basketball and Tennis with Loco, having lunch and playing grab-ass with Loco, laughing and crying with Loco, and teaching and learning from Loco, and these experiences they will remember and use, god willing. They’ll walk away from their Junior High School experience with something much more valuable than English in the ultimate scheme of things.
It took me a long time to appreciate what I do here; to find the intrinsic value in it. But, I have found it, and, in regards to changing things, I have no intention of nor do I feel a pressing need to do anything else beyond what I’ve done and continue to do on a daily basis.
I have no desire to integrate seamlessly into Japanese society. I don’t believe it’s possible anyway. It has been 400 years and America is still trying to get it together and perfect a union, so I don’ t expect much over here. I do my part to build the kind of world I’d like to live in, taking my lumps along the way (and dishing them out too occasionally…I’m no martyr) for the generations to come, but as far as integration and assimilation are concerned, I have no desire to do beyond what I do naturally by virtue of living here and being me. The same as I would be doing anywhere else. I have Japanese friends. I pay Japanese taxes. I can speak and read Japanese. I’m as respectful as I can be, including quite often to people who are not doing likewise.
Loco in Yokohama is NOT about changing Japan.
Loco in Yokohama is part travelogue, part journal, part scrapbook, part manifesto. It is my venue for interacting with the world, a place for me to unleash my thoughts and feelings on friends and strangers, a place to hone my writing skills, a place for discussing issues and getting a better understanding of the world and how people in it think and feel.
As generous as it may appear at times, Loco in Yokohama is a selfish endeavor. I keep it mostly to benefit me, to help me maintain my sanity, what little is left of it. If someone reads my work and feels it to be beneficial to themselves or to others, that’s cool. If readers are entertained, I’m pleased.
I am not Debito. Debito is a citizen of Japan fighting for the rights of foreign born citizens and non-citizens. Admirable work he does. I respect him a great deal! But, I have no cause. Loco in Yokohama has no agenda, hidden or overt. I write about whatever I feel like writing about on any given day…as my readers well know. I may go off on a tangent for a while but I always return to the essential Loco: the writer, the storyteller, the reporter.
Not activist, not politician, not diplomat, not ambassador, not Japanophobe or Japanophile, not any of those labels.
I don’t want to change Japan or Japanese. If they change by virtue of knowing me, I only hope they’re happy with the change. I don’t feel a need to change the world…I just write about the world around me.
The only person I want to change, the only person I have the right to change, is the one I wake up to every morning.
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