In November of 2008 — four years ago almost to the day– I began writing my very first series entitled, “10 Ways NOT to go Loco in Yokohama” where I shared with readers 10 tips to help the longterm foreigner living in Japan maintain their sanity. It was well-received. In fact, it was what initially put Loco in Yokohama on the map. However, though I’ve left that series up and unedited for all to read, I no longer stand by everything I wrote in that series. As you might have expected, I’ve changed, as have some of my ideas about how best to keep your wits about you in this lovely country.
There has been a great deal of growth, but while some of this growth is in the area of wisdom, and thus beneficial, or benign, some of it is arguably malignant…and perhaps not in my best interest, but truth nonetheless, and therefore useful, at least in principle.
Though some of those posts were written from the perspective of someone who’d gone at least partly around the bend, I wrote that series for the most part from the viewpoint of a black ex-pat ex-New Yorker who was somehow managing against incredible odds and challenges to straddle the line between sane and Loco in Yokohama, and giving advice on how others could do the same.
If I can do it, you can do it, was the premise.
Ha! That’s a laugh…
I do not operate under that principle any longer. Life in Japan has altered me emotionally, mentally and even spiritually in many ways. And while some of these changes were indubitably positive, a number of them would fall squarely under the heading of “madness.”
The premise of that series was misleading, at best. I was not the Jay-Z of blogging, boasting about how I broke laws and peddled death in my own community for years and still managed, due to my talent, hard work, perseverance, inner strength of character and faith in a higher power, to emerge on top of the game and live out my dreams. If I were being completely forthcoming I would have likened myself more to Iceberg Slim, writing my autobio from the mental steel casket where I still resided, full of the wisdom one acquires once one is set on the path of atonement for ones crimes, particularly those against himself.
I recently re-read that series and, frankly, some of the posts kind of alarmed me, for I could see how determined I was to be read by as broad a readership as possible, even at the expense of watering down my thoughts and feelings to make them more palatable to readers with weaker constitutions when it comes to the harsh realities of life for some immigrants to this island. I used to care about such things (still do, a disgusting little bit) and looking back I think I’ve done readers an injustice in some respects by taking that too much into consideration. Like crushing medicine and sprinkling it on ice cream for a child suffering from a serious ailment but refusing to take the medicine cause it tastes like shit, I think I was overly concerned with reaching those folks living here that I believed to be suffering from unconditional infatuation with Japan.
Don’t get me wrong…I’m still very proud of that series. I think it served its purpose dutifully and I was indeed successful in establishing my blog as an alternative to the fluff the Japan blogosphere is replete with and as a destination for some hard truths about how everyday life can be here on the ground floor. It was cutting edge at times, thoughtful, creative, and even deep on occasion. Only, I’ve since learned something extremely valuable for a writer to know; that, without sacrificing creativity, I’m better off presenting my ideas and experiences with as little powdered sugar as possible and letting the chips fall where they may. I’ve learned, especially once my book was published, that I can’t let whatever trust issues I might have interfere with the message I want to convey. I have to trust myself more, trust my talent, trust that what I have to say is not a waste of time and energy. And, as importantly, I need to trust readers.
At the time I wrote that series, I had very little readership to speak of, let alone trust, and knowing that there was a sizable potential audience for Japan related material, I made an effort (both consciously and unconsciously, I realized in my re-reading) to build one without pissing too many people off and winding up blacklisted (that is, on a list of blogs labeled Japanophobic, Japan bashers, or just plain Haters).
But, now I know…you either get it or you don’t, dig me or not…or both…or neither. And that is as it should be!
So, with that in mind, and in the spirit of offering something useful for readers planning to make a move to Japan, for those living here and encountering similar challenges and, finally, as a personal (yet curiously public) way to measure how I’ve changed, I’ve decided to revisit that series.
So, Dearly Beloved:
At the start of that series, I had written a post introducing it called: “10 Ways Not to Go Loco in Yokohama, But I say…” where I talked about the benefits of going a little nuts here in Japan. If you haven’t read it, please take a peek now. Going Loco was actually a recurring theme throughout the series and this post sets it up pretty well. I think it was one of the best examples of the writing this blog had to offer at that time (a full two months into this blogging venture). Re-reading it I still love it and unlike some of the series’ entries to follow it, still stand soundly by it.
Particularly sections like this:
“First, I saw myself through stages, through the eyes all around me, through the mirror that is my life here, through the Japanese: Bigger, stronger, blacker, scarier, cooler, stupider, incomprehensible, shameless…less patient, more impetuous, alien, different, strange, bizarre…dangerous…passionate, emotional, surprising, unpredictable, opinionated…free-thinking, free-willed, free-spirited, free…
Was it true, I wondered. Well, I definitely wasn’t Japanese. No matter how hard I tried to fit in, that just wasn’t going to happen. They wouldn’t have me. Not maliciously. It was just inconceivable to them and thus impossible. And, I wasn’t American. In my mind, at least when I came here, America was a theory, an illusion, a motto on a bumper sticker, no more representative of me than Disneyland was. I was free, sure, the way homeless people are free. The way refugees are free. A very unsettling freedom to say the least. And terrifying. I’d never known that type of freedom.”
No, aside for some editing for clarity, there’s very little I’d change about the introduction. I still firmly assert that to get the most out of the experience of living in Japan (or in any new culture / society), you must first at least question the beliefs you came here/there with, even those problematic core beliefs we often avoid deeply probing, for doing so might upset…well, let’s face it…EVERYTHING! (They don’t call it Loco for nothing…)
I was very fortunate (I say this in hindsight, of course) that life in Japan really left me very little choice in the matter but to go a little loco, for I’ve benefitted in ways I could not have foreseen. But, if given that choice, I often wonder if I would have voluntarily done so, or if that would’ve even be an option. I mean, who, without impetus, would do such a thing to themself? You’d have had to been a little loco to begin with to even consider it, I suspect
And there’s a very good chance I was at that!
Stay Tuned for Part 1 of the “10 Ways NOT To Go Loco in Yokohama” Redux!
In the meantime, here’s a little ditty by one of my favorite artist of all time!