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Culture Shock in My Own Country


By Tatsuru Kimura

It is the first time for me to go back to Japan in the last two years.  I was quite excited to eat Japanese food, speak Japanese and wander around the downtown of Kobe.  However, I felt that I did not match the town of Kobe, although I am Japanese. 

The first thing I felt discomfort about is the crowded train.   The distance between persons seems too short for me, although only a few years ago I used to go school by a more-crowded train, in which it was really hard to breathe and everybody was irritated.  The somewhat sweet smell around Samnomiya Station also made me a little bit uncomfortable.  Nobody said “sorry” when they bumped into a stranger.  I think I must look different from people in my generation because nobody distributed leaflets to me other than a person from the Middle East.  I began to doubt whether I was really in Japan.  

In her book about her fieldwork in Japan, Crafting Selves, Dorinne K. Kondo (1990) says that she felt her identity as American collapse when she found herself completely adapted to Japanese society.  I think the same kind of incident was happening to me.  I gradually lost a bit of my identity as Japanese during my two years in United States, but I realized the change when I came back to Japan.  However, my change was pretty small compared to Kondo’s change.  By the next day, I could behave as an “ordinary Japanese” and did not feel out of place any more.

This “culture shock” gave me a chance to think about identity.  Confusion of identity may easily occur.  In my case, it was easy to reconfirm my identity as Japanese. I wondered about people who have ambiguous identity.  One’s nationality does not always fit one’s identity.  I have not thought deeply about such issues.  It might be because I was born in a relatively homogeneous country. 

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