Natsukashi!

Music: Heartland- Owen Pallett

The other night I went out to dinner to this small Korean place in Korea Town.  It was empty and the only two people that worked there were eating there own dinner after they had stopped serving Chris and me.

We ate heaps of delicious, salty, fish tasting, tempura battered, rice focused foods and the lovely owners kept bringing us more kimchi.  We added soju to our meal and picked at each others plates with chopsticks.  A television in the restaurant played a Korean game show featuring wildly ridiculous games, K-pop and a Korean version of The Biggest Loser.

Natsukashi is a common term used in Japan.  It translates to mean Nostalgic in English, but we don’t use it as often as a Japanese person would.  Sitting in the restaurant, laughing at the Pillow Fight Championship, that was going on and drinking Asian wine did indeed make me super natsukashi.  Nostalgia crept over me the entire time, especially being the only white people that entered the restaurant and the polite way the waitress refused our offer of a glass of soju for her and the chef and then proceeded to bring us more free food.  Furthermore old feelings returned making me wish I lived in Japan again.  Like the feeling that I can say anything out loud without care to the content of my words because, no one can understand me anyway (that mentality didn’t work out too well for Clinton, Ashleigh, Laura and I on a train one afternoon in Japan when we spoke loudly of too-inappropriate-for-even-my-blog stuff for a good hour… only to discover there was a North American behind us the whole time…).

Or that settled feeling of that silence you only experience when being in a country where you are unlikely to hear English or anything else you can fully understand for a long loong time.  I found myself playing the old game of Instant Translation.  It’s when you instantly translate what the people are saying on television or radio when you can’t understand the language, just as fast as they are speaking or singing.  Helps songs have meaning again, which is a strange thing to go without.  Or instantly imagining what the conversations you can’t overhear and understand, are about.

I even got surprise meat!  I rarely eat Korean so I was asking Chris what everything is (he’s lived in Korea) and the Soybean paste stew looked like a good vegetarian option… Shrimp!  Surprise!  Clam! Surprise!  Surprise Meat!  It was kind of nice…

Even though there was always this loneliness hanging over foreigners in Japan, I think it taught us to be OK with being alone.  I thought to myself in the restaurant, I could be here alone right now and feel totally comfortable.  Later that night I thought about how peculiar it is that my friends and I still miss and want to live in Japan again, a place where loneliness is common.  Just goes to show how awesome that place was. (For more information on how awesome Japan was/is, feel free to visit the archives ;) ).

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3 thoughts on “Natsukashi!

  1. jonathan says:

    do you think loudly speaking/yelling in English without a care gives people in other countries a bad impression of the english speaking world?

    if the role was reversed I would think it might come across as rude

  2. Lindzy says:

    I suppose with any loud speaking or yelling in any language it depends where you are! Museum: bad, Middle of the street in Tokyo: ok!, Trains in Japan: yelling is definitely rude, in the middle of a movie: Bad!
    Good thing we were never yelling in any of the stories I just told. Also, I think I was emphasizing the content of our conversation… not that it was a bunch of foreigners talking extremely loud. If you’re sitting on a bus on the TTC you can’t help but hear what two people would be saying beside you because of proximity and the way that sound travels. In Japan we would be less likely to censor what we said because those in hearing distance wouldn’t understand anyway. The situation I was talking about, we weren’t yelling or being obnoxious, we were just having a conversation that we probably wouldn’t have wanted someone to overhear and understand (it was about sex… nothing degrading or insulting to others, of course). Speaking without censoring becomes habit when you are used to no one understanding you or treating you like a foreigner for months on end. (Being treated like a foreigner in Japan can either mean you have leprosy or you’re a God). Japanese people are hardly honest when asked, but with my experience, they don’t mind European descendant Foreigners. Countries in South East Asia, through my experience were so chill and relaxed that I don’t think anything would bother them (other than being mean or hurting someone physically). They seemed to embrace tourism and meeting new people and learning new languages.
    If the role was reversed… yesterday night i was taking the bus home from work. Two people came on the bus laughing jovially and sat behind me. They proceeded to have those big belly laughs and i couldn’t help but smile. Those are the best kind of laughs! I was jealous and I wanted to know what was so funny. Then they started speaking loudly in Spanish and i thought to myself, what a beautiful language and what beautiful voices. Sadly I won’t know what was so funny. I did turn around and smile at them though. I love when people are expressive and fun. You only live once, supposedly, right?
    If people are going to be angry and think of others as rude just because they are expressing themselves in a minority language, then I suggest they CHILL OUT! There are far greater things to worry about in life. Rather than thinking that groups of talking foreigners are rude, maybe they could take a few seconds and think of how awesome it is that someone from around the world is in their country and taking interest in their culture and how lucky we are to live in a part of the world where you can speak freely, in any language.

  3. Sir Lamington says:

    Kore wa natsukashi da yo! What you wrote about loneliness definitely struck a chord, I definitely had and still have trouble being alone, so Japan was definitely an education and a somewhat introduction to another part of myself. Good times.

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