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 ).