I’m sloooowly merging my blog worlds from the US and Japan, so if you want to see the latest, check out my other blog, cynthiapopper.com.
Thank you for reading at Popper Creative.
I started writing for GaijinPot about a month ago and I have to say it’s a totally different kind of writing than I’m used to. I’m a copywriter by trade, which means my writing takes on the client’s voice. I write for your vision, your company, your brand. But op-eds or citizen journalism is about what goes on in my sick little brain. Let me put it this way… if you’ve been a back up singer whose job is to make the pop star look good, and then you get handed the center stage mic, one of two things will happen.
1) You’ll either wet yourself and run off stage or
2) You’ll go big, even if you suck, just to have your moment in the spotlight.
Not sure where I’m at just yet… but I’m loving it so far.
Check out my articles here. I’m writing weekly so stay tuned.
Originally posted on Thought Catalog:
In America, I do not stand out. In a country that has prided itself on being a “melting pot” for many years, the vast spectrum of skin tones, hair and eye colors, heights, and weights means that I am just another blue-eyed, dirty blonde-haired, slightly tall, average-framed, pale-skinned woman. There are thousands more like me. It’s an interesting oxymoron: because everyone is so different, your differences largely go unnoticed. I am the opposite of exotic. I am vanilla.
But not in Japan, where ninety-nine percent of the population is homogenous. (To be clear, I am not claiming that all Japanese people look alike. I’m only saying that when it comes to hair, eye, and skin color, the spectrum is much less varied.) Here, especially in the rural part of northern Honshu, where I live, I’m suddenly the one who sticks out. With the beginning of a new school year, there are suddenly three hundred new students roaming the halls. Most of them are too shy to speak to me just yet, but for the brave ones, the first words out of their mouths are almost always “青目” (ao me, “blue eyes”), voiced in a tone that is usually equal parts surprise, awe, and envy. If I got a hundred yen for every time I’ve heard that phrase in the past few days, rent this month would easily be paid. My eyes, true, are a vivid enough blue that they get remarked upon in America, but in Japan? They make me an anomaly to be gawked at.
That reaction is strengthened even further when I stand up. At 5’9”, I tower over the vast majority of the population. One of my more poetic students remarked one day, while I was practicing Japanese archery with my long hair down, that I looked like an Amazon warrior. In Japan, I am the exotic one.
Anyone who freelances knows that having a web presence is key… social plug-ins, community involvement, yadda yadda. But another detail that shows you’re the shit is having the right business cards. Especially here in Japan. (Hi. Yeah, I live in Japan now… but I still write for the U.S. so please don’t freak.)
Say hello to Moo. These are cards for creative people.
Mashup your info in fun ways with their templates or, design from scratch. In my case, I just used my own photos. I model too, so to cover both worlds, I upload a couple of different versions of my CPC logo and a bunch of modeling shots. Each card has a different image (up to 100). Fonts, colors, backgrounds… I wrote my name in Japanese and in English, then put the usual contact and social stuff.
Instant portfolio the size of a card case– BOOM. Oh and the clincher? They’re on thick, 16 point card stock and cost less than twenty bucks. At moo.com.
They didn’t pay me to write this.
I’m a huge fan of Thought Catalog. Add these quotes to your Random Awesomeness file. <3
I’ve never had it rough. Ever. A healthy white girl from a great family, I grew up in nicer-than-average Californian suburbs and spent most of my adult life in San Francisco. Beyond shoes, books, and travel, I’ve never really wanted for anything. A close friend of mine likens this kind of life to “playing a video game on the easiest level.”
I love this analogy 1) because it’s so true, and 2) it also speaks to the natural curiosity that goes beyond perpetually playing Level One. Traveling off the beaten path to developing countries has taught me that I have absolutely no right to bitch about anything. At all. It’s also shown me the chasm between the obscenely wealthy and the crushingly poor, and who ends up on which side of that chasm often has little to do with hard work or perseverance, but rather luck of birthplace. Of race. I guess that luck is a big reason I moved to Asia.
Now I’m not in a hut in the middle of Calcutta. But being in Japan for a few weeks has made me unpack my longing to live abroad, and not just in another English-speaking country like Australia or England. For over a decade, I yearned to be turned upside down completely, I just never knew why.
The foreign population of Japan is less than two percent, and being a minority– an extreme minority– is a jarring experience. I’m overtly stared at and photographed on the train. I’ve been blatantly ignored and avoided. I hear conversations in rapid-fire Japanese and pick up “Shinshia” and realize people are talking about me, right in front of me. I talk to people who’ve never spoken to a Westerner before. Being the only person of another race in a room is an unclear feeling. It doesn’t exactly bother me, sometimes it’s strangely freeing to be the novelty, but I’m constantly reminded that I don’t, nor will I ever, fit in. I could speak fluent Japanese, live here twenty years, marry into a Japanese family, learn every possible cultural custom, and not much would change. It’s sounds like I’m whining, but I’m not. I asked for this because I needed to experience first hand what otherness feels like. I don’t know why exactly. I’m not sure that it matters.
Maybe it’s good to feel uncomfortable sometimes. (I know– very Robert Frost of me)– but when you’ve been so lucky in your life it’s important to remember that most aren’t as lucky as you. Being lucky doesn’t make you special, it just makes you lucky. And maybe not being grateful for that luck is the definition of being spoiled. It’s a real fear of mine– forgetting just how lucky I am.
I hope this doesn’t sound like syrupy, white-liberal rambling–though I’m pretty sure it does. And I realize despite being part of the”other” two percent here, the racism or exclusion I deal with isn’t a fraction of what some endure. When you bring on the otherness yourself, it’s something of a contrived experience. It’s just the best I could come up with.