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…
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