The first time I moved to Japan, I was determined to assimilate completely into Japanese culture. I thought it was only proper, if one was going to move to a foreign country, to try to fit in as best as one could. I imagined that at some point I would be able to think and act exactly like a Japanese person.
Three years later, I realized that while I could do an excellent impression of a Japanese person, I had some not-so-Japanese core values that were not going to change. However, I did learn some interesting things along the way.
If one wanted to become completely Japanese, you see, one would have to develop a fascination with the West. When I first moved to Japan, France was all the rage. There were “French” bakeries everywhere, for example, and shops of all sorts with French names. Baroque art was also a thing. Well, I happen to like France, bread, and Baroque art, so I figured I might as well jump on the bandwagon. I even took a trip to Paris and visited all the places on the Japanese must-see list, like Versailles. There I developed an interest in Rococo interiors, and after returning to America I made another trip to Vienna (also a popular destination for Japanese people) to see the gorgeous Rococo palaces and churches there.
I imagine now, as I wandered blithely into every Catholic church in Europe, admiring the interior decor and leaving, the angels peering down from heaven in exasperation and saying to each other, “When is she going to take a hint?!”
In another scene that must have been hilarious if only I’d had any idea what was going on, the first time I lived in Japan I visited the Ohtsuka Museum of Art, which features hi-tech reproductions of 1,000 of the most famous paintings in the world, allowing visitors to walk through the history of Western art from prehistory to present. (Yes, only the Japanese could have dreamed this up.) I picked out The Annunciation as one of my favorite subjects in the history of art, while having no idea what it depicted.
Years later I had a good chuckle when I realized I had been a fan of Catholic art and architecture even while thinking I had nothing to do with the Church.