Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Body copy from my book

It’s like when you’re “on the jon” for longer than you’d like, all you want is to finish and move on, but it’s that little nugget that convinces you to stay and push thru. Not to completely alienate the sane, that little analogy sums up my past four years of undergrad at Tyler School of Art. To say that I was ready for a change of scenery would be a grave understatement. I’ll warn anyone whom wishes to actually go forth and read this long-winded narrative that it’s not alot of witty or smart dialogue on behalf of my part. Sometimes you just have to talk about shit to get people’s attention. Call it gimmicky, call it distasteful, call it immature, you’re still reading this aren’t you? Not to get off the subject, to explain all the different series of emotions I went thru the first few weeks in Japan would take much more room this text will allow. Instead, I will try to let the images compensate for whatever deficiency I have in expressing my ideas and feeling in words and speech. This project has gone in several different directions, initially I wanted to do a photography piece, and I guess this is my way of making it into something indicative of a photography piece. Ever since coming back from a visit South Korea four years prior, I felt as if everything I was doing was in an attempt to try to find a way back to asia. On top of that, there were several things that I had to overcome several months prior to arriving in Tokyo. Being in an environment where everything reminds you of a certain obstacle only gave me more desire to simply pick up and leave, and forget everything. Looking back at my state of mind weeks prior, I looked at Japan as a way to try to forget and move on from what was keeping me from looking ahead. It’s safe to say that I wasn’t quite prepared for the experiences I was about to encounter, but at the same time, I was never more ready to tackle them. I had an opportunity to visit Tokyo six years ago, but because of family obligations, I decided to withdraw from the program. Ever since then, I always wondered what I missed out on. Three weeks in, I’ve convinced myself that I made the mistake of not going six years prior. But the very fact that this is just temporary gives me the motivation to do and see as much as possible. I’m in a sort of frantic state of mind right now, hence the indigestion I’ve been experiencing since my arrival.
I remember the very moment I realized that this neighborhood was quite different from the remainder of Tokyo. Coming from a western background, I was to my surprise, very uncomfortable around the unusually large amount of western culture surrounding me. However it wasn’t what I saw that made me take a few steps back. Granted, all of Tokyo is inundated with western influences, but this block could almost be considered a sort of “Americatown.” Visually, the block itself is designed in a more western/european flavor, with no businesses above the first floor. Most, if not all signage is in english. The color pallette is a bit different as well, with pastels and earthtones dominating the sense. Everything is eye level, you don’t have to look up to find anything.However, it was what I felt that made me realize I was in a drastically different part of town. The pace is much more slower and laid back, it lacked the frantic metropolitian pace indicative of Manhattan, Philadelphia, or Tokyo, for that matter. You could say the atmosphere is comparable to that of a European city. Not to my surprise, the Austrian embassy was just up the street. Being familiar and comfortable with such a “lifestyle”, I wasn’t quite sure as to why I wanted to leave as soon as possible. Back in the states, I tended to be more comfortable around caucasian, in fact up until college, I had no friends that were of asian descent. And it’s not a matter of race, but a matter of western lifestyle and philosophy in which I felt a large disconnect with the block. Having come from a korean family, I was familiar with eating habits, taking off your shoes, bowing, etc., things that I had to, in a way, slightly suppress in the United States for the sake of conformity. In a way, I felt more like a “gaijin” when I was on Azabu-juban Street, then when I would be standing at the intersection in Shibuya. I remember the first thing I told myself when I first set foot in Japan. I was walking around in my district of Akasaka, and I remember saying to myself in my head, “I’m back.” Not the most common thing one says to oneself when they first step foot into a foreign country. I was so desperate to leave the states, I remember a year ago, I was seriously researching ESL job positions in Asia, every night I was reseraching which institutions had the best reputations and the best pay. My sister of course shot the whole idea down, explaining how it would ruin my chances of getting a really great design job if I’m not active in the field for a long period of time. I fed into it and sort of abandoned the idea. However, coming to Japan, my feelings have been sort of rekindled. The idea of not actively designing does not scare me anymore. My sister however speaks from experience. But sometimes I feel like I should stop listening to the voice of reason everytime I contemplate making a decision on my own. The reality of my situation is that after this program is over, I’m no longer on a “program” of any sorts. What I’ve learned the past 23 years of life will ultimately be put to the test. It could be argued that I could possibly running away from whatever sort of reality I must face when I come back home : moving out of my apartment, finding a new place to live in New York, and searching for a job. But what is it about Japan that makes me feel compelled to tackle it? My parents tell me because I grew up with asian culture and customs to provide a backbone for myself. My friends tell me because of the beautiful women surrounding me. I’ll be honest, it’s a little bit of both. But being in an environment where you’re really comfortable, at least at my age, is sort of dangerous. You get comfortable when you’re ready to settle down in life, and at age 23, the timing seems just a bit premature. So the big question I pose to myself is where do I feel I “belong”, the United States or Japan? Another question to supplement is where would I be able to pursue a more fulfilling future? I think the answer will come once I stop asking myself “what if”. Living in Japan is not really a matter of “if”, for I’m here right now. So I can either make the most of it or worry about when I leave, which is what I’ve wasted alot of energy on. It’s motivated me to do alot, but like I’ve mentioned before, my mood has been a frantic one at best. If you haven’t noticed, it’s been a struggle for me to find a way to end my long-winded narrative, whether I should approach this with humor, drama or ambiguity. You could say my thought process and growth won’t stop after I cease from writing this particular narrative. And maybe that’s what I’ve gotten out of this experience, that there’s always that nugget you feel that you can push out. It’s about being determined to wait it out and see it thru all the way. Never pinch it short of a full nugget, because you’d only be cheating yourself in the end. You are free to interpret that however you choose, and I will leave it at that.


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