Settling in

So I’ve moved! It’s been a few months since moving from Dyke-kokucho, downtown Osaka, away from the tourist hustle bustle, and into a quieter neighborhood. I was lucky enough to snag the room that I originally wanted to sign for. I found out it’s been sitting so long in the market because it’s on the first floor, and not too close to a busy train station. Since I plan to bike to work anyway, this wasn’t a problem for me. My room is almost twice as big, and about $100 cheaper. I wanted a bigger room for more storage, as well as a separate room for visitors and guests to have their own privacy. I also put in a hammock!

And when the weather isn’t rainy, or hot and sticky, I can ride on the Naniwa Cycling Road along the river on weekends. Waiting… waiting…

Since settling into the new place, we’ve been through a mag 6 earthquake and the biggest typhoon Osaka has seen in 25 years. What a housewarming, eh!

Finally, I feel like I’m coming home, rather than to an AirBnB.

Japan has also granted me a 3 year residency, rather than 1! This means I can stay until my next project ships, when I pass the JLPT N1, and when 45 leaves office. Until then, taking deep breaths won’t feel so claustrophobic in this new space.

Apartment hunting part 2 adventures

I decided to move this year somewhere that’s closer to the river to get out and do bike rides more easily, and have a less stressful bike ride to work. Being in Osaka gives me more time to look for a bigger place that’s more affordable.

I’ve seen 3 real estate agents so far, and my experiences with each of them were totally different. Usually when I approach real estate agents, I try to make sure they know that I’ve been living in Japan for a while now. This seems to have given me the rapport I’m looking for, as the agents usually seem very willing to help me.

Agent #1 seemed like a nice guy, and I found out he’s also a cyclist. So he knows I like to cycle and all, but he didn’t take the opportunity to use it as a conversation starter, which I totally took advantage of, but couldn’t really get the guy to relax. I guess perhaps he knew the listings he was going to show me weren’t going to be all that great. It felt like a waste of a day, and I stopped the search after the 4th viewing.

Agent #2 was super talkative, and showed me the best rooms, but only ones made by Shai Maison, which is a housing development company that builds and rents them cheaply. The two he showed me looked really nice and I was sure I wanted to sign for the last room I looked at, if it was still available after my work review. This guy had a very dark view of the future, that Japanese people will one day become extinct and will need the help of foreigners in order to keep the country running. He told me of the conditions that make it hard for foreigners to rent rooms and that it wasn’t fair. I guess it makes his job harder when there are less Japanese people moving into the city these days due to depopulation, and yet more and more foreigners are coming, but are declined by landlords just for being foreign. He got me sympathizing for him, but his quote for start-up fees was super high and he couldn’t promise too much negotiation, so I want to go to the rental office that’s in charge to see if they can do better.

Agent #3 today was pretty excited to help me, once he got me opening up. I think he could sense that I’m close to choosing a place to live, and he tried to derail me from the Shai Maison developments by informing me how they can put their rooms up for rent so cheaply, and that sound could travel through the walls. I observed that the previous agents who wanted to direct me to those developments are actually agents who work with those companies. Anyway, after getting me to show the few rooms that I was excited about, and getting approvals for a few more that he picked, he sent me home so he could do his homework and find more rooms for us to tour the next morning (tomorrow). I love his enthusiasm for helping me find a larger room for cheaper rent, and am looking forward to seeing what he comes up with tomorrow.

“My People”

This has been sitting on my mind for a while, and I wanted to share it with everyone without hurting people’s feelings, as I often tend to do and then find myself isolated.

Recently, I’ve been working with a team who came to visit from my ‘hood, the San Francisco Bay Area, who came on a work trip to Osaka. While they are very nice and well-traveled people, I was told that “I’m with my people”.

While Japan has helped relieve me of a lot of stresses that I had back in America, I wouldn’t say that these are my people. I have difficulties in Japan, but it’s more hidden because I can pass. I find myself being more close to “foreigners” in Japan, but even then, we break down into even smaller boxes because we are all special snowflakes. As an American foreigner, I have the privilege of speaking English with a perfect American accent.

Anyway, I felt excluded me from the team when I heard this, even though I am the only other American working in Japan.

Asian-Americans get a lot of comments thrown at us, like “Go back to your country!” Luckily, I haven’t experienced this myself, being from a place that’s used to diversity and seeing Asians in many areas of society, or maybe I had my blinders on and chose to be deaf to it. Perhaps, my body felt it all along and it brought me to Japan.

I came here out of my own agency, which is a privilege, and I will probably even go back to America, if only to make sure my parents and my sister are supported. It would be nice to be welcomed back, rather than to feel like “Don’t come back.”

Different worlds

Being raised and having worked in Silicon Valley, I should feel very at home living in Japan and working in the same industry that I used to. But after working at my current company for the past year, there’s just a lot of catching up from the rest of the world, or rather Japan, that needs to be done. And I think a lot of foreign people who work in Japan feel this way, from the social to the technical.

Before Trump became president, knowing that I could come home to a country that accepts me for who I am made me less critical of Japan than I would normally be. I didn’t come to Japan to change it, but rather to help whoever I was able grasp what the rest of the world was doing, so that Japan wouldn’t be left behind. In return, I could enjoy its amazing hospitality, hot springs, and nature.

But getting to know people here, especially the ones that have a desire to live true to themselves, has also made me realize that the excuses this country makes to keep people orderly is superficial conformist bullshit. It’s the same bullshit I saw in the Vietnamese community that I grew up and never really got along with in San Jose.

What it does though, is allow roles for people to be of service to their community.

Self-Categorizing

I won’t be put in a box by others, but I will do it to myself.

  • My numerology number is 6. This means I work harmoniously with others. I am the glue to teams. But I can be jealous and small-minded.
  • My Enneagram is 9 (Peacemaker), and my wing is 8 (Challenger), from some random test online. Further research needed.
  • My MBTI is between INFJ (Advocate) and ENFP (Campaigner), from 16 Personalities. Yes, I actually paid for this.

https://www.quietrev.com/an-illustrated-guide-to-categorizing-yourself/

 

 

Astrology

I have been turning to astrology for fun and to feed the rebellious part of myself by proving it wrong with some aspect of their personality predictors. But then I discovered Moon signs and Ascendants and found that I’m not just the archer that I thought I was. In a nutshell, your Moon sign is the side of you that represents your inner child. Your Ascendant is the side of you that other people see, your exterior. Your Sun sign is the side of you that you’re growing towards. This gives astrology more depth than I had realized.

I’ve always felt a bit schizophrenic, and discovering how my Sun, Moon, and Rising signs are either polar opposites, and all different elements, makes dealing with life a little easier and makes me feel more connected. It’s nice to be able to know that I can relate to the universe, as I now have the time and space to do personal reflection.

Discovery is life

Happy New Year! 2017 was shitty, but at least I tried, and survived. I hope to be more present in 2018, and to start, I’ll list all the fascinating things I was introduced to during my 2 week trip to America, which makes me feel like I’ve been living under a rock in Japan.

1.Salted Cheese tea – Adds a bit of salty to your sweet boba-less tea drink

2. Blue Star Donuts – Not really impressed. Probably because I played it safe and just ordered the OG horchata donut, when I should have gotten the orange liquer infused creme brulee donut. A quick search shows that they opened a shop in Umeda in September of 2016, but has since closed. Figures. Japan is full of skinny people, and donuts are just gluttonous. And they know the value of their money.

3. Dutch Brothers – The office manager at work keeps referencing it whenever she talks about her time in America (Medford, Oregon), so I figured I’d go and see what all the fuss is about.  They serve the creamiest and richest latte I’ve ever had. I went to one in AZ, and they seem to attract the young crowd.

4. Snappy Dressers – A card game, created by the makers of Uno. A super fun game with so many different ways to play.

5.  Alexa and Google Assistant – Pretty nice tech! Understands me well enough!

I also satisfied my craving for graphic novels:

  • Turning Japanese
  • Kiss and Tell
  • The Best We Could Do
  • Saints (couldn’t find Boxers to complete the set)

Staying above water

Here is a summary of my 20s:

  • Exploring how I wanted to present myself, now that I had expendable income for awesome haircuts and clothes, that would maximize my confidence and allow me to do my job in a male-dominated industry.
  • Exploring hobbies outside my job: Drag, Dragonboating, Film
  • Exploring relationships and friendships that tested my limits and had me thinking about what I need in a relationship.
  • Celebrated being me in a female body and loving women.
  • Developed an understanding of how presenting as masculine has the power to trigger people.
  • Developed an understanding of how presenting as feminine has the power to control people.
  • Representing my dad at family functions

Here’s a summary of my 30s so far:

  • Understanding what it means to live in a foreign country, and the privilege of being educated in America.
  • Growing motivation to consider more responsible actions from either masculine and feminine sides.
  • Being more masculine presenting makes me want to be more feminine, but being identified as feminine makes me want to appear more masculine.
  • Realizing that I embody characteristics of both, and constantly fighting against my mind to not blame my masculine or feminine side as being responsible for what might be considered my “quirks”.
  • Ignoring what people think, and just do what I’m good at.
  • Recharging from the efforts of ignoring what people think.
  • Trying to know myself as more than an extension of my family.
  • Continuing to fight imposter syndrome with more humor and acceptance.
  • Realizing that connecting different cultures is very important to me.

What triggered this was looking at Instagrams of young trans men who seem very successful, accomplished, full of potential for life, and happy. And in my current headspace, I wonder why I don’t have the desire to do a similar transition so that I would feel less undeserving of partners who are looking for stability and safety in this patriarchal society. I needed to reflect what I’ve considered as a source of my power as someone battling being of a minority ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation. I think that’s enough to deal with in one lifetime!

I have had deep conversations with women who felt they were trans because they didn’t feel like they didn’t fit in the gender they are known as. These are beautiful women with ambition and desire for power. Unfortunately, they come from modest families and don’t have the connections to help get them started, so they have to hustle more. It’s energy-draining, and they work incredibly hard and sacrifice emotional and physical health to achieve their goals. Finding mentors would be easier as they wouldn’t be objectified by male bosses, people like Mike Pence.

Chasing dreams

My dad tells me to always have a dream. I think what he’s trying to say is to always find a way to stay alive. For a guy who escaped death, and probably living with survivor’s guilt, I trust this advice.

I’m living a dream. Maybe not THE dream, but definitely one of my dreams. It’s taken me half my life to achieve, some pretty lucky opportunities, and lots of lowered expectations.

The thing is I have too many dreams, so I end up having issues with FOMO, Fear of Missing Out, or a sort of grass-is-greener syndrome.

In the game industry, what I appreciate the most is working with the team. But the audience that we are creating products for could learn a thing or two about how to treat women as equals. Coming to Japan, and hanging out at BitSummit for the first time this weekend, it’s great to see girls attending and enjoying the games for themselves. But then I heard a guy having a one-sided discussion with a girl who only giggled, and I mentally rolled my eyes.

I am finding that my passion in making games has changed to provide an alternative way for people to learn. It’s a medium that I enjoy learning how to figure out things, and I want to share that.

But I gotta work on communication first.

Happy and visible

絶好調!

神原 琴美さん(@kambara_kotomi)がシェアした投稿 –

I feel obliged to share this very happy picture of me with this very dapper lady, Kotomi, that I met at Osora ni Niji wo Kake Mashita, the only openly gay, female-owned bar in Aomori while on our way to eat the freshest and delicious uni in a quaint little town called Sai (thank you Xan Wetherall for sharing your hidden food treasures!).

When I saw the cafe bar, I was awestruck, not expecting to find a rare place I’d only heard about. Social anxiety hit me, and I was nervous to come in. As a masculine-of-center Asian-American female, I was excited to meet Kotomi. She was hanging out having a smoke, noticed I was family, and happily welcomed me inside. I shyly introduced myself to Okacchi, the bar owner, and ordered  some liquid courage in the form of the best Aomori nihonshuu Okacchi had in stock. We talked about Tokyo and mutual friends, and when I was inebriated enough, video conferenced a mutual friend, and had the best night with people I felt at home with in Tohoku that I’d had in a while.

Kotomi and I still follow each other on Instagram. The other day, she posted a picture of a meeting room, with the caption “Domestic partnership in Sapporo will begin on June 1st, 2017! It’s decided!” It was great news, and even better to know that it would allow Kotomi and her friends the opportunity for a family life.

札幌市ドメスティックパートナーシップ制度、2017年6月1日開始!決まった!!!!!

神原 琴美さん(@kambara_kotomi)がシェアした投稿 –

When same-sex marriage or domestic partnership laws in Asia take the time to consider what’s right for the community (rather than trying to prove its modernity, or make money off of us), it gives me hope. I had always felt that the LGBT movement for Asian-Americans was missing something: our ethnic motherland did not recognize us, therefore, neither do our parents or grandparents. Ideas like being gay is a Western invention (But so is being Christian, for the families who are!) isolate us from our cultural identities, and often we are also left out of our adopted Western culture for not being white. Some of us don’t see a place for ourselves, and end up choosing the way out.

There is a side of me that I usually keep under wraps because it’s not all of me. But I find it necessary to show it every once in a while as a reminder that this part of me cannot be ignored, and must be loved as well. I fear that people, especially family, will only love who they want to see, rather than love who is actually there.