The Kimochi Warui Diary
A block away from the net café, we found a normal café (a coffee café) and grabbed a table upstairs. I immediately got on the internet and booked a hotel in Tokyo that would lodge us for the remaining three days of the trip. The price wasn’t ideal, but at this point, I didn’t care.
The café wasn’t serving any food for at least a few more hours.
“I’m gonna go look and see what’s open,” Jotaro said, leaving me at the table with his backpack.
Just two tables away from me were a group of older teenagers, talking and laughing together. I pulled out a manga that I had bought randomly during the trip and took a stab at reading it.
I’ve been told that, even if I didn’t understand all the words, reading the hiragana, katakana, and kanji was a great exercise in passive learning.
The teens at the table were laughing again, and somehow in my tired mind, I had gotten the impression they were laughing at me. One of them had looked at me, right? There was no way I could focus on Japanese words now.
Why did I have a fascination with Japan in the first place?
Does liking manga and anime really qualify me as being a fan of Japan, as a whole?
Haven’t I just been making elaborate excuses to be a pervert this whole time?
Sitting down to really think about it, here was a truth:
My dream was not to reach full assimilation into Japan. Rather, I was simply repeating a conflict that I had put myself through multiple times in my life:
To observe and experience without getting fully involved. To be a consumer, whether it be of anime, manga, literature, or of real-life experiences.
Instead of diving into the swimming pool, I was dipping my toes in around every edge, trying to experience as much as I could without ever committing to taking the plunge.
Why? Because there were benefits to staying out of the pool.
How else could I selfishly observe everything at once, taking it all in with lustful eyes, while never giving myself up to being vulnerable? If I never jump in the pool, I never have to get wet.
In this way, I could be the nameless tourist without a home or occupation—always circling the outside but never expected to fully conform or do anything other than be present. Even my mistakes and follies would be looked over.
My favorite place in Japan, I’d come to realize, was in the trains between cities.
Nothing had put me at more peace of mind than the position in which I was alone but simultaneously surrounded by people, all of us passengers at the mercy of the moving train car.
I liked to watch the people, and they rarely watched me, and that was the good part. But if they caught me starting, let them assume I am ignorant to the ways of their culture, that I will be gone soon, that I am temporary.
But wasn’t I lying to myself? How long ago had I come up with that proclamation of denial?
It was different now.
I did want to be looked at. I did want to be part of the conversations. I was no longer content with simply watching—I was dying to be part of the action.
Noah had sent me a message:
“You guys awake? Hungry?”
Noah met us in Akihabara and took us to get some proper food. Some hours later, Kumiko joined us. We visited some random stores and got food again.
I kept my blinders on for most of the day—I wanted to be present within the group instead of wandering at the slightest presence of a passing stranger. Even so, I don’t remember much of what happened that day, except for one thing:
When we got back to Noah’s place, my phone rang again.
A new message from Yuno.
She wanted to meet me at Ueno Zoo the next day.