I was asked what place would I ever live that I’ve never visited and immediately what came to mind was Japan. This is not recent feeling either. It’s been there since I was 13. I’ll tell you why.
When I was a kid and getting into tech there were certain things I wanted a lot of. Knowledge and games. Back in the early 80’s before the internet I would get numbers to what were called bulletin boards. It was the equivalent of dialing up a website and just staying there for a while to get what you wanted or learn about interesting stuff. Well, thus came the part of me that was a little bit nefarious. I found through these portals that if you know what to look for and how to look you could find video games that you could download. This opened up a whole new world because it merged the two things I liked. Learning how to do something and getting paid off with a video game. Sometimes one that might not even be available in the United States yet.
Therein lies the crux of my position. The games were sometimes coming out of Japan. Thus coming out of Japan they were in Japanese. I actually loved this too because my brother and I already had a fascination with Japan. We watched Japanamation cartoons and would turn to Japanese stations and watched for hours only understanding a rare few words that were said.
Fortunately for us we had an uncle that lived in northern California that married a Japanese wife. To our delight they visited and stayed at our house for 3 days and my aunt’s sister came with her visiting Los Angeles straight from Japan. I was about 12 and couldn’t stop being around these ladies. She knew a couple American shows and the extent of her English seemed to Happy Days but it was awesome.
When they left I took it upon myself to find on a bulletin board how to learn Japanese. I later on bought a book on the language and learned how to read the Kanji/Kana character set which really helped me a lot to read the menus on the games. This turned out to be useful as I relearned it when I was 24 and happened to take a temp job at a company that was headquartered in Japan. Once an issue came up with the Japanese version of Microsoft Windows that a certain floor or bilingual workers was using. I jumped up to save the day. To their amazement the young black guy fixed it in Japanese. Made me a star among all the people on that floor that passed me from then on and waved and said hi even if they couldn’t speak English.
My fascination with the country has spanned many decades and I really need to make it a priority to visit for a while. I’ve kept up with a lot of things Japan just because of all of this. I may stick out like a sore thumb because of my skin color difference but sticking out has never stopped me before.