“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
― Nelson Mandela
Living in Japan for the past five years has been an eye-opening experience for me. As a Filipino/African (Niggapino) American who was born in the Philippines, emigrated with his family to America when he was 2, and was naturalized into an American citizen at the age of 25, I’ve had many different experiences in my life. Out of all of my experiences, however, I don’t believe I ever truly knew what it felt like to be an immigrant until I moved to Japan. Interestingly, unlike a normal citizen who only knows what it’s like to be an American in America, not-only do you have the experience of actually knowing what your country is like from the inside, you also learn to see your own country from an external perspective, as well, and that has been a gift in and of itself.
Honestly, if I could sum it all up, being an immigrant in Japan has not been an easy road. Not only do you live in a foreign country, but you have to learn the language, the culture, customs and traditions, and even then you will still stick out (especially in such a homogenous society like Japan). You’re also bound to find yourself (at one point or another) being or feeling stereotyped and/or discriminated against for just being an immigrant. For many expats, I think that it’s because we have these experiences from (sometimes contradictingly) different worlds/societies, we often have the ability to compare them side-by-side and be a little more critical of one or the other, or both. From time to time, we may also shine a negative light on certain subjects (in my case, negative topics about America and/or Japan), but we don’t do it out of malice or to prove that one society is better than the other. I think that the majority of us do it to spread awareness and to instil grass-roots level positive change.
Thankfully, however, I was placed in a very wonderful village that is filled with many wonderful and amazing human beings. They’ve always been there to listen and give me advice whenever I’ve needed it, and for that, I feel truly lucky and grateful. My contract with the JET program will be ending this August and despite so many of my co-workers advocating for me to stay and meeting with the head of the village on my behalf, there isn’t enough in the budget to retain me. With that said, I want to continue living in Japan, so I am currently searching for jobs that will provide me with a similar salary to that which I have now. It’s definitely going to be a challenge, but I’m not the type to give up without a fight. Cheers!