i am finally back from japan!
came back home with a new large suitcase full of rilakkuma, books, lingerie, and clothes— a lot of which i thrifted. if you’re ever looking for a vintage/thrift store mecca, japan is the place to be. especially in the shinsaibashi area of osaka, where i also got some new ink done.
as much as i love japan, i am happy to be back in canada. in general, two weeks is the longest i can travel for before getting homesick. i start missing my daily cold-pressed green juices, hot yoga, legal weed, etc. sometimes it’s like i travel partly to remind myself to not take certain things in canada for granted, especially the co-existence of many different cultures, as well as being able to freely express myself without fear of prejudice.
don’t get me wrong though, japan is perfect— it’s rich in culture, it’s clean, efficient, high-tech (they’re literally in the future— 13-16 hrs ahead to be exact), an aesthete’s paradise, people are very polite and honourable. but societies that are utopic on the surface often come with an underlying social cost. in japan’s insular and collectivist society, this cost would be the deeply embedded expectations of filial piety and working exceedingly hard towards the greater good of society, and consequently, the perpetuation of traditional gender roles, which particularly have a negative impact on the mental health of men. despite being the third largest economy in the world, japan ranks very poorly for an advanced society on the world happiness index. you can get a sense of this amongst the sea of stoic salarymen scattered throughout the busy streets and subways of tokyo and osaka. as i tweeted this past week, i like to imagine that despite my unconventional looks (titties + tattoos often on display) offending the older, conservative crowd (25% of japan’s aging population is 60+— so i offended a lot, lol), my kawaii, slutty presence was secretly the highlight of these salarymen’s day. i probably saved many from karoshi (overwork death).
anyways, it’s nice to be home in canada for the next month, before i find myself back in east asia again. i will be visiting my parents’ motherlands for the first time ever, aka taiwan and hong kong. i may not have the best relationship with my family, but it isn’t stopping my curiosity or me wanting to be more in touch with my roots. as a CBC banana (white on the inside, yellow on the outside), i’ve spent the past few years slowly undoing how whitewashed i am. i feel very fortunate to have been born and raised in a city as multicultural as toronto, but like most 2nd gen POC kids i grew up with, i just wanted to fit in, and fitting in meant being more whitewashed. this isn’t to say i now want to abandon the things and interests that make me canadian— in fact and in retrospect, despite struggling with a mild identity crisis from time to time, i am very grateful for having been brought up through a dual cultural experience, as it’s played a significant role in my open-mindedness. i am now embracing the part of me that i abandoned as a kid instead, because i am proud to be chinese as much as i am proud to be canadian.
coincidentally, in the midst of my pursuit of cultural rekindling over the past couple years, discussions about equal representation for POC in north american media have grown. “crazy rich asians” is the most popular and successful milestone for asian-american representation, but there are also the tv shows “fresh off the boat” (loosely based off of eddie huang’s asian american upbringing) and “kim’s convenience”, which airs on CBC.
however, as a passionate music enthusiast, my absolute favourite thing that has “risen” in the asian community is an asian american based hiphop/r&b collective known as 88rising. what i love about 88rising is that the founder, sean miyashiro, took it into his own hands to create something for asians, by asians. in the age of online outrage culture, instead of sitting around and complaining about the lack of POC representation and waiting on white people to tell our narrative, he took action to help normalize asian representation. being based in the states, 88rising gives promising up-and-coming asian artists a platform for global exposure, whilst giving millennial asians like myself a sense of belonging and something to relate to. the artists 88rising promotes derive from all over asia (china, indonesia, korea, japan, etc) and north america, many of which i had the pleasure of seeing live on the 88rising tour back in september.
one of the most popular artists on their roster is the higher brothers. they are currently the biggest music group in china and they rap and sing in mostly mandarin + some english, as they strive to bridge the east and west through hiphop. lyrically their music ranges from formulaic mainstream rap themes (getting money n pussy), to cute catchy love songs, to songs about red pockets and wechat, or songs that make references to aspects of chinese culture that was present in my upbringing. all of it packaged in catchy melodies and fire production, so that most millennials, asian or not, can fux with it. it’s a really beautiful thing to see music and hiphop bring different cultures together. whether if it’s higher brothers drawing influence from hiphop music or aspects of black culture, or wu-tang clan making a career out of shaolin philosophy, it goes to show that cultural appropriation can be done responsibly— as famous hiphop radio host, ebro, says in this short vice doc.
all in all, higher brothers’ rise to fame could not have come at a better time, as it perfectly coincides with my current path of self-discovery, or rediscovery, i should say. although difference in values was one of the main sources of conflict and hostility in my relationship with my family (chinese culture mirrors the aforementioned collectivist values of japanese society to an extent, particularly filial piety), there are still aspects of chinese culture that i hold dearly and find a sense of home in. and as i write this, i am learning that perhaps this whole journey of reconnecting with my roots is more about finding home than it is about strengthening my sense of identity.
deep shit aside, i’d be lying if i said food wasn’t a major deciding factor in my upcoming trip to taiwan and hk. especially taiwan. bubble tea, xiao long bao, beef noodle soup, etc. fuck. i’m going to return to canada from this trip all self-actualized but 69 pounds heavier. guess you will all have to help me fuck the extra weight away.
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