Nationality & Individuality(part 2)

9/April/2023 in Tokyo


Probably I love this country

Probably I love this country much more than I am conscious of

Nationality & individuality is what I've been bothered the most for the past 10 years

or, what I've been helped the most for the past 10 years

"I'm Japanese"
"I'm from Japan"
"I'm from Tokyo"

I no longer count how many times I used these lines over the past 10 years

No matter how much I hope not, I'm always treated as a Japanese

Go to a club. Exchange words with a countless number of people

I'm sure 99% of them forget my name immediately, yet still firmly remember my nationality or race

"Last night I met a guy........, I can't remember his name, but he's Japanese"

"I talked with an Asian guy........, forgot his name, forgot his country, but he's Asian anyway"

I've never seen this conversation happening, but with 100% conviction I know it was, since this is exactly what I do

I forget someone's name immediately, yet still firmly remember their nationality or race

Before my individuality, that is, my unique existence as a person with a specific name, this abstract concept, "Japan"/"Japanese", namely "nationality", always comes up between me and this non-Japanese person in front of me

It's even more emphasised in a country that is very far away from Japan, such as in Europe, even more so in Eastern Europe or Balkans

My nationality comes even further to the front

And my individuality comes late
Sometimes never comes

Overall I'm not that bothered by this anymore
Overall my nationality helped me quite a lot

Often they knew many things about my country, so that there were always things to talk about at the beginning of our interaction

This even brought some guilty to me sometimes, as their knowledge about my country far exceeded my knowledge about their country

At the same time, being treated as a Japanese, being labelled as a Japanese, that is, disregarding my individual traits, brought some sort of dilemma

For instance, if I was more polite than an average Japanese person (which is extremely unlikely), non-Japanese persons can't see this "virtue" of me, this individual trait of me, and they conclude as in "He is polite, because he is Japanese"

Various aspects of me are categorised & interpreted through the filter of my nationality, or stereotypes, and my personal traits are less considered, or ignored

However, what makes it complicated is that this line, "He is polite, because he is Japanese", still makes me happy

They don't praise me as an individual
They praise something I'm fundamentally part of,
which is surely still very nice

But the reason why it also brings some obscure feeling is, "What is my contribution?"

If I did something to make Japanese people to be more polite, then I should be genuinely happy

I did something and they praise it
Very clear

But the truth of the matter is, I did nothing

Yet, strangely enough, I get praised

The same goes to "I love anime", "Japanese culture is interesting", "I studied Japanese", "I like Japan" etc.

I did nothing with these things
It's all given to me by default

Probably that's why it's important to make a conscious effort to learn about one's own country, that is, history & culture, in order to genuinely appreciate & to be genuinely thankful for

My nationality, and everything related, is a significant part of my individuality

There are such nuanced, subtle, multi-layered elements between nationality & individuality