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Crusoe the Painter

Lost in Translation

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So hey, I've known you guys for years. Kinda dropped off when we had kids, but I think everyone here is pretty level headed and only a handful know me IRL. 

This is rambling, and long.

The whole mess is this.

 

I am obsessed with Japan. Literally obsessed. I had a wonderful two week trip with my wife there. Before that I spent a few months learning Japanese so that reading the signs, knowing kinda the gist of what people were saying, etc, was somewhat possible. My interest actually started around back when I was teen, around bonsai and arts and craft, and the influence Japanese design had on it.

 

The language is brutal. I want to know more. The culture is fascinating. The food in general delicious.

 

The food? Eatting it, cooking, drinking green tea and matcha saved my guts. I shed 20 lbs, kept it off, my digestion improved. My IBS improved, my sibo went away. 

The wife had a blast, and she's like "You know, if an American firm gave you enough money to work there, I would be for it". She's in love with the quilt books and fabric stores. A Japanese bookstores is like US bookstores in their heyday. They're stocked and wonderful. The craft stores have everything you could need. 

Our only concern would be navigating the possibly brutal Japanese education system, or finding a expensive foreign school for our kids. 

So here I am making good money as a software dev. But I'm kinda of tired, doing basically glorious rest apis to backend datastores. I tried my hand at a Japanese joint for carpentry and didn't 100% flub it up. And it was enjoyable. I helped my parents prune some trees, chop up wood, and the immediacy of the feedback was refreshing. I told them "Man, I hate mowing but I could do this all day". And when I learned of temple carpentry and saw what they did, it stirred something deep inside. Like maybe I missed my calling, but it just could be my late midlife crisis.

My parents are loving, and good. But sometimes I feel I am needled more for my interests than my sister. I don't need to have jokes, no matter how good natured, made about every project I want to do. Like yes, I am weird, and odd, and I have been for 40 years, I don't need to hear it again. You all enjoy my cooking, so kinda cut me some slack when I want to build a hibachi or irori, and try my hand at some really old school robotayaki/yakitori.

No one looks at you too weird if you're a fan of french cuisine and buy french wine and cheese, and maybe visited Paris. 

 

But start talking about buying your own block of dried aged smoked bonito, and a proper plane to shave it with, and they look at you funny.

It's been ten months since the trip. I still have dreams about it. I think the covid isolation is making it worse. Because of the commute, and now covid, I really don't have anyone to talk to. There is a Japanese Culture center just up the road, with the local university, and a Japanese Language group. But basically, its entire focus is around their yearly anime convention. So I don't have any cooking/culture outlet there. Why not call it an anime club? Don't be misleading. The Culture center doesn't seem to have many programs beyond being festooned with a garden and supporting the Japanese language program.

 

Oh well, they do offer language classes, and since we will be working from home for the foreseeable future, maybe I should sign up. 
 

I don't know what I am looking for. 

 

Just venting more than anything.
 

I keep saying I don't want to feel bad for enjoying the things I like, but I still do. Why does everything need a comment?

"Oh, you could go into special FX"  said during the last dot bomb by my mom.

 

"Well, I had an interest in that kind of stuff, but you didn't like me drawing monsters, or telling me what I liked wasn't true art."

 

I know some of it she probably got from her dad about her interests, but sheesh.

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Eh, half the reason I do some of the things I like to do is because I know it's gonna get a comment from somebody, and then I can politely tell that person I don't actually give a damn what they think about my hobbies or interests. (If they have a problem with that, I'll gladly offer to share my opinions about every single last thing they've ever done, and can pretty much guarantee they won't like what I have to say...)

Your interest and hobbies are your own, and what somebody else thinks about them is irrelevant. What they have to say about it says more about them than it ever could you.

 

As far as the language class, do it... It's there, it's available, and you want to - that's all the reason you need. Plus, if anyone says anything, you can just smile sweetly at them as if you're giving them a compliment while saying something horrible about them in Japanese, lol.

 

 

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Welcome back to the forum. I hope you find answers. 

 

I stopped caring what my parents think about what I like or do back about 30 years ago.  I figured out they wanted me to be just like them, and I was never going to be that, so I was never going to be good enough to please them.  And then it just didn't matter any more. 

 

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Given the nature of this forum, we've probably all been in a similar situation at some point.  But it's hard when it's also family.

 

I also agree with @Mad Jack and @Inarah.  If your interested and a class is available, do it.  Screw them.  This is you bettering yourself with knowledge and a skill.  There's no better advice that 'just do it' and you shouldn't be ashamed by wanting to learn anything.

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I quit giving a rat what those around me thought when I was around thirteen or so. Where I grew up, there was tremendous pressure to be one thing or another, and I never fit into any of the offered slots. By the time I reached my rebellious teen phase, I KNEW there were others like me out there, but it took years to get out there and find them.

It wasn't until I was grown and married that I realized, for example, that Thanksgiving wasn't an ordeal. It was, in fact, a heck of a lot of fun. I realized it the first year I spent it somewhere other than with my relatives. That year, I spent it with friends and THEIR families, and that was the year I realized this: Real families, often as not, don't grow up under the same roof.

Would have saved me a lot of pain and trouble if someone had told me that twenty years previous to the learning.

If you're not hurting anyone else, be what you are.

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Your interests and hobbies are yours.

If anyone objects to them it's their loss for not understanding, it makes you feel good so that's what's important.

Pursue your goals that make you happy!

Life is too short to give a squirrel what anybody else thinks about your interests.

 

 

 

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Probably go for it.  The language is actually one of the easier to learn because it's a constructed language (it's not really natural in the linguistic sense). Get your hirakana and katakana and a handful of kanji and phrases first, then you can teach yourself pretty easily (at least with total immersion).

The Japanese think the outaku thing is pretty weird, but by and large they're also very accepting, polite, and will respect you if you respect them.

Just cram on the culture before and during.  Learn all you can about the people, not just the particular art forms you like.

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If the culture centre doesn't offer cooking classes, and you know a bit about it, why haven't you offered to hold one?   

 

Yeah, Japan is much more than poorly made monsterfilms and cartoons styled like early Disney movies...   

(What, you thought the big eyes is traditional Japanese?   )

 

I want to visit Japan sometime myself. 

 

Couldn't care less about their pop music, though...

Edited by Gadgetman!
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My Japanese wife would just shake her head at this obsession, then take her coffee out on the patio and enjoy her backyard. But she would agree with you on the food. It and family are the only two things she misses. To each their own!

 

I’ve occasionally found a job in Japan that I half-jokingly say I should apply for, and she’s deadpanned told me I’d be going alone.

 

Now on a more serious tone, do you live near any Asian markets? We make a trip about once every two or three months, and they typically have everything she needs to whip up what she’s craving. However, she also has found that Amazon does have almost everything as well. I’m trying to think of what foods she can’t really get here, and the only thing I can think of would be along the lines of certain vegetables that just aren’t common. That and she rails against freshness often.

 

I do get you on the missed calling. Every time we go, I want to dig in to the everyday items: man hole covers, guard rails, utility poles, buildings, etc. Just something unique to dissect (can’t tell I’m an engineer, can you?!) and I rarely get the time in our schedule. I do get to wander the home improvement store. If we ever got caught there during the apocalypse, I figure I’d wind up in the countryside repairing farm equipment.


But, the entire point I wanted to write was that my brother-in-law had a friend he took us to visit, a traditional lacquer artist. Boxes, makeup kits, etc. Got to try my hand at it, and he was surprised a little that I could get what he was trying to demonstrate. Hobby skills FTW! He laments that he is nearing retirement, but can’t find an apprentice to take over. Oh temptation!

 

I also have a lottery-funded idea to build an onsen resort in a mountain town we visit. Picked out the lot, planning the layout, and even running the finances on how it’d work (poorly in summer; have to go without attendants to cut costs). Alas, I need a large amount of cash, at least if I don’t want to risk my retirement and kids’ inheritance.

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If you are serious, I say go for it. Try to live there. You only live once, and if your wife supports you, then research how to do it. 

 

I am 44. I have been living back in the US, since 2001. Before that I lived in Indonesia for 5 years and before that Venezuela for a year. I met my wife in Indonesia and my daughter was born in Jakarta. I was an ESL/EFL English teacher. It was a great experience and the only reason we left was I wanted my daughter to go to an American school, and could not afford JIS (Jakarta International School) which I believe was $25,000 a year at that time. 

 

If you can afford to live below your income level for a year, I would reach out to some English schools in Japan. I am sure you can find sponsorship and at least enough money to stay/live comfortably. Especially if your wife also gets a job there. You wont get rich, but it would probably scratch your itch to be able to stay. I was 21 when I first went so was a poor kid any way. :) I was 19 in Venezuela... Was in Indonesia when Suharto was overthrown... Interesting times... 

 

Anyway, good luck. My kids are now 19, and 18... My wife and I still plan on retiring back in Jakarta, Or Solo. 

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My husband had parents that acted similarly. He was pushed in a direction based on an early aptitude test and he really struggled to succeed at higher levels of education in that field (science). But, it was what he was "supposed" to do and never really got to explore his own interests. He has a passion for history and I learn more just from listening to him talk passionately about it than I ever did in high school. He also loves tinkering and building and painting. But, he never got to explore much of those things and is kind of stuck in a dead-end career that just gets him by. *shrug* They meant well.

 

I, on the other hand, grew up with incredibly supportive parents. They were strict and expected a lot from me, but if I was interested in something, they tried to find a way to make it happen. As a child, I took ballet classes, tap dance, horseback riding, gymnastics, competitive swimming, etc. I didn't have my life planned. I was allowed to learn that I'm a superclutz not cut out for ballet, or that competitive swimming is way, way different than swimming for fun and something I definitely wasn't interested in. I got into competitive jump rope (yep, it's a thing), sang in choir, and I still loved horseback riding. I went from wanting to pursue a career in science to hospitality to business and they supported all of it. To this day, my parents listen to me talk about things that they personally don't care about just because it matters to me. I can tell when they don't get it, but they always try.

 

I've been chastised by my mother-in-law for giving in too much to my husband's hobbies. She has told me I shouldn't buy him things that support those hobbies, that it's a waste of money. Now, he has made up for lost time in trying to discover his interests as an adult. He has a lot of hobbies and he bounces around between them in phases. Just like my parents did for me, I support them all. I don't know any other way. And he's stood up to his mom before about this topic. At one of our first gatherings together after we got married, he called her a bad word because she was teasing him over something (a feeling you probably know and understand). It shocked her and she was upset. He explained how her teasing made him feel and she's like "it's no big deal, I'm just teasing" and he responded that he never teases her or makes her feel bad about things. Would she like it if he did? It got her attention. She makes fun of him way less now and seems somewhat more interested in some of his hobbies. I do think that she wants him to be happy, but doesn't always know how to get there. She tries.

 

Parents come in all kinds. You can't choose the ones you have. But, you can choose how you deal with them. Maybe you don't need to call your mom a bad word like he did, but a serious conversation may not be a bad idea. She may not understand how discouraging she's been or how much it weighs on you. And, if the support won't come, then find somewhere else to get it. Your wife seems plenty supportive. Lean on her. 

 

I've had several friends that have been to Japan. One of my friends from high school went, became an English language teacher, found his wife there, got married, has two beautiful young girls, and has recently come back to Texas to try to teach Japanese here. He loved it and I think he wants to return. A friend from college spent almost a year stationed there when he was in the Navy. 

 

It's never too late to follow your dreams. Being sensible and have a plan is prudent, but you shouldn't give up on something that is a true passion just because it's difficult in the moment. Keep working toward it, even if it takes baby steps and a lot of time. You'll probably be happier just trying. I wish you the best.

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Eh. Do what makes you happy; it's not like we're handed instruction manuals, right?

 

@aturriff is teaching himself Japanese. He's enjoying the heck out of it, and I'm happy to encourage him to do it.

I'm more interested in the crazy things that can be done with a sheet of paper and a little patience (oh, and the food.. ), but I learn some of the most interesting things when he trips over a piece of vocab that interests him.

 

So, yah. Go for it. People's opinions are their problem. ^_^

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Keep looking in your area for cultural stuff. I just found out last year that one of the few american masters of Japanese tea ceremony lives in my city and teaches classes.

 

There is a cultural festival put on at a community college in the nearby big city that, in addition to anime stuff, has kimono presentations, a bonsai competition, taiko drummers, language and art classes and food, but not really cooking. Many good Japanese restaurants in the area though. Keep a lookout, and do take that language class. You might find out about more things happening near you. 

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I worked in Japan for 4 years and have spent another couple of years there when you sum up various trips. My wife is Japanese, 20 years married this year.

I don't have much time and I can tend to waffle so I'm going to bullet point some thoughts

 

  • I moved to Japan after living in various other Asian countries for a short while (I was working in the oil industry) and I was blown away by the place, it was easily the coolest place to be.
  • The lustre wore off after about 6 months. A friend of mine who still lives there mentioned that it must feel the same if you move to Disney Land, sooner or later it becomes all too obvious that the things which seem magical at first are far more banal when you figure out how or why they operate. That's not to say it's not nice, just that the initial glow will dim.  A wet Tuesday afternoon in Japan is like a wet Tuesday afternoon anywhere else. 
  • Being a foreigner can be tough depending on where you live and how thick skinned you are. If you live in Toyko or Osaka you won't get a second look, if you live in a rural town you'll get lots of looks. I only encountered kindness but I know foreigners who have had a tough time in smaller cities/towns. In some cases you can absolutely embrace this and some flamboyant foreigners have done really well in Japan....despite seeming to be almost completely talent less to non-Japanese people ::D:
  • As a foreigner in the workplace you will be given more slack than a Japanese person, but you'll also be excluded from stuff and the Japanese way of doing business can drive you crazy. The hours are long, the salaries are usually excellent.
  • If you live in Tokyo, you'll be living small, living space is a premium.
  • Osaka, Hiroshima, Kyoto are nicer places to live than Tokyo and will offer a better standard of living while still providing lots to see and do
  •  You know about the food already, but I'll point out that wherever you go in Japan you'll get great food and service.
  • I'm not sure the EFL route is as easy as it used to be. There are a lot more homegrown English teachers now, plus things like the JET scheme dropped lots of unprepared young Westerners into the rigid Japanese education system and the reputation of EFL teachers took a big hit. The fact that you're older will certainly help in that regard. I knew someone who recently went to Vietnam as an EFL with the intention of getting experience there before applying to a school in Japan. It turns out he wants to stay in Vietnam now, but that was his strategy.

Good luck. You'll only really know if you try it, and IMO it's better to try than regret not going years later.

Edited by Beagle
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