I spend a lot of time reflecting on my reasons for loving Japan, perhaps too much time. Now that I think about it, there is a lot of logic in just accepting it and moving on, perhaps there are a lot more productive things I could be thinking about. Buddhism teaches to accept one’s nature. Fighting against that which is natural only leads to suffering. Humans are imperfect. We do get angry and irritated. I was talking with another henro about this earlier in the week. When climbing a mountain, it is tiring. The heat, weight of the pack, pain in the feet, all these things can be irritating. it is not useful to feel guilt for being irritated. What is useful is to accept the irritation and try to be positive. Japan is appealing for a large variety of reasons. But I am not Japanese, no matter how long I live here. I feel insecure that my attempts to integrate to Japanese society are superficial or poorly executed. There are certain other foreigners who I look at with disdain for their awkwardness and inauthenticity. Probably because I worry that is how I myself appear.

But I love Japan. I love the constant flow of people around the train stations, the chalky concrete texture on every wall and pathway. The clicking of bicycle transmissions disengaged under dusky baskets full of groceries in polyurethane bags. The sounds lilting from the cracked windows between tightly packed houses. Piano lessons and braking dogs, filling bathtubs and balcony washing machines. A thousand smells wafting on the breeze, soy sauce and cooking wines, fish and mountain potatoes. How an intricate latticework of shadows from the web of power lines, telephone cables and shopping street banners suspended overhead.

But this is not my private banana republic, no matter how much I pretend it were. There are many foreigners living in Japan and many of them are likely as enamored with being here as I am. That duality is something I have to come to terms with. It’s fine that Japan is such a big part of my identity, just as it is for others. I am special and unique, but not entitled to pride or special treatment as such.