I had never ventured out of the United States before. Not even the occasional Mexico day trip. I craved a sabbatical. I wanted a break from school, from the every day routine. In March of 2008, I left Los Angeles and moved to Tokyo Japan.
When I mentioned I moved, I truly mean left with 4 expanded suitcases filled with “stuff” that I would need for 7 months. Tokyo Disneyland hired me to work as an entertainer for the 25th anniversary of the resort.
As at 20-year-old, Caucasian, blonde hair, blue eyed girl, I stood out like a sore thumb to say the least. Soon, I began to learn and use the language daily, adopt Japanese social norms, and even create lasting friendships.
At Chapman University in Orange County California, I had been studying the Japanese language for two years. I cannot express the difference of studying the language and performing it in a classroom to submersing yourself into the country and being forced to use it every day. Hearing the Japanese accept and approve of my foreign tongue was one of my biggest accomplishments and rewards.
During the 7 months, I did my best to fit in with the local Japanese. I packed myself into the rush hour trains, shopped religiously in Harajuku, wore kimonos, drank sake, ate sushi, climbed Mt. Fuji, went to temples and shrines to worship, even adopted the social norms. I did not realize how much I evolved until I had returned home to the United States. On the day of my return, I remember going to Chipotle. I went into complete shock when I realized how enormous, impolite, and LOUD Americans are compared to the Japanese. I had to take my food home to eat in silence because I was so distracted and overwhelmed with my own culture. Even simple tasks as grocery shopping were difficult for a few months upon my return. I had experienced reverse culture shock.
The best part of this experience was not solely that I could perform doing what I love for one of the most appreciative and endearing culture in Tokyo Disneyland; it was the friendships I made. I still talk to my Japanese friends every day and continue to remember and cherish the memories.
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