Japan - My Family Travels
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Outside of the train station, forehead dripping sweat, I felt a severe appreciation for the inventor of deodorant. I had spent my entire life in the United States and my familiar Michigan summers seemed like winter compared to scorching August in Japan.

It was the summer of 2006, and I was visiting my childhood friend, Risa. Many years earlier, Risa and her family has been sent to the U.S. by Risa’s father’s company. Risa and I met in elementary school and were inseparable until Risa’s family moved back to Japan. When my father unexpectedly offered me a plane ticket, I was thrilled to reunite with my friend and to see Japan, a country I had only dreamed of visiting.

In Japan, Risa and I explored countless areas, each new and exciting. On one day, we decided to visit Grandberry Mall, a commercial center. The name, definitely not Japanese, seemed odd, and I wondered if most Japanese  knew what the English word “mall” meant.

Early in the morning, Risa and I walked to the local train station and took a train to Grandberry Mall. Once at the “mall,” I was shocked. The stores were arranged like a stacked strip mall, side by side, one on top of the other. Many of the businesses’ names were recognizable; Gap and Cold Stone triumphantly greeted me in all their American glamour. A large English sign guided shoppers toward The Outback Steakhouse. People bustled around, chatting and carrying shopping bags, and I felt as if I was still in Michigan.

Later that day, in the blessed confines of Risa’s air conditioned guest room, I reflected on Grandberry Mall’s strong American flavor. I had expected something exotic and distinctly Japanese and was grimly disappointed. During my trip, I would visit more foreign locations such as beautiful history-laden Buddhist shrines and quaint traditional restaurants serving bamboo. Still, I would witness many more examples of American infiltration of Japanese culture: McDonald’s on every corner, Aeropostle in Tokyo, Mickey Mouse on innumerable tee shirts.

My trip to Japan completely changed my outlook on the world. I once thought, naively, that the world was a huge place, each country completely unique. I had anticipated Japan to be outrageously disparate from the United States, but instead, found it frightfully similar. All-knowing Disney had told the truth: it was a small world after all. Although slightly depressed, I suddenly felt kinship to all of Earth’s inhabitants, realizing how alike our worlds were. I began to appreciate how all countries were connected: economically, politically, and especially culturally. The world was one enormous community. I would always be an American citizen, but I became a global citizen too.

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