日本FLASHBACK: Then and Now

15.8.12 ShaSha LaPerf 8 Comments

So it's officially been 5 years since I've left Japan. Man, it still doesn't feel like it's been that long!

I used to joke about how I was going to go to Japan to "find myself" and in the end, I didn't. But a few days ago, I actually took time to think about that comment and decided I wasn't completely accurate. You see, I do think "finding myself" is the right way to say it. I feel like the time I spent in Japan has turned me into a much different person than I was, and these were changes for the better in my eyes. Would they have happened had I not gone to Japan? I don't know. Maybe. But the fact is that they happened while I was there and I still talk about the time I spent in Japan is because I did learn a lot about myself while I was there.

And I wanted to spend some time reflecting on the things I learned about myself and whether or not those things still stuck with me.

1. I learned that I look damn good with natural hair.
Back in 2004, I decided to go natural. I've always had issues with my hair (I later found out I have seborrhoeic dermatitis), and it was the first thing I thought about when I found out I was moving to Japan. Luckily I didn't live too far from a hair salon so I started getting braided extensions. Eventually through the braids and hair clipping, I grew out the perm and took my hair dresser's suggestion of using my own hair and getting twists. So I figured, what the hell, why not? I was in Japan, why not do something I probably wouldn't have given much though to before. Everyone loves it! LOL yes, I did get the "can I touch your hair?" questions every now and then. I was also asked who did my hair by Japanese folks as they wanted to copy the style. I decided to keep getting my hair twisted for the remainging time I was in Japan.

Did it Stick?
In DC being natural isn't a big deal. You can find fro, dreads, and twists all over the place. About a year after I returned to Japan, I decided to get the BC, which I've been growing out sense. I try to keep my SD under control with frequent washes with medicated shampoos and what not. And thanks to YouTube, I've found easy, cheap ways to twists my own hair. Or sometimes I rock an afro. I generally get positive reviews for my hair--though my family up in Detroit are still asking me what's "wrong" with my hair. >_< And Shen loves my hair.

2. I learned I wanted to be a J-pop singer or dancer.
I'm dead serious. When I was in Japan, I was obsessed with three shows: Shounen Chample, BLOOM, and Uta Star. Shounen Chample was a dance show somewhat like that featured different hip-hop dances and their styles. It was more of a showcase then a competition and occasionally they would have choreographers as well--even some from the states. BLOOM also featured hip-hop dancers, with more of a battle round setup. This show was way more low budget than Shonen Chample, and just aired after midnight on TV Tokyo. My friend Teri and I actually went to a taping of the show and got to be on the air for a total of 3 seconds, LOL. The other show is Uta Star. On Uta Star, you were given a chance to sing in front of well known Japanese producers for 30 seconds. If they liked what they heard, they would hit a buzzer giving you another 30 seconds. This would go on until you reached the chorus and producers would decided to work with you. Kinda like The Voice. For some silly reason, I totally thought I could do well on any of these shows. My dancing skills weren't bad and my vocal skills aren't awful either. I figured I could be the next singing, dancing J-pop machine using the idea of me being a foreigner as a way to sell records. LOL Jero beat me to the punch. But I also knew my Japanese skills weren't the best, especially if I had to read a contract, I was going to push myself to learn more Japanese and audition for any of these shows.

Did it stick:
LOL of course not. The extent of my dancing is in my apartment, Zumba class, and the occasional night club. I still like to sing and do karaoke. There are videos of me floating around on YouTube performing karaoke at anime conventions. But that's about it.

3. I learned that there's nothing wrong with going out alone.
The first time I decided to go clubbing by myself was because around Christmas time my first year in Japan. The two friends I'd had at the time were both out of the country, and I was bored. My friends for some odd reason were to scared to go to a predominately Japanese club, but I was curious. So I went out on Christmas night...and had a blast!  It didn't bother me that I was alone. I simply immersed myself in the music and danced my ass off. Of course being one of the few black women in the club--in some cases the only black woman--means I got a lot of attention. Both men and women wanted to dance with me (though women wanted to learn my moves). So I realized that while I enjoyed hanging with my friends, I could also hang alone and still have a lot of fun. I started going to other clubs by myself, dancing for hours. I don't drink much so I didn't worry about getting drunk. I made friends with bartenders, dancers, DJs, and other club goers.

Did it stick:
Yep! When I got back to the states, I hit clubs solo in the DC area pretty often. I have to say that I am a bit more cautious here than I was in Japan though. I didn't think twice about walking home from a club at 5:00am in Tokyo. In DC, I'm usually driving to get to places. Anyway the clubbing died out a bit when I started going to school and working full-time. And now I'm with Shen, who doesn't like clubbing much. Plus it's so much work clubbing here, LOL! In Japan, I was able to wear jeans, sneakers and cute shirt, I was all about the b-kei look! But here it's about stuffing your ass into a dress that's too small. Don't get me started on prices to get into the clubs and how much those watered down drinks cost. >_< Okay, this is starting to turn into a rant, so I'll end here.

4. I learned that I wanted to seriously pursue art.
I've been drawing since I was a kid. In high school, I was in an arts program that quickly went off track when I was in college. Although I never gave up on art during that time, being in Japan definitely opened up my creative juices. I spent a lot of time drawing manga, making fashion illustrations, even taking up making jewelry. I spent about $300 on Copic markers and I won't get into how much I spent on jewelry making supplies, ink, paper, even got a tablet and a scanner. All of this was a pain the ass to ship back home, by the way.

Did it stick:
When I got back to the states, I enrolled in school and earned an Associate's degree in design. Now I'm working as a visual designer which I love. Completely gave up on jewelry making, that shit is rusting in a box somewhere. Same with fashion illustration. Every now and then I do manga/anime-style work, but lately it's been hard for me to do it because my art style has changes a lot over the past year or so.

5. I learned that I loved playing volleyball
Although I played volleyball in high school, I didn't get interested in it again until my last year in Japan. I joined a local gym that had volleyball twice a week. It took me a while to get back into the game. But I loved it. There was a guy who apparently had played serious volleyball at some point because his spikes were killers. But I was one of the few people who could block him. LOL my students would look at my arms and be all like, "sensei what's wrong with you!?" Anyway, the games were always fun and everyone was very nice to me. I made some new friends that gave me a big good-bye when we had our last game.

Did it stick:
A little. There are a few intramural teams in the DC area, that I'm looking into. I watched every game I could when it came to the Olympics which inspired me even more. I'm hoping to start playing again in the winter. Unfortunately I have a problem with one of my knees so I'm currently trying to strengthen my legs a bit by doing some running and other workouts.

I have tons more stuff, but felt that these were probably the biggest things I learned while I was in Japan. Hmm...after looking at this list, maybe I'll give being a J-pop star another try! I'm not too old yet...


  1. You have accomplished a lot in learning about yourself. I can' wait until enough time has passed for so I can say what I know about myself like yourself. Reading this has inspired me to do some things that I've been interested in but never gave much thought in to doing. (I liked reading the part where you wanted to be a J-Pop singer/dancer. I wonder what it would be like to be a K-Pop singer/dancer.) :3

    1. Go do stuff!!! :) Even if you're not successful, it's still worth trying, because of the stories you'll have to tell people.

      Sometimes I wish I had put more effort into getting into the J-industry. I think I'm still a member of several dance groups on the site Mixi. I get updates of when people need dancers to join their crews, LOL.

  2. Awesome! It's always great to look back on your time and (hope) that you learn something.

    Back in 2009 I was an exchange student in South Korea for a semester. It certainly wasn't anywhere near as long as your time, but I like to think I that there were a few lessons that I learnt whilst I was there.

    One thing I think I learned is that I love martial arts. XD Before going there, I did Karate for 8 years, but decided stop because I was feeling unhappy about it for a number of reasons (believe it or not, politics within the style). I figured when I moved there, I'd take some time off from being a part of a club. for once and all that. Well, a month and a half later, I decided to check out the Tae-Kwon-Do club with two Chinese exchange students.
    Well, I not only found myself not only joining the club... but going 5-6 times a week, 2-3 hours a day. They were getting reading for a national university tournament and asked if I wanted to compete as well. Well, I decided to say yes and put in the work... and loved every second of it! I had never been in so much shape in my entire life! It was a great experience though and have a lot of great memories.

    Did it stick?: I wanted to originally, but I ended up being crazy busy with school. XD However, this summer, I decided I needed something to take my mind off of 24/7 of school, so starting in the fall I've registered myself for Kyudo and Naginata. They fit nicely into my schedule so that I still have time to balance my studies and work as well.

    1. I wanted to do karate in college till I found out how much it cost and how time consuming it was. :( Shen told me that he took a few years of martial arts. Did it stick? LOL, nope, says he's forgotten most of what he's learned.

    2. Ahaha! Yeaaah, even if have forgotten a few of my katas as the years have passed as well.

      And yeeep, martial arts aren't cheap (I'm already cringing at the amounts I'll have to pay for Kyudo and Naginata). That was one very nice break I got to experience at my university in South Korea. Other than the uniform and the tournament fee (both that were about 20 dollars), everything else was paid for. Including bus, hotel, and food to Busan for the tournament. Ah... I certainly miss that. :P

  3. First of all,I must say that I like you blog background.Now on to what I'm about to say about the topic.

    It has been said that the average person don't know what they actually want in life until they are over the age of 25. I think about the days when were in primary school and the teacher asks the student what did they want to be when they grew up.Though I said a movie critic,it was a lie.I only said that because I didnt want to look like a sore thumb as everyother child was saying they wanted to be the usual:firefighters,doctor's,lawyers,astore..etc.Even with them, I didn't think that all of them wanted to be what they said they wanted to be.

    Most instances as you've mentioned,you really do have to find yourself. Eventually,piece by piece..the puzzle will become a clear picture of who were supposed to be.Some people think that once you graduated from high school,you should know a out your aspirations in life and that is not always the case.Most times, you do have to explore people,places, and things before you know where you want to be.

    Ive learned about life far as where I want to be.Didn't think I wanted to go to college,but end up going(and want to go some more),thought that I wanted to stay in the neighborhood I currently live in,but now is pondering on a move. There are other things that Ive learned about my life and as I get older,there will be others lessons I will continue to learn about my life.

    1. Thanks! I wanted to have a more simple background, so I made this one. :)

      It's funny you mentioned the part about people not knowing what they want to do under they're 25. I've seen this with a lot of my friend recently. I have some friends that are totally stable, have families and all that stuff, and I have 3 friends that are late 20s/early 30s who are changing their lifestyles and jobs because they weren't really into what they were up to before. I used to be envious of the former because I FELT like I was supposed to have those things, but I wasn't really sure why. And being in Japan definitely put me "behind" in the sense that I started my career much late than planned. But seeing my other friends, I realized that it really is just a part of life for some people. And I feel like I've learned even more about myself since returning to Japan. DC isn't like Detroit, so I was again adapting to a new environment which is leading me to make more changes. I think a few years from new, I'll spend some time reflecting on how I've changed since moving here.

  4. I admire your ability to hang by yourself while you were in Japan. I like to walk and explore NYC by myself, but that's where my bravery ends.

    It's great to read the part where you discovered you wanted to seriously pursue art. I still have no idea what I want to do with my life. I love literature and learning languages (I took Japanese for four years). I hope that my move abroad will give me more clarity.

    I'm gearing up to teach English in Asia in the next few months (hopefully China). This is a great post to read before I go because I have so many things I want to start while in China like taking a martial art for the first time and learning Mandarin. I wonder if I will stick with those things or if they'll simply be apart of my experience while I'm there. Love your blog!