Foreign: Thoughts on traveling alone

momotaro part one-450

I think any county with a sizable population becomes a shell containing different countries. What do I mean? Back in the states we have New York, Los Angeles, and Atlanta which draw people from all over the world who, in finding equilibrium, create a culture different from those smaller cities, towns, parishes which house what we can call “Americana”. Said differently, Paris is not France and neither is Tokyo, Japan.

I woke up to a dark overcast on Saturday which got heavier and denser until, by 9:00 a.m., the rains fell in earnest. The festival was to start from 11:00. Here and there were costumed performers with face paint warming up — pepping themselves up — for their dance in the festival.

momotaro part one-400 momotaro part one-400-2

Remember those options from my last post? Well, when I walk down the street I stick out and the assumption is I can’t understand anything. I do like a pretty face, or funky costume, and I am not shy to talk to strangers. When I want to know something I go up and ask — we take that test drive together, which opens up the potential for the same series of questions I really don’t want to answer again and again and again and again, so generally I keep control of the conversation.

Talking with these people under the covered walkways in Okayama, everyone I met was from Okayama, highly unusual for one living in Kanto and coming from Los Angeles. This was not a small town, but people gathered from the same place have a social bond that’s difficult to enter from the outside which explains the word we all use –“foreign-er” — and it’s Japanese equivalent ε€–δΊΊ (literally ‘outside person’).

Becoming part of a group is hard, this is not unique to Japan.

momotaro part one-100-3 momotaro part one-100-4

The idea underlying something foreign is that it doesn’t belong, is not indigenous, is, well, ‘outside’ the norm. I grew up a composite of foreign things, so I’m used to it, but if it’s your first time the cold can be bracing. It is difficult to make acquaintances here. For me, I’ve taken my exclusion as an opportunity to become comfortable being alone. Walking by myself I see things people miss. And I clearly understand what I like, know what I want to do in contrast to what I end up doing with my friends, co-workers, partner.

Traveling alone, especially in Japan, is unusual, but with a camera in hand and tripod over left shoulder I am now a photographer in the eyes of these groups I glide by, and occasionally, delve into.

momotaro part one-9051 momotaro part one-9051-2 momotaro part one-12800 momotaro part one-4000-3 momotaro part one-3200-3 momotaro part one-2000-4

And they are, at least for this day, something other than the lives they left behind this morning.

momotaro part one-1400

 

 

 

 

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24 Comments on “Foreign: Thoughts on traveling alone

  1. I travelled alone for a few days in Japan and found that it was such a great country for solo travellers. Everyone was super friendly and everywhere I went strangers would make conversation with me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s really interesting. Were you traveling in more touristy areas? Many people find that it’s hard to get into a conversation. I glad you had the opposite experience. πŸ™‚

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      • Yeah, I guess I was in pretty touristy areas? The cities I went to were Kyoto, Osaka and Tokyo, and I think pretty much every day of my trip I had a conversation with a stranger! It might be because I speak Japanese so they feel more comfortable in chatting.

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      • I suppose they were pretty touristy, I went to the main cities such as Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto!

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    • Thank you, Eric. His mom with the red hair in the Playboy sweats might come with a price tag. It’s all about contrast. πŸ˜‰

      lol

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  2. These photographs are amazing! I especially love the black and white ones. Japan is someplace I am dying to go someday. The culture is so fascinating to me. Traveling alone would be scary, but an adventure and a way to learn about yourself.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve been around. If you’re going to travel alone, especially as a woman, I can’t think of anyplace safer to do it than Japan. Even through the language barrier, people would go out of their way to be accommodating.

      Save those pennies. πŸ˜‰

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      • That’s good to know. Japan does seem like a relatively safe place to travel alone. Hopefully I’ll have a travel buddy, but if not, Japan would be a good place for me to travel alone. Yes, I’ll have to save up for future adventures! πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m really enjoying your posts about travel in Japan – it provides really good information which makes the country and its people seem so much more alive than all the usual travel reports. Good stuff!

    Liked by 1 person

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