Me, Japan, and Migrancy


JAPAN Feb. 16. 2016

Ben Keran

I’ve separated my ideas about myself, Japan, and migrancy into three separate groups.


It’s amazing to think that I was never on the ground for the entirety of January 18th.

It’s amazing to think that I’ve only physically been in Japan for 3 three weeks after what feels a lifetime.

It’s amazing to think that people live entire lifetimes without ever stepping near a Kyoto temple.

It’s amazing to think that my host family’s daughter doesn’t speak any English, yet she’s the one I understand the most.

It’s amazing to think that I have 50-minute commute to school and I wish it were longer.


Days crawl by when you’re too interested with everything around you. I’m infantilized by my self-reliance and I’ve never been more sure of how good it feels to be lost.



Japan isn’t weird. Japan isn’t normal. Japan isn’t what the movies say it is. Japan isn’t what the Japanese say it is. Japan doesn’t exist in a textbook. Japan doesn’t exist in a mindset. Japan looks at me funny for asking how to properly eat the fish in front of me. Japan pulls me by the arm, asking me to come play. Japan feels historic. Japan feels new.

 To me, Japan seems to be confident that not even Japan can define itself. But it should not be forgotten that in the Land of the Rising Sun, the sun also sets.



Ask the next person you see that doesn’t speak English how to get somewhere. Only say the name of the location and wait for a response. What an amazing experience to see how people react when they know that you can’t understand them. Hand signals soon become the medium in which all are fluent. Then, try and come up with the best way to tell someone, (without using any words) that they’ve walked so far from the place they are trying to get to, that you don’t even know how to get there.

Now imagine yourself as a migrant. You are a person courageous enough to enter a country in which you know absolutely nothing of the language and try to establish a life there. You try to start a life where you can’t read tax forms, you don’t know how to enroll your children in school, and you can’t read job listings in the paper. Try to start a life where an unbelievably large part of the country sees you as a threat to their existence when you just want the best for you and your family. To see the world with open eyes, one needs to first live with a closed mouth.


JAPAN Feb. 16. 2016

Ben Keran