“There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.”

Robert Louis Stevenson, The Silverado Squatters

To many of my readers, I believe this word to be something completely new to them, and this section is to provide treatment for that information’s absence. In the most literal sense, “gaijin” (pronounced “guy-jean”) means foreigner, but there is more nuance to this word than you may expect. If taken literally, the word, written in Japanese as “外人,” literally means “outside-person,” with the meaning taken from the respective meaning of each of the two Kanji, the complex characters used in Japanese writing, used to form the word. So, in a sense, each person is a gaijin of some kind, but in Japan the term is slang for any foreigner in Japan, especially those of European descent.

In formal Japanese, the term used to refer to foreigners is  “gaikokujin,” written in Japanese as “外国人,” and pronounced “guy-ko-coo-jean.” This word’s literal translation is “outside-country-person,” and from this translation it is readily apparent that the word is more proper for a formal consignment of meaning attached to the word; as such, this is the kind of word used in governmental and business settings.

However, the vernacular uses the abbreviated form much more regularly, and, seeing as I will be completely immersed in the culture, I decided that the slang would me much more appropriate for how informal I intend this blog to be.

I decided on the name of the blog after remembering a 2003 film called Memoirs of a Geisha. I can recall seeing the promotional materials and how they prominently featured the face of a beautiful giesha in the traditional white makeup and bright red lips, and image which even now, 15 years later, I can still vividly recall. The name was always something which I remembered as well, for at the time I was six or seven years old, and the word “memoirs” was a new one which I found intriguing as I began to cobble together my own repertoire of words.

Neither myself nor anybody else could have guessed that 15 years after viewing this poster I would be going to the land where the Geishas can be found, and upon realizing this connection as well as just how classically romantic, in the sense that it is concerned with the thoughts and feelings of the voyage, the name is, I decided to name my blog after this unforgettable poster and the meaning it has kept with me for these past 15 years.

I plan to carry this meaning forward as I explore this new Chapter in my life and find new experiences, and I eagerly await sharing these experiences and lessons with all of you.

What to Expect from the Blog

For this first post, I wanted to give an outline of what to expect as I go through this process as well as shed some light on the name of the blog, as I am sure many of my readers are unaware of its meaning. At this point in time, my plan for the blog is fairly simple: the Saturday of each week I will upload a blog post, and the topic will vary from week to week, though I do not expect to deviate too far from the formula I have in mind. Rather than documenting the experiences I have had throughout the week, I will instead use the blog post to unpack something that has been on my mind that week.

It may be something that my student does in the classroom, or maybe something I saw while I was out on the town, or maybe just something that I think of and meditate on throughout the week. With this format, I expect to have no shortage of content to talk about, and I feel that this will help keep everything fresh and entertaining, the main goal I have with this blog.

In addition to the written content of each post, I have two other components that I intend to make key parts of each blog post: a picture (or pictures) and a song of each week. For the pictures, I intend to have a picture that relates to the topic at hand, such as picture of a temple while I talk about the religious ceremony that I observe there one afternoon, but some weeks it may be used a filler in lieu of a more appropriate picture that I may have taken.

I intend to use the picture in both the body of the text and well as the promotion of the posts on my Instagram account, listed on the sidebar of the website. I believe that the pictures will add a fine accent to the stories I will tell and help my readers put themselves in the location of my stories.

The songs, on the other hand are far more independent of the post’s body and message, though not entirely. At the bottom of each post I will link a song that I had listened to a lot that week, and then a small blurb about why I decided to use that song for that week. However, unlike the pictures, the songs will be almost like their own entity, and as such may have a strong connection to the post, or none at all; it all depends on how I’m feeling that week.

Each song is also going to be added to a playlist which I will be sure append onto each week’s post with the new addition. My taste in music is fairly broad with a penchant for pop-punk music, but the playlist very well may have extreme shifts between Blink 182, Miles Davis, Kanye West, Led Zepplin, and Jekyll & Hyde; I fully expect this to be the case, and I think it will keep things fresh in a way that the blog posts and pictures are unable to accomplish.

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Song of the Week

Memoirs of a Gaijin Playlist

“Africa” by Toto

I know this seems like a very odd pick, since the continent of Africa is several thousand miles away from Japan. However, I feel that this song is startlingly applicable to the my current situation. Anybody who knows me halfway well knows that I have a fiery passion for this song, and will enthusiastically put it on at any moment, often without any justifiable reason. But I still love it all the same, even after 1000 times. The idea of using the song came to me when I remembered what I read about how David Paich, keyboard player and vocalist of Toto, conceptualized the song: “I wrote about a person flying in to meet a lonely missionary. It’s a romanticized love story about Africa, based on how I’d always imagined it. The descriptions of its beautiful landscape came from what I’d read in National Geographic” (The Guardian).

In the same way that this fictional character is traveling to a new land that he has idealized as he has read about it, I too am going to new land whose image in my head has been shaped by over a decade of consumption of films, anime, manga, books, video games, and cultural classes & research. I do not expect it to meet all of my expectations, and I feel that “Africa,” and what it the story that it tells, will help me to keep that in mind as I embark on this journey.

If you would like to listen to this song or any of the other prior Songs of the Week, check out the Spotify Playlist linked above!

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