“Perhaps home is not a place but simply an irrevocable condition.”

James Baldwin, giovanni’s room

For the last two weeks, I have been in an incredibly good mood.

I’m not sure if it is finally starting to teach in the classroom, feeling Kiryu become more and more like home, or just the extant jubilation I felt when I first arrived and realized I had finally accomplished my goal. Regardless, my outlook and demeanor have been especially high-spirited, and this effect was even further compounded today when I received my first care package from my parents back in Rochester. There was nothing of incredible value in the parcel, just a few books and smaller momentos from home that I asked my parents to send my way, and it was great to feel that connection with home as I continue to make my new one here. The concept of a truly global connection is one that I have learned much about this week, specifically as I have learned more about the concept of Sister Cities.

Sister Cities was a concept that I had always been aware of, but, until this week, I had been woefully unaware of them. All I knew was that some connection, spiritual, political, or some other variation, was nominally established between two cities in different parts of the world. However, as I have learned more about them, I have come to find the concept fairly compelling.

According to the website of Sister Cities International, the organization responsible for the establishment, maintenance, and expansion of Sister City Relationships, sister cities are a means to create opportunities for cultural exchange and understanding between communities all over the world. This concept is deeply similar to the role that my job as a JET, or Japanese Exchange Teacher. While I may not be many people from a city on the other side of the world, I am still a representative of my community, as I talked about in an earlier post, and I am here to help them learn more about myself and my own culture.

Heart Makes the Home

My impetus for my recent research into Sister Cities came earlier this week when I was actually doing research on my own home of Rochester, NY. As I was researching facts about the city to use in a lesson to my students next week, I saw that Rochester has multiple Sister Cities all over the world, from Krakow, Poland to Bamako, Mali and even Hamamatsu, Japan. This last one was of particular interest to me. My lesson is going to teach my students all about my own home, and the fact that I can now talk about a true connection between my own home and theirs is truly wonderful, even if Rochester’s Sister City is not the same one the students live in.

For myself, this discovery has been very reassuring. I now know that my hometown has a connection with Japan just as I do, though it may not be the same. And I now plan to visit Hamamatsu in the future, both to see the sights as well as observe how the city’s connection with my home has manifested. Even then, if I cannot find any notable connection, I feel there will be something classically romantic about the idea of a Rochester boy wandering around the Sister of his home all the way on the other side of the world. Perhaps I will eventually make it to each of Rochester’s Sister Cities, but for now, Hamamatsu will be a sufficient goal.

Most definitely, Japan is feeling more and more like home every day, and the discovery of my Sister Cities and my care package have only made me realize this further. As I settle in, I will find even more connections to myself and my home, and I cannot wait to find out what those are. For now, I will bide my time by reading a book or two. They are a long way from home, and they could probably use the love.



Song of the Week

Memoirs of a Gaijin Playlist

“Alive”performed by Anthony Warlow in Jekyll & Hyde

This week’s song is the first piece from a musical thus far. I only began to develop my taste for musicals about two years ago, and I have mainly listened to a lot of the standard popular musicals, such as RENT!, Hamilton, and Wicked. I was introduced to Jekyll & Hyde last January, and I was immediately engrossed by it. I love the original story, and the idea of adapting it into a musical with each persona played by the same actor was brilliant. I especially love the penultimate number of the musical, “Confrontation,” because of how Anthony Warlow plays up the dynamic changes between the personas and leitmotifs of Henry Jekyll and Edward Hyde.

I very well may introduce “Confrontation” into the playlist in a later post, but for now I will stay with “Alive.” As a lover of villians, Edward Hyde’s powerful ballad is as grandiose an entrance as I could ask for, and I especially love how it immediately establishes the character of Hyde as a malevolent force of evil who is out to craft a legacy out of infamy, a stark contrast to Jekyll’s own desire to create one from moral work. I truly adore this song. As he does desire, I believe I will truly and always remember the name Edward Hyde.

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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