A Sense of Belonging

I’ve said it before on Facebook and I’ve spoken about it with my friends: I never felt like I belonged in Australia.

Before I go any further, let me just stress something very important. There is a major difference between, ‘belonging’ and ‘fitting in.’

‘Fitting in’ is when a person examines a situation and decides to change who they are in order to be accepted by the group. ‘Belonging,’ on the other hand, doesn’t require a person to change who they are; they are able to be themselves, 100%.

In other words, what I’m saying here is that I never felt as though I could be myself in Australia. I am yet to figure out exactly why (mainly because I haven’t thought about it in depth), but I’m sure I’ll write a follow-up post to this one when I have.

Many people say that it doesn’t matter how long you have lived in Japan, you will always be an outsider, even if you speak the language. I read one argument that despite living in Japan for most of his life, one foreigner was told, “You will never fully understand Japanese culture.” As a result, he was highly offended.

My response to this: well of course not! You’re not Japanese! You always have a deeper understanding of a culture if you were born and raised in it. But the same could be said for any country where you’re a foreigner. Japan is not the exception.

Funnily enough, in Hiroshima I feel as though I belong completely. I have never once felt isolated, discriminated against or not accepted because I wasn’t Japanese. That doesn’t mean that I understand Japanese culture though, but I am trying my best.

Here in Japan, I am completely myself, which shows that living in a country where I was born and am considered to be a citizen of, does not necessarily equate to a feeling of belonging. In fact, for me, Australia leaves a lot to be desired.

I also now consider Hiroshima to be my home, rather than my ‘home.’ When did this change? When I realized that my answer to the question, “When are you coming home?” was, “Hiroshima IS my home.” I knew my restless spirit had finally been calmed when I hadn’t once had the urge to travel or move somewhere new in over a year. In essence, my soul had found peace. Ironically, in the “City of Peace.”

Maybe it’s nothing to do with a place, but the people you make connections with, the people who you feel most comfortable around and the people who accept you for who you really are, not who you’ve been pretending to be.

Now I belong.


2 thoughts on “A Sense of Belonging

  1. leahmama1 says:

    Hi! Nice to meet another ex-pat that lives here permanently. Where else would I go? I read several of your articles and everything you write about is very right on the point. Gee, I’ve lived here so long that i no longer have that command of English! Anyway, the topic of belonging was especially interesting because I think Japanese in general have a tendency to shut out those who are different. The family I married into never accepted me ( lasted 14 years!) But I feel much more a part of Japanese society than I ever could in the U. S.
    My daughter was bullied and left school. She looked Japanese and had a Japanese name. But she was different.I feel this is a fine environment for me but I cannot overlook this factor in Japanese society.
    How do you feel about what Edward Seidensticker said before leaving the country he loved and studied for so long?
    “The Japanese are just like other people. They work hard to support their– but no. They are not like other people. They are infinitely more clannish, insular, parochial and one owes it to one’s sense of self-respect to retain a feeling of outrage at the insularity. To have this sense of outrage go dull is to lose one’s will to communicate and that, I think, is death. So I am going home.”
    He apparently wrote this in 1962, so maybe things are changing?? Let’s hope so.


    • Jack Crispy says:

      Thank you so much for your comment Leah! I’m glad you liked my articles. I’m not sure if I agree or disagree with what Edward Seidensticker said. I think probably even though it’s my third year in Japan I still haven’t lived here long enough to become ‘jaded’ by what happens; everything is still bright, shiny and new. I will say, however, that from my observations and personal experiences, the so-called ‘perfect’ idea of Japanese society that many Westerners think exists, is not what it seems. The long-standing belief and fear of what others will think often means that the truth is hidden and what you get is a facade of what they WANT others to think. A good example is marriage and the whole business of adultery. Indeed, many of my Japanese friends said that so-called ‘perfect’ couples are in fact completely unhappy with each other but won’t get divorced because of what people will think. Instead, you get one or both couples having affairs (sometimes with the other partner knowing!) but they see it as better this way because the marriage still ‘appears’ to be happy.


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