I’ve been having a lot of conversations lately that involve lamentations on my pretense of not being an adult, conversations that start with “having responsibilities” and usually ends with “sucks”. I’ve also had grown up discussions about taxes and savings and <shudder> children…. These are things that I am not yet prepared to discuss with anyone.
The simple truth is that I have a genetic predisposition against growing up. I’d blame my sister or mum, but that would be a clear lie to just about anyone who knows me or has met my older and less handsome twin who I sometimes refer to as “dad” or “father” in order throw off potential assassins. Like him, growing up feels like a word I’ve adopted in order to blend in and become part of the crowd, but which we have very little intention of accepting without a bitter prolonged battle in which elves and orcs will fall in droves.
Despite this, I can feel that dirty wench “Time” sidling up behind me. Everyday I have moments where I mention to a student about something they don’t know about because I was part of the final generation who knows about cassette tapes, VCRs, rotary phones, and knows that the Fresh Prince of Bel Air isn’t a new type of Subway mascot. It’s these moments that cause me to facepalm myself and sob for my increasingly disappearing childhood. And each time I do this, I feel just a little more anger and hatred for the young and youthful.
But Japan has interesting ideas about growing up, and I’m starting to see why a large group of foreigners stick around this country despite how messed up it seems. The simple truth is that being a little childish or having childish interests is perfectly acceptable. Grown men and women going to watch anime movies, hanging out and buying toys or collectibles from gaming stores, playing arcade games for hours, drinking and eating foods that seems childish are all things that foreigners see locals doing without anyone except us thinking it’s weird.
Japan doesn’t quite prescribe itself to the concept of putting away your toys and leaving your childhood behind. It seems to accept or at least tolerate older people taking part in childish things. I think half of my students regularly go to Disneyland or Universal Studios, at least three have all-year-access passes. And none of them are younger than 20. My Magic: The Gathering game group is filled with grown adults(both men and women) ranging from late twenties to late forties. A lot of them have families, all of us are working smucks, and we regularly invade and take over a gaming store in Nagoya every Tuesday.
And it isn’t weird, rather, it’s encouraged right alongside a plethora of internet cafes, arcades, video game and hobby stores, regular manga and anime events, and cosplay. This is a country that matches with a certain type of foreigner, one of which I’m similar to but not one of. It encourages this sort of behaviour, and I’m not sure if it’s (1) progressive or (2) yet another way Japanese silently judge people. It could be either or even both, this is a weird country that I doubt I’ll ever understand.
But I hope that North America does accept this, because it would be amazing.