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Curly Hair In Japan

When people imagine Japan, I think many people would picture beautiful scenery, anime, bustling cities, and really good food. What some other people might think of is the drastic cultural aspects of Japan including their cleanliness, punctuality, and politeness. These things stem from rigid social codes that are embedded deep in Japanese culture. To an American, these socio-cultural distinctions can be shocking. 

I am a military brat with an Air Force dad, and I've spent three years of my life living in Japan, stationed in Sendai. I also have curly hair. In a population where 97.8% of the population is ethnically Japanese and approximately 98.8% are ethnically East Asian, naturally curly, non-black hair is a rarity and honestly just fascinating to the eyes of the native Japanese. So, in other words, I shocked Japan and Japan shocked me. 

I moved to Japan when I was three, so there was little emotional attachment to America, but I was fundamentally American nonetheless - most definitely not Japanese. I hung on the safety handles on trains, I ran around wildly, I was loud (very loud) in public, and I was so strong-willed that my Japanese teachers asked my parents how to handle my temperament. I don’t mean to stereotype all Japanese people and kids, but I was not obedient to social codes and did not revere my elders to the extent that was expected of someone living in Japan. I was young enough to not notice the struggle or mind it at all, but moving abroad intensified the strain that comes with the life of a military family. 

My experience in Japan also brought a lot of new experiences that I have held close throughout my teen years as well. Good food, lots of travel, learning a new language, developing relationships, and realizing the extent of the military kid community outside of the United States. I lived on a military base for half of my time in Japan and was active in the community there. My father was also deployed during this time, and even at a young age, I was able to appreciate the support from the States and the benefits that come from a military community abroad. My family and I try to go back to Japan every summer to stay close to the wonderful experiences we had there. 

So, what is my advice for military kid explorers going overseas? Love the moments you had before the move and embrace the opportunities that await you! On a more practical and applicable note, study and familiarize yourself with the country or region you are going to, not only to hype yourself up but also to prepare you for a shift in life style that will definitely occur, even when moving within the United States.

Pertaining to Japan specifically, the norms are drastically different, so preparation will help you fit right in and take advantage of all the cool things there! My international moves have bred my love for travel and people around the world, and despite short-term obstacles, every new place, even with their differences from America, have wonderful things in store.

Military life forces a nomad-type life that is challenging but also very eye-opening. In my case, it led me to Japan which created a whole new world and identity for me. Perhaps Japan also got a little American-spice too (maybe…). I’m grateful for the opportunity military life gave me, which overrides the difficulties of constant moving. Military teens have a unique experience that sets us apart from other teenagers, and by embracing it, we can all take the best out of our journeys and bloom

Here are some of my favorite cities in Japan for if you ever visit:

  1. Kyoto: first capital of Japan, rich culture with tons of beautiful landmarks and buildings, good local food (as always).

  2. Sapporo: the snow festivals are spectacular (all the festivals and parades are awesome though), good seafood and dairy products (ice cream included), relaxing hot springs and mountain terrain.

  3. Tokyo: very good shopping (all kinds, food included), multicultural experience in a metropolitan (but clean) city, lots of big hit pop culture and historical landmarks.


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