Before going to Japan, I asked one of my friends for advice about what I should expect when I go.
My friend gave me this answer: “You might be looked at and treated differently because of your skin color. Japan is a homogenous society. There’s not many dark-skinned individuals in Japan, so you are going to stick out like a sore thumb.”
My friend had gone to Japan before, and as a darker-skinned individual, experienced some glaring and harsh stares from the locals. If that was going to be the case, I was hesitant to interact with the people from Japan.
Fortunately, my friend’s prediction did not come true. In fact, the people I met were the exact opposite. They accepted me without reservations.
The people I met on this trip knew that I was a foreigner, yet they invited to try tons of new things. From making takoyaki with my Matsuyama partners, Rie and Shiori, to joining an Obon Dance session at Dogo Onsen Town; the kindness and aloha spirit I felt from those individuals was very evident. These individuals were willing to help me have new experiences. Though I do not speak Japanese, I felt that reciprocating their kindness was one way to show my gratitude. This mutual exchange of kindness between myself and the people I have met on this trip allowed me to form a bond with them.
The people that I have met, immortalized in the hundreds of pictures and videos that I’ve taken, are people that I’ve been able to build a relationship with. Tomodachi means friend. And that’s exactly what I have made on this trip. After such a warm and welcoming reception from the locals, I look forward to going back to Japan.