Sonny Jefferson, taking a big step in her life to acheiving her dream which starts in Japan.
St. Genevieve High School

Fitting In: why I want to go to Tokyo

I come from a family background that has always struggled financially through life. I have two older siblings, a disabled mother, and a dad who has been recently put on disability. I have never traveled far because of my family’s status. Although I have met many obstacles throughout my life, they have never stopped me from dreaming about traveling to Japan.

When I was in the 8th grade, I discovered Anime. With struggles at home, I found that Anime allowed me to escape my current reality into a world of fantasy where characters were not ashamed of who they are.  

Throughout my life I was bullied by those who I thought were my friends. Because of this, as I entered high school, I struggled with branching off and socialization. I spent the majority of my days sitting with my sister and her friends because I was scared to meet new people. I was afraid of judgement, of having to be someone other than myself in order to fit in.

It wasn’t until my junior year, my sister’s senior year, that I knew I had to be independent and gain the social skills needed to get through high school. I didn’t want to be left alone, feeling sorry for myself once my sister left. As a result of this recognition, I stepped out of my comfort zone and gained the social skills that allowed me to make friends that I know are in for the long run.

Before I made those friends I felt like I was stuck hiding underneath the shadows of failure. This was when I became so dependant on Anime and Manga; I grew a connection with Japan’s diverse culture. Within my own society I don’t fit in because anime isn’t as cherished much here as it is in Japan. Because of this realization, I have found a place and culture where I feel widely accepted and where I could see myself living someday. I have long dreamed of going to Tokyo, Japan. I want to experience their culture and explore all of the other layers of sub-cultures that are hidden within Japan.

In Japan, there are so many different sub-cultures, but they are all celebrated. Cultures are not seen as odd, but unique. They are all accepted, which makes Japan so exceptional.

I like to see different and unique things that normally my culture would not accept. I grew up believing that I was different than everyone. My struggles with being accepted into my own society and me accepting myself pushed me to hold such high fascination for another culture that resonated so much with me.

For example, the Gyaru is a subculture that consists of young girls who dye their hair to resemble shades of silver and gold. They also use fake tans on their body and put excessive amounts of makeup on their faces. I find this very unique because I have never heard of this anywhere else in the world. There is also the lolita. This is opposite to what other cultures believe lolita means. In Japan, lolita is a subculture that dresses up in clothes that cover their bodies, such as Queen Victoria. They are opposite to the gyaru. As a result of their unique subcultures, Japan also has unique cafe styles such as maid cafes, butler cafes, vampire cafes, and as a popular theme alice in wonderland cafes.

My family is unable to afford even the basic necessities in life, therefore, at times I knew that this fascination and dream of experiencing Japan’s unique and dynamic culture was only that: a dream.

I am an introvert because of my social experiences. Going to Japan will challenge me to become more open with new things. I think that this challenge will be easily conquered because of my previous interests.

While in Japan, I would like to visit the Tokyo Anime Center due to the fact that Anime is the source of my fixation on Japan. This will help me broaden my understanding of what Anime and Manga is like in Japan compared to what it is like in America.

While I do love Anime, I would like to experience Tokyo’s unique themed cafes and taste food that I have never imagined of eating. A place where I can experience this is at Ninja Akasaka. This is a ninja themed restaurant that seems unique and also fun to experience. While visiting this restaurant I will be getting a sense of how committed themed cafes and restaurants are to the setting they are trying to create for their customers.

Not only do I want to see the unique side of Japan but also the original cultural side of it. I will go and visit Meiji Shrine. I want to be able to offer up my prayers the heavens by ringing the bell. I want to be able to see what it is like to worship at a shrine that connects to Japan’s history.

I will use pictures to document my experiences. Because of my social experiences, I became very much into photography and writing. It saved my life. I am very serious about my photography. I love to try out different angles using black and white filters. To me, photography can speak a thousand words to those who view it. I want to be able to create that and express my love of Japan through my pictures.

I will show my love and high interests for Japan through those things that saved me. I want to be able to create a photo essay on instagram so that thousands of people like me can experience what I am experiencing. This will include pictures of all of the different sub-cultures and unique cafes in Tokyo, Japan.

Everyone has their own way of seeing things, and I will be showing the world my own definition of the Japanese culture.

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