There’s a TikTok meme that was circulating in the summer of ’21 using the video of the former glamor model, Jayne Connery, saying, “I want to go home please.” It was funny in that cruel but okay to laugh because it’s a mindless meme on the back of a reality celebrity kind of way. I laughed out loud for an entire second or two as the meme soothed my pandemic exhausted brain. That was a year ago, which, in TikTok time, is a hundred years ago, the same amount of time since I last set foot in Japan.
Like many other countries, Japan put up travel restrictions during the pandemic to protect its people. That made sense, enough to control my disappointment, an inverted mirror of the daily Covid chart. Then they let in Japanese citizens, a group I hadn’t officially belonged to because of Japan’s single nationality rule that forced a pledge of allegiance to one country, or a life in the grey zone.
Now I’m a … global Japanese. That’s a term I just invented because I don’t like the other names I’ve been called. Unsurprisingly looking up Global Japanese brings up knives, companies, tea association, kitchen, and even studies. No people. Like global Japanese don’t exist. Only we do already, exist and more, outside of Japan and off grid. We’re children of mixed-marriage parents, children of parents who emigrated elsewhere, children from elsewhere who grew up in Japan, and children of parents who traveled abroad for work. The last ones are called kikokushijo returnees, a dumb label that still makes me feel like the big bad wolf trying to huff its way into someone’s house.
As Japan trials group tours from four countries in June (UK not included), I’ll be thinking of all the other wolves out there racking their brains on how to get a physical birth certificate of a Japanese parent who can’t read anymore or move. And tomorrow, on the 21st of May, UN World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development, I’ll continue huffing and puffing and searching for ways to get into Japan. C’mon Japan, we’re not all big bad wolves!