I’m heading to Japan in less than a week for a trip I’ve wanted to go on since I was eighteen. A lot of people are drawn to Japan through anime or manga or all things kawaii. Though I have a healthy appreciation of Sanrio and certainly love miniature plastic food, I’ve been pulled to Japan by Bill Murray.
I have this little game I ask people when the conversation is dull or I’m getting to know someone new. What’s the last movie you’d like to watch before you died? People stumble on it. It’s not exactly, what’s your favorite movie? but the impression you want to leave the world with. My answer is always the same, Lost in Translation.
When I tell people this is my favorite movie, they respond in one of two ways. They either make a face at me and go, “Really?” as if I’m a different person than they thought they knew, or they kind of slowly nod and go “Yeah.” As movies go, Lost in Translation is pretty polarizing. It’s a quiet film with a lot of nuance, and I don’t think everyone can relate to it. Maybe it’s the happier people that can’t.
I was eighteen in 2003 when the film debuted, fresh off to college and trying to find my place in the world. I had no idea what I wanted to be, or really – who I was. It wasn’t unlike wandering around a foreign country, overstimulated and trying to find my way. Back then I identified with Charlotte, the female lead, and her trepidation about adulthood. In 2003, I wanted the entire world while simultaneously being afraid of it.
Surrounding this subtle story in the film is Japan, a character of its own. Bright and strange and at times obscure, it wrapped the characters in this shroud of unbelonging. Charlotte doesn’t feel at home in her own skin, and she certainly doesn’t feel assimilated to anything in Tokyo. Watching the movie as many times as I have, I wanted to think about my own existence walking through temples in Kyoto and drumming up my own adventures in a city made of neon.
Fourteen years later, I still identify with this movie and I’m heading to Japan. I can’t tell you exactly why I want to go. Travel wise, I’ve never been to Asia and am completely enthralled by the culture difference. In my quest to “see all the things,” Japan is a good place to start.
Emotionally, I still feel lost. Though I’ve grown stronger and learned so much about myself in the past two years, I still don’t know where I stand in the world. I have more of an idea about who I want to be than I did when I was eighteen, but getting there is unclear. For all of my adulthood, it’s been Tim and I versus the world. We were a team, and I am still on a very slow process of navigating that journey alone.
I doubt I’ll find any answers in Japan, but you never know. Maybe I’ll meet my Bob Harris. Most likely I’ll take a million pictures and think about my life through the window of a train. It’s been a long time since I’ve done that, and I’m looking forward to it.