12 Apr 2010


So! Insomnia kicks in once again. Actually, that's not a fair statement, it's more like I've had too much sleep during the day as I went out in Switzerland last night, and had to catch an early train back to Milan (yes, I'm on holiday away from London, Easter break!) … so naturally, now I can’t bloody sleep.
Since I can’t sleep, my mind starts to wander all over the place; and of course I can’t help going down the kendo road. As I watch the web for news of the European Championships (EKC), my kendo withdrawal symptoms worsens. It’s been almost 2 weeks now without a practise. Kendo really is like some sort of drug. Fabrizio Mandia has managed to win the individuals for the second time, and France got their revenge for the ’09 London Cup in the team’s. To be honest with you I’m jealous of the guy. It makes me kind of bitter that he’s
managed to win the Europeans twice (beating Gibbo in the process this year), and al though on a much smaller scale, I wasn’t able to win the Uni Taikai. To top it off he did it in the individuals!You know I’ve fought him in a shiai once before, at he London Cup actually. Not certain which year though … he beat me of course, hiki-men it was. Not sure about the other point, probably another hiki-waza, like their tanks the Italians fare very well backwards! (referencing to the joke that Italian tanks have 2 forward gears and 7 in reverse) Of course he probably wouldn’t even remember the match, or me (well … I do have him on facebook and we interact from time to time, so he might after all). It’s not unusual though for the victor, in kendo at least, not to remember much about the matches they win unless it’s a particularly memorable one, with a friend, or in a final. I’ve often had people come up to me and go, yea! You beat me in the so-and-so competition this and that long ago. I’d just be nodding politely and go, “Yea! Of course, it was a really good match”, where in truth I can’t for the life of me remember who the person was.

Anyways, my mind wandered further into thinking how Fabrizio got to where he was. A lot of practise and dedication, of course, but also the fact that he was able to practise regularly in Japan. I saw his photos practising and buddying it up with Teramoto (my kendo idol if you don’t know by now) at the Ōsaka police dojo. I mean ok, since Japan is still the haven of kendokas, it is only natural that foreign kendokas want to go there and hopefully enhance their skills. I’ve never met a single strong kendoka who has never trained, or in fact, lived even, in Japan. So I was thinking about how I could do that.
One of my philosophies in life is ‘no regret’. Even if it’s something I did regret, I’ll eventually manage to convince myself not to. Now I’m regretting I didn’t take Japanese in school, take a semester abroad to study there, and immerged myself more into the culture so that I could learn the language and visit there whenever I want. My kendo would certainly benefit from that. I guess I could go and live there for a few years after I graduate, but would that be wasting my time? Besides I want to earn my own money as soon as possible; going straight to Japan would mean I would still have to live off my parents. I suppose I could work too, but I want to concentrate on learning the language and getting in a whole lot of kendo. I also don’t know if I like the Japanese working culture, the hours are horrendous. That’s the impression I get anyways. Therefore ideally, I should’ve done this during my undergrads. Yea, whoops. Too late. Now you see my regret? I guess it’s a matter of what I want out of life eh … how can it be considered time wasting if that’s what you genuinely want to do? One life, live it!

But that got me thinking about culture. Do I really want to dive in and become a part of that culture? Or am I just content observing it from a distance like this and interacting with it from time to time. Yesterday, Shohei and I were staying at a friend’s house in Switzerland, and we were unknowingly dragged into a dinner. We had to sit there whilst about 20 Swiss people were chatting away over aperitifs in Swiss-German, then dinner, and after. What a long evening that was. Yes, I am part Swiss, and do know the language but it’s rusty as hell. Especially now that my grandfather passed away, he at least used to speak it to me. It must’ve been worse for Shohei, he didn’t have a bloody clue what was going on. It’s hard to explain, but at that point it occurred to me that I’m not sure I want to become completely Swiss and limit myself to living the rest of my life the way they do: centred around Switzerland, their workplace, their culture, their customs, their Swiss friends, Swiss family, etc. I don’t feel completely Thai either (well … duh, I’m not). I often find myself having conversations with Thais, even at workplaces, and thinking … they’re incredibly Thai-centred. The whole mind-set and mentality, the way they think, act, do things … it’s just so … well, Thai.
So yes, I do have a bit of an identity crisis, I’m not Swiss, neither am I Thai. But what the hell am I? That’s what you get for being international I suppose: having a diverse background, travelling, living in different countries, knowing people of various cultures, trying to learn more about them, etc. Do I really want to add Japanese to the list?
To relate back to kendo and Japan, I’m not quite sure if I want to go and live in Japan anymore. What if I don’t like it? Perhaps it is better to look from out here and wish I was part of it. I mean I have been accused of being a Japanophile, even though I don’t agree with the label. Since I have already been accused, I will accept it for the duration of this blog post. What if I’m content on being a Japanophile rather than a Japanese (or a wanna be rather)? Then again if I don’t try, I guess I’ll never find out. What if I were to like it, but never tried, so ended up living all my life wishing that I was part of it, when in fact I could’ve been?
On that bombshell, I’ll leave you to it.

I suppose this is vaguely related to kendo as I’m sure a lot of non-Japanese kendokas out there have stumbled upon this thought at one point or another.

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