Yesterday, on the way home from our tour, a friend of mine relayed to me some information about the cello. At least twice on the tour, our section leader had organized Japanese member only cello section gatherings. I've been given some reasons for why this happened and additional information, but because I don't have a first-hand account of it, I'll leave it at that. Regardless, it highlighted a reality: that there is a division between Japanese members and foreigners. It seems there is an exclusion that sometimes naturally settles when language and culture are not mutually native. This is my first time being a minority somewhere and Japan is extremely non-diverse. There is the in-crowd, and then there are the others. It's a funny feeling sometimes and because the majority of people that I meet and that I play with are very friendly, I forget that these human tendencies can exist. But within a population, of course they do. There can be fear of being physically close to someone who is different, a fear of not being understood, and a fear of not understanding. These are uncomfortable things and it is natural for someone to want to protect themselves from them and to avoid them as much as possible. But they can also hurtful.
It is something to remember. As diverse and accepting and open as we can be, otherness still exists. It comes whenever we label: old, young, sick, healthy, educated, ignorant, gay, straight, Democrat, Republican, us, them. There are labels we use to simplify the world and in the course of language, perhaps they are unavoidable. But it is a reminder of compassion for what we are not and what we don't understand, to be aware of how little we know, to replace avoidance with welcome, and fear with observance.
I am thankful that this is the only clear case of this I've experienced. There are other shades of it that permeate life here, but I think it is only natural and for the most part it is benign. In a way, this otherness of which I can't help but be more aware, may be part of what brought Kaneko-san to volunteer at the Takarazuka International Friendship Association. It may be part of the reason people are so enthusiastic to speak with me, to practice their English, to get to know someone who isn't Japanese.
The world is separate from us, but perhaps only to the extent to which we make it so. It hurts to be excluded, to be mistrusted. And what to do about it but to extend an offering and open a trust as able? No matter how cold someone seems, my bow is almost always returned.
I saw Kaneko-san this morning. It was wonderful to laugh with him again.