In an attempt to boost tourism, Japan will be offering 10,000 free airplane tickets to lucky travelers from across the world. The program is rumored to begin in April 2012 in order to generate the tourism economy currently suffering from the recent earthquake and nuclear power disaster less than a year ago. The catch? Each ticket recipient must blog about his or her travel experience for the duration of the stay. Bloggers with a strong following and those capable of encouraging others to visit the wealthy island nation are encouraged to apply.
Am I one of those highly influential bloggers the Japanese tourism industry is looking for? Probably not. But my life’s new ambition is to receive one of the 10,000 magical boarding passes. Like Charlie, I will buy as many chocolate candy bars as possible to increase my chances of winning a “golden ticket” to the land of the Rising Sun. Since neither of my uncles had children of their own, I represent the final generation of individuals who bear the family name Tsukada. My name is more Japanese than any other part of my life and I want to learn everything I can about it’s origin and history.
In the two times I have traveled to Japan in the past, my combined visits totaled less than four hours. Both to and from the Philippines, I remained behind the thick glass windows of the Tokyo airport munching on green tea Kit-Kats and picturing the world outside. It was with reluctance that I boarded my connecting flight, whispering I’ll be back, before the island archipelago disappeared from view.
As a Japanese-American, I am constantly reminded of my identity and cultural heritage. Strangers I meet for the first time often ask me where I am from or what my ethnicity is. Many want to know if I can speak Japanese and make sushi on a regular basis. I want to tell them, “I’m as Asian as you!” but I simply say, “No, I am the fourth generation born in the United States. My father didn’t speak the language but I do hope to learn more about my culture in the future.” Nobody wants to know if I can speak Italian or have ever traveled to southern Italy, the home of my mom’s grandparents. So as long as I look Asian, I might as well learn as much about Japan as possible.
I wonder if Japanese citizens will notice the slant of my eyes and color of my hair. Will they be able to tell I am half-Japanese? It’s hard to say and my distinctly American accent will not help me blend in. Even if I don’t win one of those free tickets to Japan, it is a future destination that comes ahead of most places in the world. So I’ll brush up on my chopstick skills, practice the correct pronunciation of Konichiwa, and hope for the best.