A while ago I wandered into a little Japanese restaurant and looked at a little newspaper there aimed at the Japanese community living in Shanghai. In their classified section, I found a couple groups I decided to get in touch with.
First was the rock climbing group. It was fun, everyone was pretty chill, there were cool people, and rock climbing was hard but fun. I'll probably do it every so often when I have time, but my open times do not usually sync up with those of the rest of active members of the group. While getting to know people, I mentioned that I did naginata before, and people are usually pretty surprised to hear this. Like, "wow, that's... um... you're more Japanese than I am (and now this is awkward)" so I didn't really want to bring up all the other very, very Japanese things I was often involved in.
I got the "more Japanese than Japanese people" comment a lot in Japan, and though it was often meant to be a compliment, it was still a comment that rubbed me the wrong way. I'm passionate about traditional Japanese culture, but I'm not Japanese and don't claim to be. Likewise, does not having much of an interest in traditionally American things like BBQ or baseball make me less American? No. And yeah, there's a smidge of awkwardness when a foreign person knows far more about an aspect of American culture than I do, but there's no need to say they're more American than I am--and gosh darn it, I love it when some manga authors have really nailed American culture when writing it as a setting, and they're enough to make me look at things and nod and yes, yes, that's exactly it! How had I never noticed that charm before?
I went out last night to a kimono party held every few months. People dress up, go out to eat fancy food and chit chat. I was really on the fence all day about going because I had such a sore throat--literally changing my mind every minute. But I wound up going through all the effort of putting on the kimono and preparing to spend a small pile of money, and I'm really glad I did.
At this kind of circle, when I say that I practiced tea and naginata, I got a bunch of comments like "I want to do kyuudo, they look so austere! Hey, I practiced omotesenke too! Let's have a tea party in spring, I've got a few tools! Ohhh! Please tell me where you take your Chinese culture lessons, I want to go to!"
<3 These are the sorts of people I fit in with, no matter what their nationality.
It's also very cool that many of these ladies have lived in Shanghai for a long time (and elsewhere) and really like living in China. I've been having trouble adjusting--partially due to homesickness for Japan--but part of my goal for the next year is to remind myself how much I like Chinese culture. And I'm always reminded of that every time I go to my Wing Chun or Chinese tea lessons, so the desire to enjoy traditional Chinese culture is still there--it's just even harder to find people to appreciate it with in my daily life.
Turns out one of the ladies at the kimono party runs her business around kimono and Chinese dresses and she lived almost exactly across the street from me. The restaurant happened to be pretty close by, so we walked home together and had a very nice conversation, and even being a white person in Shanghai, it didn't feel odd at all to be wearing a kimono around town if there was someone to do it with me.
:3 With any luck I'll have some excuses to wear qipao soon too.