I became an anime fan in late 1990, a bit over 19 years ago. That’s not the anniversary I’m talking about, though, but it’s an important point to make. I’ve spent most of the intervening years buying and hoarding anime & manga related “stuff” – art books, DVDs, cels, magazines, videotapes, laserdiscs, DVDs, shelves and shelves of manga… all the stuff that anime fans buy because it’s the easiest way to show our affection towards the genre.
Four years ago – and here’s the actual anniversary I’m talking about – my wife and I got back to the United States after our first trip to Japan, our first wanderings through Akihabara and all that implies. Japan had gone from a mystical place from whence came Cool Things to a Real Place, a place we’d been, eaten the food, taken the trains, encountered the exciting plumbing…
We shopped a lot. I mean, sure, we did some touristy stuff and came back with a lot of memories that had nothing to do with shopping, but yeah, we shopped a lot.
8 months later, I went back and did some more shopping. I mean, I’d like to say that I did more than that, but my photos from that trip are pretty damning. It’s pretty obvious that I spent most of my trip in either Akihabara or at Comiket.
About a year later, I went back for another trip. That was August of 2007, so of course I spent a day at Comiket, and I am not going to deny that I did a lot of shopping, but the photos from that trip show a lot more – I actually started exploring a bit, visiting different parts of Tokyo, sightseeing at temples, taking a cruise down the Sumida river.
That was the point, I think, where I started being less of a “anime” fan and more of a “Japan” fan.
In June of 2008, my most recent trip, I actually spent a good part of my trip roaming Japan with a backpack full of clothing, a netbook, and very little space to put any purchases. I still bought some fanboy trinkets, mind you, but I came home with a camera full of photos of western Japan and Shikoku and a series of blog postings that talk about weird food and capsule hotels and… well, wandering around being a tourist, albeit a really geeky tourist.
Then came fall 2008, when I started my sophomore year of college and was faced with the realization that, in a few months, I was going to graduate from community college and needed somewhere to be after that point. Logic dictated that I’d be going to the local four-year institution.
Logic took a pass. I decided that I’d uproot my wife and move – granted, only about 90 miles, but still a move – so I could go to a school with a better Japanese program.
There was only one small problem with this.
I hadn’t moved myself since 1994.
In 1994, I had a TV, a couple of VCRs, a couple hundred videotapes, a TurboDuo, a Genesis, a SNES, about 20 games, a laserdisc player, about 30 laserdiscs, some books, some clothes, a single Pentium-90-based computer and a desk that it sat on.
Oh, and a futon.
That was the extent of my worldly belongings.
Oh, and a 1986 Subaru GL-10 which was an awesome car up until the point where it decided to commit suicide.
Anyway, in 1994 moving wasn’t a big deal. I moved again in 2000, but I hired a moving company to do it.
We had a lot more stuff in 2000, but we were still living in a 1 bedroom apartment that was maybe 900 square feet.
After the move, we were in a 3 bedroom, 1300 square foot palace with an attached storage unit.
Faced with a surplus of space, we expanded… right up until the point, just after I’d decided where I wanted to go to school, where we looked at what we would have to move.
Doing THAT made me think about the future. I’m pursuing a degree program that may result in my needing to move to a bigger city to find work in my chosen career. I’ve even occasionally threatened my wife with moving us overseas, with Britain and Japan being two often-mentioned destinations.
Moving 90 miles for school is NOTHING compared to an overseas move, or even a move down the coast to the Bay Area or up to Seattle. Those are Major Moves.
I did a lot of purging, and we got through it. The biggest thing involved giving away our entire laserdisc collection, which was quite large and mostly comprised of import Japanese discs, to an appreciative fan. Really, once you’ve put $25,000 worth of laserdiscs into someone else’s car and THANKED them for driving them away, nothing else is quite as hard.
Anyway, we got through it, and we moved, so we were getting settled into our new place, and then my grandmother passed away and we found that we’d be, not exactly inheriting her house, but we were given the opportunity to move into it at a rent that made it a no-brainer.
So we’re looking forward to our next move, which will probably be in April or May of next year, and honestly I am trying to anticipate the move after that and trying to cut down on the amount of stuff that will involve.
Anyway, the Deep Thoughts I was talking about earlier came to me while I was tipping a large plastic bin full of copies of Animage and Newtype and Animedia into a recycle bin.
It occurred to me that what I was doing was purging my life of things that had, as a fan, held a certain symbolic value above and beyond their intrinsic worth. For better or worse, they’d represented “Japan” to me, and I was throwing them away… but it didn’t phase me. It just meant that, if we ever wind up in a situation where moving overseas makes sense, we’ll have fewer things to worry about when we do. We’ll be moving photograph albums and books with sentimental value and knickknacks from vacations and favorite sweaters, not 20 years worth of anime magazines.
It felt pretty good.