As a late bloomer, I often learn lessons too late to be of practical value. One of those is this: Japan is a weird place. It attracts weird people, and the longer you live in Japan, the weirder you become.

The term late bloomer is used metaphorically to describe a child or adolescent who develops slower than others in their age group, but eventually catches up, and in some cases, overtakes their peers. I consider myself a late bloomer, although it is perhaps more accurate to say I am a too-late bloomer; being a day late and a dollar short is one of the overarching themes of my life.

I only learned how to learn in my last year of college. I only discovered my European roots after spending most of my life in Japan. I only woke up to white genocide after marrying outside my race and having a mixed-race child.

It took me far too long to see through the lies and bullshit we are force fed from birth through the institutions that shape our worldview: schools, churches, media and the government. It took me far too long to understand who I am and what I want out of life.

Greg Johnson, Editor-in-Chief at Counter Currents Publishing, in answering “questions for normies” addressed the issue of interracial marriage in the context of whether such a couple would be welcome in a white ethno-state. His response hit very close to home for me. “If you married a Japanese woman, you should go live in Japan. You made your choice, so live with the consequences.” In Mr. Johnson’s view, people like my wife, son and I have no place in his ethno-state. Apparently, I am condemned to live in Japan for the rest of my life. If only Mr. Johnson could understand that the unforgivable transgression he accuses me of is, itself, the punishment. Banishment only adds insult to injury.

When I began studying Japanese in college, my interest in Japan was mainly focused on Japanese Buddhist temples and art. Most of the other students in my Japanese class were interested in manga/anime or martial arts. I have never had an interest in any of those things, but I suspect all of us were simply making excuses for the fact that we were afflicted with “yellow fever.” That would probably explain why there was only one girl in my Japanese class.

Almost everyone I met in those classes was weird. Naturally, I include myself in that category. My friends and family certainly thought I was weird for wanting to live and work in Japan. This was pre-Pokémon, so the world had not yet fallen in love with the bizarre world of Japanese pop culture. This was also pre-internet, so I had to go all the way to Japan before I discovered that they censor their porn. I was disappointed, but not deterred.

For the first several years of living in Tokyo on my own, I tried hard to “assimilate” and become as Japanese as possible. As I am an American, I was expected to be an American, not speak and act like a Japanese. In essence, I wasn’t foreign enough. Yet, if I acted too foreign, Japanese didn’t like that, either. Trying to figure out how to navigate the narrow path between the two is a great way to drive yourself insane, making weirdness an inevitability.

But how sane is it to be a Westerner living in Japan (or any non-Western country for that matter) attempting to assimilate to the native culture?

There is an inherent paradox here. Throughout history, Japan has adopted all sorts of things from other countries, then adapted them to suit their needs. Very often, the thing adopted becomes so warped (and weird) it becomes barely recognizable. In ancient Japan, this “cultural appropriation” mostly came from China. Since the Meiji Period, and especially after World War II, Japan has focused its serial appropriating on the West in general and the United States in particular. Thus, when a Westerner living in Japan attempts to assimilate themselves to modern Japan, they are in a sense adapting themselves to a bastardized version of the country they came from. The results can be very weird, indeed.

It has taken me a long to time—too long—to realize that the best way to preserve my sanity and maintain happiness in Japan is to avoid engaging in Japan to the extent possible. The deeper you go, the more lost you become. And if you go too deep, you risk touching the core…never, under any circumstances, should you touch the core. That way lies madness. And I should know: I have been there and back.

Japan is one of those places where people go and either run for their lives after a few months or stay forever. It is very polarizing in that sense, and I presume there are very few foreigners who have lived here for any length of time that are ambivalent in terms of how they feel about Japan.

The longer you stay in Japan, the harder it is to leave. Like all those Western objects imported and altered by the Japanese to suit their tastes and needs, foreigners also become warped and twisted to such a degree that it becomes nearly impossible to live outside Japan. Once you adapt to the weirdness that is Japan, you don’t really fit in anywhere else. Ironically, you still aren’t accepted in Japan, either. Until your final day here, the Japanese will never let you forget you are different, an an outsider who does not belong.

I think living in Japan must be similar to what Vietnam War vets went through after they went home. If you didn’t experience it yourself, you have no idea what it was really like. The more you hear about it, the weirder it sounds and the less you understand. The vet realizes that they have changed significantly and they no longer fit in at home. They only feel comfortable around others who went through the same experience. Most bizarre of all, some even want to go back because they no longer know how to fit in at home and they don’t know how to live anywhere else. This is why I have boomeranged between the U.S. and Japan for the past 20 years.

The only redeeming feature of late bloomers like me is that I can serve as a cautionary tale for younger people. Now, if only I could get them to look up from their screens long enough to pay attention and heed the warning.