The Vast Expanse that is Asia

  Courtesy of Maps of World

Courtesy of Maps of World

Asia is the largest and most heavily populated continent on Earth. There are so many countries that are variations of one another, yet they are still quite different. I am an Indian American. My family is from India, but I was born in the United States. I am Asian by blood.

Many Americans have this misconception that only people of the Orient are Asian, but they're just half of what is there. Russians are Asian, and so are all of the Middle Eastern nations.

Religions, traditions, numbers, science and even cooking styles have reached each corner of the continent. All of these cultures traded with one another and have been united for many centuries.

In my family, I was taught a lot about Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam. I learned to cook Indian food, as well as Chinese, Thai, and other cuisines. I grew up watching anime and playing video games. I was exposed to my native culture and other Asian cultures.

Knowing about all of these nations in the East, I was still mostly fascinated by Japan and South Korea. I saw these two countries and noticed how different they were to the rest of the nations. They are first world nations while the rest of Asia still "develops."

In the time I've lived near Chicago, I realized the Japanese and Korean population is very small in the U.S. I wondered why. Even their media focuses heavily on themselves, rather than a global view - Japan more so than Korea.

When I looked into this phenomenon, I found that the Japanese are somewhat xenophobic. In Japan, foreigners are not exactly discriminated against, but the Japanese feel that their culture is being a bit invaded.

In Korea, Western ideas and customs are welcome, but like the Japanese, not a whole lot of their people move away to other parts of the world.

So much innovation and technology rose from these areas. Japan and Korea advanced these fields so much that they established the global standards. Their roles in science have greatly affected Americans in only this past decade.

In Chicago specifically, there are all kinds of people dwelling in many parts in and outside the city. The Japanese and Koreans are more close-knit than many other groups. In the coming weeks, I plan to focus my reporting on the Asian populations surrounding Chicago - mainly the Japanese and Koreans. For the Japanese, most of my coverage would be in Arlington Heights, where they are densely populated. I know many South Koreans live in Albany Park and the surrounding neighborhoods, and they are more abundant and active in the city.

I want to know more about this feeling of sustaining one's culture. It's fascinating to see how the West has influenced the East, but also how these people want to retain what's left of their society, even though they offer so much to global modernization.

Is it so wrong to change, assimilate, and become a world culture? What kinds of traditions should not be lost with time? How does one culture hold its ground so tightly that an entire nation will stick together? How does this mentality affect the rest of the world?