There are a lot of things Sinjihn Smith, CC ’15, will not miss when he leaves the United States and moves to Japan next month. When asked to name a few, he says, “That’s hard. Probably people wearing Doc Martens. I hate those so much. And also hair buns. Mostly things I find in poor aesthetic taste. That’s hella superficial. Oh, and transition sunglasses.”
But Sinjihn, a recent December graduate, has roots in New York that will be difficult to move across the globe no matter how much Doc Martens bother him.
“I’ll miss good pizza. That’s what I’ll miss about America the most. And New York is sloppy. It’s made me love dirt and grime. Japan is so clean. I’m gonna miss ashy people on the subway and people trying to fight each other. There’s no violence in Japan and on paper those things are good but—I’m about to making a sweeping statement—I feel like people who value cleanliness and safety are kind of fake.”
Sinjihn, a computer science major, is also interested in producing electronic music and currently works on the side as a DJ. This past December, he put together a mix for Rare Candy magazine under the name Simara. The mix focuses on a future, post-apocalyptic world in which racial issues take center stage. Of his inspiration for the mix, he says, “I was really interested in what black female artists are making.”
Sinjihn tries to materialize culturally relevant themes, particularly those related to race, through his music. While Japan is extremely different from the United States, he is confident he will find a community there in which he can continue producing art from his experiences engaging with the culture. He is excited to start a new life in Japan, though his main reason for moving there is to be with his girlfriend of six years.
“It’s a collectivist society, but as much as it is collectivist, there is a lot of individuality that doesn’t exist in Japan. But I think when you have a culture like that—that is very homogenous—there’s still other people interested in other things. So that creates a really nice underground community. There’s lots of underground music. It’s not as cutthroat as New York; it’s community based and I really like that.”
Sinjihn says that he wasn’t always attracted to the community and society of Japan, but his values have changed after coming to Columbia. “Maybe this is what it means to be old, but I care about how much I’m going to make, and how much they value engineers, and if I’ll make friends at work,” he muses. At one point in our conversation, he remarks how much he “really cares about money these days,” but that money is not actually the most important thing to him. (He apologizes to me in case I was beginning to think otherwise.)
After reflecting on his own observation for a few minutes, he comes up with his credo: “It’s crazy that we live in a world that caring for other people is a radical form of love. Okay, so then do it like you’re going to war. Actually care about people. If you want to fight fire with fire, you can fight fire with something with the same intensity as fire, but do it with something better. In this silly war of attrition of people not caring about stuff, be someone who cares a lot. Be strong. Like the love Hercules or something.” And upon realizing that this may come off as “soft” or “preachy,” he adds an exasperated, “Goddamnit.”