[Featured picture: Ookayama campus of TokyoTech]
I just recently moved to Japan, and the only thing that can describe life here, is that everyday is completely unique (Please read the Yotsubato manga). The people are truly kind and while they may not know English at all, but they will do their best to help you.
- The stories about drunk Japanese salary men? True. 2 Parties in my lab and 2 Shibuya night outs later, I realized that they do get drunk easily and that they are super funny with their expensive suits and drunk yelling at the same time.
- The stories about train employees pushing you to get inside the train during rush hour? True. Been there, seen that, not so funny. Luckily, I get of just as soon as that strange custom starts.
- The stories about too many old people here? True. Really large percentage of people over 60. And everyone here is aware of the dropping birth rate problem, they talk about it and seriously try to solve it.
- Discrimination issues? True. I am a Caucasian white woman, I don’t have it as hard as an African or a Vietnamese person, but still, I stand out and the Japanese notice it. For me, it’s a good thing, because that way I can easily strike up conversations. For many others, I agree that can be problematic at least. As soon as you walk inside a non-tourist izakaya or food place, they will notice you. In my case, I made japanese friends that want to get out and have drinks together every week, in order to help them improve their English. Also trust issues. I, a white European, eventually am more trustworthy than a Vietnamese woman. At the same company, for the same contract, she was asked to deposit money upfront, while I wasn’t.
- English and Japanese knowledge. Yes, Japanese people usually don’t know English, nothing at all. But, they are willing to learn, mostly young people. So, they will try to speak to you in English in order to practice, even if you are speaking to them in Japanese. The bad side: in tourist places like Shibuya, if you look like a foreigner, they will ignore you if you speak Japanese. They will try to communicate in English, even if they don’t know how.
- It’s quite difficult to find what you want in the Supermarket. All the labels are usually in Japanese only. JUST GO FOR THE KITKATS. Oh, and it surprised me so much that the ‘International stores’ here are those that sell cheese and other western products.
- It’s the first time that I’ve seen so many people with mental or physical disabilities to actually work and help the community. My previous experience in Europe was not so positive.
- They have actually implemented a system with red, green and red points awarded for every meal at the university campus, in order to encourage young people to eat healthily. Actually, I’ve only noticed a handful of overweight people in Japan, they are so conscious about healthy eating habits. (And cleaning and saving energy)
- Most Asian people around here are either married around their 25’s or are going to do it soon. Many of them already have children that want to bring here. One of the first questions to be asked usually is, “do you have a husband/wife?”. If not, they will usually try to find you a partner, especially if they are drunk. Some Indian guy even stopped me in the middle of the road to ask me if I have a husband, and after my negative reply, he asked me to marry him. So easy!
That’s it for today. I will return soon with more interesting facts.
[Above: View of Mt. Fuji and Lake Ashi, in Hakone]