Japan’s Rising Reggae Star

Plenty of foreigners are doing big things out here in Japan. In fact a lot of us just use teaching English as a side-gig to pay the bills. I’m writing a book, a lot of people also model, act or are into film and photography.

My girl Monique is a soulful reggae songstress and she’s just put out a video! Reggae has a huge following in Japan and Monique has a killer voice, so I’m sure she’ll be “big in Japan” pretty soon! Check out her video! 

And if you dig the song show her some love on iTunes!

Monique Dehaney- Look of Love- Single (U.S Store)
https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/loo…

(Japan Store)
https://itunes.apple.com/jp/album/loo…

Funny Stories on Being a FOB in Japan

The Nametag

nametagI am still such a FOB out here. One night my friend came over and we were drinking. There was a nametag on my table, which had my name on it in English, and above that my name in my own crappy katakana writing. (For those who don’t know, katakana is the Japanese alphabet  for writing foreign words.)

“What’s this?” he said. I took one look at it and burst out laughing. It was the nametag I wear for Japanese class. I’m supposed to leave it behind and find it again every week but I always forget and wear it home. And last time, I even went shopping after class and had it on. If you were a Japanese person, what would you do if some foreigner came up to you and started asking for help in toddler Japanese with a childishly written name tag pinned onto her collar? I must have seemed mentally challenged–more so than usual. Maybe that’s why the staff girl didn’t laugh in my face, the pity in her heart wouldn’t let her.

The French Fries

Fries

Japan is known for having the best customer service, and yeah, the staff are way more polite in general than any other country I’ve been to, but Japanese businesses are not so big on bending the rules to be accommodating. I was out at an izakaya restaurant with another foreign friend. Now this next part I won’t blame on my own fobishness, because the menu was in English. We’d already eaten a lot, but the French fries at this place must have been salted with crack cause I was  jonesin’, so even though I felt like I was about to pop I said, “let’s order more!”

We order the fries and there are options like “ketchup and mayo” or “garlic butter”. Now, these sound like the names of condiments right? But no, they were actually the “flavours” of the fries. So I thought I was getting fries with ketchup, mayo and garlic butter on the side but it turned out to actually be two orders of fries, one that was garlic butter flavoured and one…with ketchup and mayo on the side -_-. There was just no way we were gonna finish all that off.

There was still a full plate of fries left and I felt bad throwing them out so I wanted to find a homeless person and give them away. So we asked the waitress for a box.

“Oh I’m sorry, we don’t do take out here.”

“A bag? Anything?

“No, I’m sorry.”

Nope there was no box or bag anywhere in the whole establishment, no sir. So what happened was while my friend kept watch I put the two plates together and shoved them in a plastic bag and into my purse, like a ghetto Robin Hood. Yes, I stole my own food and the izakaya’s plates were a casualty. I felt a bit guilty but the homeless woman who got the crack-fries was really happy. They were still hot and everything. Unfortunately, I can’t go back to that izakaya anymore.

The Devil Sandwich

sandwich

Sandwiches in Japan don’t make no sense. I remember when I first came here I was shaking my head at the spaghetti sandwiches at the grocery store, literally noodles in a hot dog bun. But Japan gets a lot more creative than that. I was running late to work one day. There’s a cafe next to my building and I needed to quickly buy something for lunch. So I breezed in there, glanced at the sandwiches and grabbed one that looked good. Lunch time came and I was huuungry. I was ready for that sandwich. I took a bite and I thought to myself, “huh, this tastes familiar, but somehow wrong in a fundamental way.” That’s because I was eating the unholy union of potato salad and bread. It was a potato salad sandwich. I ate it all and hated every minute of it.

The next week I was prepared. I gave myself lots of time, I carefully read what the sandwiches were, and this time I picked up a ham and lettuce sandwich. But in Japan, (and of course this is understandable) sometimes the spelling is a bit wrong for English words, and while they spelled it ham and lettuce what they really meant was potato f*cking salad again!!! Seriously, I don’t know how this demon sandwich made it into my hands for the second time. It probably possessed what actually was just an innocent ham and lettuce sandwich. I had to eat it again, and again it sucked. And I will never return to that little cafe of horrors.

 

People in Japan Can’t Dance

…not unless they want to risk getting cuffed and kicked out of the club.

Technically, it’s been illegal to dance in clubs or bars after a certain hour since 1984, but that law’s never really been enforced until the last few years.

 

 

The picture above is an excerpt from an interview with Daisha Hunter, founder of ENTokyo. You can read the rest in the October issue of tsuki magazine.

Daisha works with clubs in Tokyo to put on artist showcases, CD release parties and so on, and she had a lot to say about this law, it’s discriminatory nature and the negative effect it has on the entertainment industry.

Everyone from DJs, to club owners to promoters, [face the risk] of having their events raided, being arrested…I heard ballroom dancing is now separated from the entertainment law, because they look at ballroom dancing like its…I was told it’s morally good for Japanese people to ballroom dance. And I was like well how can you say that and yet hip-hop dancing is under this law, salsa dancing…

I haven’t run into this law myself, but I’ve heard from friends who have seen the “no dancing” signs on the walls in clubs, or felt that polite shoulder tap and heard sumimasen if their rhythmic swaying to the music started to become just a bit too organized.

Now, I already had an inkling as to the purpose of this law, especially after hearing only certain kinds of dancing we’re restricted, but I decided to use it as the topic for one of my group lessons, to hear what the youth of Japan thought — about clubs, about dancing and about this law. One of my students was pretty candid and simply said dancers, especially hip hop dancers, we’re considered “bad boys” in Japanese culture, (he had no comment on female dancers).

So reading between the lines, obviously the law has nothing to do with the actual dancing, but rather the type of people who would be most likely to bust a move. There’s nothing wrong with trying to crack down on crime, but because some stuffy old men with side parts and comb-overs decided dancers were the trouble makers, but couldn’t quite get away with shutting down clubs out right (think of all the money that would be lost!) they decided to use this blanket law. Now you can’t even shake your tail feather at a concert out here without looking over your shoulder.  I can only guess this is a move to discourage the riff-raff, with their baggy jeans and over-sized shirts (clearly meant to hide their weapons), or their tight muscle shirts, (clearly meant to show off their biceps and seduce innocent Japanese women) from going out at night.

 You can read more about it here

Sigh, the whole thing makes Japan seem more…ominous to me, like the government is this shadowy, giant foot constantly dangling above our heads, ready to drop down and squish any time they want.

What do you think, is there any merit to this law?

Quirky Japan: The Delightful and Disturbing

This may come as a shock to some of you, (if your idea of shock is being completely aware of something and not surprised at all) but in my youth before I came to Japan, I had a great love for what I considered to be “all things Japanese”, which was pretty much kanji, Final Fantasy, anime, geisha and Tokyo street fashion. I was what they call a full blown Japanophile — in love with the happy and colourful fantasy land Japan represented to me, so much more exotic and inviting than my boring North American life. In my first year of university I heard about the JET program and I was ecstatic. What!? I thought. There’s a way I can actually live in this paradise?? I was determined to be on the first thing smoking to Japan as soon as I had the required degree in my hand.

But that didn’t happen. Student loans intervened and I got an office job. As I got older my idealized view of Japan focused to something more realistic, and it would be three more years before I finally decided to move to Tokyo, but for very different reasons than I first intended. With age came wisdom and I knew that if I built Japan up into some kind of impossible wonderland it could only disappoint me. So I researched, reading blogs about other people who were already out here, and came here with what I feel was a balanced view of this unique country.

However there was one perception of Japan that never left, and after over a year and a half here it’s actually strengthened: This place is quirky. I mean, there is some stuff going on here that just makes me scratch my head like…”huh?” Some of it is charming, and brings up those old feelings of Japanophileness, but some of it is just like whoa…what? OK, no…no! You know? Let me give you some examples.

Delightful — Kyary Pamyu Pamyu Videos

Kyary Pamyu Pamyu is something like the Lady Gaga of Japan, if your brain can even comprehend such craziness. Take Lady Gaga, make her a Japanese teenager and double her wackiness and you have Kyary Pamyu Pamyu. Her videos are cute, creative, colourful, surreal and always have some talented dancers.

Disturbing — AKB48 Videos

AKB48 is unfortunately Japan’s latest pop sensation. They are a bunch of young girls — 48 of them I would say if I had to guess, which I do — though only a few appear over and over again to represent the group.  Their fan base is primarily preteens and old men. Their most popular video is centred around the ground-breaking theme of spying on a group of girls at slumber party, beginning with watching one as she undresses. The video features lingerie, allusions to porn and orgies, and them doing their own craptacular dances. My adorable little 9 year old students sing along to this video and know all the dance moves. I shudder at the thought that 9 year old girls in Japan look up to this.

Delightful:  Hilarious Pranks on TV

The creativity and/or cruelty that go into Japanese pranks make for some of the most hilarious viewing in the world, and they’re the only thing on Japanese TV that I can understand like. Something about watching people scream and run in fear from one of those creepy Japanese women ghosts – you know like the one from The Ring – sets me off.

But the Japanese get crazy with it!

Watch this prank at a ski resort where guys think they’re in for a relaxing naked sit-down in a comfy chair, only to have the chair flip up and dump them through the wall, outside in the snow…naked.  How cruel. How unusual. How hilarious.

Disturbing: No Foreigners Allowed

The lack of sensitivity in the above situation also has a dark (darker?) side.  It causes Japan, in general, to lag behind in the political-correctness parade, and because of that there are various “no foreigner” establishments sprinkled throughout the country. I haven’t encountered this issue yet, but it’s frustrating to know there are hot springs or bars or anything else where I can’t go, simply because I’m foreign, and not many will have your back if you try to fight it. It’s eerily reminiscent of the “whites only” bathrooms or restaurants or whatever else that existed in the West not so long ago.

Delightful: Perfect Train Service

http://locohama.tumblr.com/

This is not just some stereotype floating around. The trains here are on time down to the minute. And everyone is so spoiled by the excellent train service that if the train is even 1 minute late we’re tapping our feet and rolling our eyes while we look at the time on our cell phones, the profuse apologies coming from the loud speakers doing nothing to appease us. You can, and I have, set your watch by the trains.

Disturbing: Decoy Porn Newspapers on the train

Every now and then as I’m riding my perfectly on-time train I see a man reading a newspaper and I think, “What an upstanding citizen, catching up on current events.” I might even be nosy and casually turn my head to the side, to see what he’s reading, (never mind that I can barely read Japanese). But sometimes I sincerely wish I had minded my own damn business.

Waaaaitaminute…this is not a regular newspaper aaarrrgh!!

Scattered throughout the unintelligible (to me anyway) Kanji are ads with women, limbs akimbo and as naked as the day they auditioned to be porn stars.  Why, my dear man, would you want to read such literature on a crowded train? So you can get a hard-on and everyone can see you’re a perv? Actually, that’s probably exactly why.

So you see? Something about this place is just…special. Sometimes it’s SPECIAL! And sometimes it’s “special”, if yuhknowwhatimean. But take it or leave it, Japan will probably always be one of the most head-scratchingly quirky places on the planet.

Tsuki Magazine Takes You Inside Japan

It’s got stunning photography capturing the quiet beauty of everyday life in Japan. It’s got thought-provoking interviews on race relations and self-publishing. It’s got engrossing Japan-themed fiction and nonfiction including my very first published story!

If you’re really interested in life in Japan, and not just the tourist traps they show you in Lonely Planet, this is a magazine you need to read. Click here to read a free sample. I think I can safely say after reading the debut issue that it was a huge success. A big thank you goes to Caroline Josephine, the mastermind behind it all. I’m ecstatic to be included in the magazine along with my fellow bloggers and photographers Loco of Loco in Yokohama, Joanne Yu, Our Man in Abiko, J.C Greenway of Ten Minutes Hate and Made in DNA. I hope to see and be included in many more issues to come.

You can follow Tsuki Magazine on Twitter and Facebook.

Below is a sample from my story. Head over to Tsuki Magazine to read the rest. Get your copy here!

__________________________________________________________________________________

An officer and an interpreter waited on Anna with typical Japanese courtesy, standing silently but alert at the side of her hospital bed. The officer had a pen poised over a notebook. The interpreter stared at her with his bushy, dark eyebrows raised in expectation. Anna stared dumbly at a limp curtain (that should have been white but wasn’t quite), bunched up at the corner of the empty hospital bed across from hers as she tried to shake free the details of the night before. They’d settled like potatoes in the sluggish stew of her brain. She could hear nurses talking in Japanese in the hallway outside her room, and though she usually tuned out at the sound of a language she could barely understand, today their chatter distracted her. The gash in her arm stung and itched, tight and uncomfortable under the gauze with the stitches pulling it closed. She knew there would be a bad scar, and hoped it wouldn’t screw up her chances of getting modeling gigs in the future.

Focus, Anna focus. She closed her eyes and breathed deep, smelling the harsh cleanliness of antiseptic chemicals. She started her recollection with what she remembered most clearly: The blood, running down her arm first in one thin stream, then a little red river, breaking off into branches when it overflowed. It was like looking at one of those artsy pictures where everything is in black in white, except one thing that’s a really bright colour – a red balloon, a yellow scarf, something like that. No, she didn’t scream. She couldn’t feel the knife slicing into her. She only knew she’d been badly cut because she could see it, and the eruption of blood splitting into three streams snaking down her arm, dripping off her elbow onto the road. She was too mesmerized to scream. Yeah, she probably was in shock. It hurt like a bitch after though.

The officer and interpreter chatted for a few seconds in fast Japanese, until finally the interpreter turned his dark eyes on her and asked, “Please tell it from the beginning.”

* * *

It had been a hot night. Though the sun was asleep it was still unreasonably sticky out, and Anna knew there were embarrassing sweat stains on the back of her blouse. She was making the long, boring walk from the station to her apartment. She remembered being impressed that she was halfway home and hadn’t had to dodge anyone coming at her on a bicycle yet, or stop at the side of one of Tokyo’s narrow roads for a car to roll by. No looking at her shoes or the flowers in the front yard of a house or something, to avoid eye contact with the driver. Then, she’d stupidly thought it was good luck.

She was closing in on the intersection where she would turn for the home stretch to her place, when she saw the first person she’d seen on the back roads all night – which was strange to be honest, ‘cause there are a ton of apartments and houses in the area. She couldn’t tell if it were a man or a woman. All she could make out was that whoever it was wore one of those hospital masks people here strap onto their faces when they’re sick, or is it trying not to get sick? Anyway, it stood out, bright white against the person’s black coat, black hair and the blackness of the night.  Anna had wondered how on Earth this person could stand wearing that long, dark coat in the heat. Yes, she could respect the dedication to fashion, but it was one of those nights where it’s so humid the air is tangible, and you just can’t seem to get enough oxygen no matter how deep you breathe.

Anna turned left at the intersection and the other person turned as well, and ended up walking behind her. Soon, Anna noticed the coat-wearer was practically on her heels. She could hear breathing – slow loud inhales and exhales like someone meditating, or maybe trying to supress their rage. She sped up, thinking maybe the person was agitated because she was in their way or something, even though they were the only people on the road and he or she could have easily gone around Anna. However, she shrugged it off as a “Japanese” thing, like passing someone on the road might come off as rude, but when she began to walk faster the person matched her pace. That was when Anna realized she was nervous.

Why is this dude right under me like this? She had decided it was a man. Oh God, maybe he’s some kind of crazy person who hates foreigners, or – shit – is he gonna try to rape me or something? Dammit where is everyone?

She remembered hearing that rapists look for women who seem like “victims”, and that they don’t want to risk being identified. Maybe it was unwise, but she turned and faced the strange person.

 

Is Japan a Small Step Away from Becoming a Utopia?

This post is inspired by a lesson I had last week. I was explaining the phrase “peer pressure” to my students. One of my students said that she experiences peer pressure when she goes out to a cafe with her girlfriends.

“I don’t want to eat cake, but if my friends all get some, I have to get some too.”

I was a little taken aback, I didn’t quite understand.

“Do you mean it makes you want to eat cake too? That would be my problem, but that’s not quite peer pressure.”

“No, no, if I don’t get cake they will all think, ‘why doesn’t she get cake too?’ It’s like…sisterhood.”

“…ooooh so you mean you all have to get fat together, lol”

“Haha yes, something like that…”

At first, this conversation made me depressed. I immediately thought of that Japanese proverb people like to quote: the nail that sticks up will be hammered back down. I though of the salary man who just wants to go home, but has to sit through drinks with coworkers after work for fear of not being a team player.  Jesus, I thought  people don’t even have the social freedom to choose what they want to eat in this country?

But, that’s not entirely true. I don’t want to position Japan as a place where there is zero individuality, and people can’t think for themselves. I had to remind myself the “just be yourself” message we get in after school specials all the time in the West just isn’t pushed here. Instead, it seems more important for people to work as a unit. So instead I focused on the word she used: Sisterhood. Camaraderie. Fellowship. These are good things, are they not? The very core of the concept of world peace. Everyone doing everything together, supporting one another –  it sounds pretty good to me. Majority rules and no trouble makers allowed. Perhaps it’s this attitude that is responsible for the aura of safety here in Japan. I’m not as worried about having things stolen here, or leaving my door unlocked, or walking around late at night. There is something to learn here. I sometimes think about what the world could accomplish if we set our collective will in action. Look at the amazing contributions that have sprung from the minds of just a few people: the airplane, the internet and the mapping of our solar system to name a few. If we could all get our act together the results would be nothing short of magical.

And yet…

I caught the other half of her sentence, after the ellipses. Of course, this is simply a translation of the unformed vibrations hanging in the air above her head at the time, but they felt something like, “but sometimes I just don’t want to eat any #&^% cake!”

NOT sisterhood: For one, where are the travelling pants?

This sadly led me to believe that this is not true “sisterhood” after all. When consensus comes at the cost of free will, I call that peer pressure, and pressure is usually not a good thing. That kind of consensus seems to me to be on the other end of the spectrum: the consensus that is the mother of apathy. After all, why try when you’ll simply be bowled over in favour of the majority? I hear this attitude in the Japanese word shogannai (roughly translated, “it can’t be helped”). I know this attitude is by no means exclusive to Japan, but back where I come from, peer pressure is…almost something to be ashamed of — it doesn’t mesh with the “be yourself” indoctrination. Here in Japan though, peer pressure, it seems to me, is just a fact of life.

Nevertheless, I think Japan is on to something. It’s like I can see the ingredients for a delicious utopia cake, where everyone’s got each other’s back,  but it’s like the recipe is wrong and the cake comes out too sweet.

Maybe that’s why sometimes my student just doesn’t want any.

 

Is This Why Japanese Women Quit Work After Marriage?

Recently I caught this article posted on twitter by @hikosaemon, about a woman who was chewed out, and called irresponsible by her manager for getting pregnant in the first year of her job. (Note: the article is in Japanese).

It made me think about the conversations I’ve had with students about women in the workplace in Japan. One student even claimed that companies won’t hire older women, because older married women will more likely to be the ones who have to leave work to take care of the kids if they get a call from the school or something.

I’d known about this situation, but there’s a particular conversation with one of my students that really hit home, and made me feel uncomfortable, even sad. She was telling me about her amazing, “dream job” as the editor of a magazine. The way she glowed when she talked about it, I could tell she really loved it.

“It was really busy, but so much fun.”

“Really? Why did you leave?”

“When I got married, I decided the hours were too…eeto…”

“Long? Irregular?”

“Yes! I needed a more…fixed job. Fixed hour job. Otherwise it would be difficult…”

Now, everyone has the right to live their own life, and to make their own choices, but I did wonder what exactly she meant. Doing housework? Cooking? Surely her husband, a grown adult male, could help out with some of that? Having children? Alright, many women even in the West choose to make the sacrifice to care for their children. My mother did it. But my student didn’t have any children at the time of the conversation. Perhaps she just wanted to have more time to spend with her husband, or perhaps she wanted to avoid being “irresponsible” by getting pregnant.

When I put that conversation in the context of the article above, I can’t help the hairs on the back of my neck rising in apprehension. As I said, everyone has the right to make their own choices, and what if the choice wasn?t hers?

I feel there is a societal expectation for women here to “have their little jobs” while they’re young and unattached, but once they get married it’s time to settle down and become a “good wife”. Now, this attitude is by no means exclusive to Japan, but there is something about the contrast of Japan’s high rises, sleek bullet trains and robots and this attitude that we in the West associate with the 1950s that makes it all the more glaring to me.

Also I thought about myself in my student’s situation. How I would feel if I had to choose between my dream job and my dream man? Or my dream to have a child? I didn’t like the thought at all. Granted, she’s grown up with this expectation, but by her own admission it wasn’t easy to leave her job. She’s still working now, part-time, in the service industry.

However I did read another article here (don’t worry, this one’s in English) about how the East and West view marriage. The gist is that in the West people marry for love and in the East people marry for children. Though overall I find the article generalizes too much, this is an interesting point, and a plausible explanation for why women in Japan feel the need to leave their jobs after marriage. But it’s not like women in the West aren’t popping out their share of rugrats. And the average number of children in a family is actually falling according to the Asahi Shimbun (newspaper). So, what’s up with that?

Personally, I don’t think my student should have quit her dream job, though I wouldn’t be surprised if she had been pressured by the company after her marriage. Situations like this really make me value the freedom — the free state of mind that gives me the feeling (delusion?) that I can do whatever I want — that my upbringing has fostered.

Should my student have given up her job? What do you think?

My Experiences with Dating in Japan

Dating in Japan

 

I can’t lie, before I moved this was one of things I was the most interested in/concerned about.  What would it be like to date a Japanese guy?  how would we communicate? would Japanese men even find me attractive? should I only date foreign men? would I be able to date at all? or would this time in Japan just be one long dry spell?

I’ve decided to make an FAQ, to answer questions I know I had, that you might have as well. And if nothing else you can be nosy and read all about my dating life :p.

Do Japanese Men want to date Foreign women?

Yes, some do and no, some don’t, and it’s as simple as that as far as I’m concerned.

Do Japanese men find Black women attractive?

I think straight men in general find women in general attractive, and if you’re an attractive woman men will be attracted to your feminine charms, no matter what race or colour you are. I think there is more of, for lack of a better word, a “demand” for white women, particularly with blond hair and blue eyes. I talk more about that in this blog post. However, I’ve been hit on/flirted with by Japanese men, so yes some do. I’ve briefly dated two Japanese men.

The first was when I had just come to Japan. We met at a club and I gave him my number, but his English level was very low, and my Japanese was even lower. So when he called communication was pretty much impossible, as we had said all the basic stuff when we met, so there was really no way that could go anywhere.

The second I met at another club a few months later. I was actually first sitting outside on the patio and his friend started talking to me, but then he somehow “swooped in” and took over the conversation. His English was much better because he’d lived in Australia for a couple years. We went out a couple times, and it was cool and we had good conversation, but it fell apart, I believe, because we didn’t have so much in common. Hmm, maybe I should stop meeting guys in clubs.

Do foreigners date other foreigners?

Yes, I’ve dated foreigners as well, most recently a guy originally from Cameroon, but it depends on the people. Perhaps you’re aware or the charisma man, charisma girl stigma? These are people who come to Japan with the aim of “sowing their wild oats”. They’re like, I dunno, cheese. Not only because they’re usually kind of cheesy people, but also because cheese is cheap and widely available in the west, but here in Japan it’s expensive, more valuable… you get my drift? If you want to date other foreigners, avoid the cheese people. It shouldn’t be too difficult though, as these cheesy people are usually pretty scared of you, and only have eyes for their “prey”, Japanese people.

Do cultural differences make dating more difficult?

They can, yes. If you’re dating someone who has lived in the West, that mitigates it somewhat. But I don’t think “cultural differences” are a good excuse for not dating in Japan. When two people really like each other you can get over it. The main problem foreigners seem to have with dating Japanese people is not really knowing what they think. In Japan, people are expected to be more empathetic. Because people try to avoid giving offense, you’re supposed to know, or anticipate when something is making the other person unhappy. That can be really difficult for us Westerners who value verbal communication. When communication with the second guy stopped, I didn’t actually know something was wrong. He was still really polite and attentive. My single clue was at the end of the date where he didn’t hug me like usual.

How can I attract a Japanese guy or girl?

Just be your vivacious self! I wasn’t particularly trying to attract the guys I did, they just saw something in me that they liked and went for it.

Do Japanese guys/girls just want to date me because I’m foreign?

There are definitely some people like that in this country yes. And you’ll be able to tell pretty soon based on their behavior and the questions they ask you. (“Do foreigners like this? Do foreigners like that?” As opposed to “Do you like this? Do you like that? ) Then it’s up to you to decide whether you care or not.

So that’s my experience with dating in Japan. I plan to be here for another year at least, and it that time, especially as my Japanese improves, I’m sure I’ll have more stories to tell. And please, drop a comment with your stories about love and dating in Japan and abroad.

 

 

What We’ve Learned by Living Abroad

You lucky reader, you are in for something really special. I’ve been doing a lot of reflection and contemplation, and even though I’ve only been in Japan for a little over 10 months, I feel like I’ve aged a few years.

So I thought, if this is how I feel after a few months, imagine what my fellow expats, who have been abroad for years, have to say. I reached out to them and together we’ve come up with a great collection of posts that will really make you think about life abroad, and life in general.

 

 

Loco in Yokohama

SoaplandLoco starts us off with a bang — not just one post, but a whole, ongoing series about the revelations and self truths gained after close to a decade spent in Japan.

…And that’s when I realized that, remarkably, for the first time in my life I had been the victim of outright, Jim Crow-style racial discrimination, not so much because I was black (actually I’ll never know if my color was a factor) but because I wasn’t Japanese (or Asian.)

And, ironically, instead of feeling a victimized rage in the pit of my stomach, and an irrepressible urge to do harm to someone (which up til that point I imagined would be my reaction whenever this dark day came to be) there I was consoling a friend… keep reading

Life of a Foreign Hachikin

Screaming into the AbyssAfter two weeks of serious deliberation Indi reveals her top life lessons from living in rural Japan.

…I can’t say that I’ve changed drastically as a person either. Not that most people change 180 degrees when they have life changing experiences like living abroad, but I do know that I’ve gotten stronger in some regards. I can say with certainty that I’ve become a more confident person. While the simple idea of standing in front of people used to make my heart squeeze in anxiety, I am now ecstatically looking forward to the first live show with my band in January… keep reading

 

Haikugirl’s Japan

Haikugirl writes about a hot topic for expats regarding Japanese culture — western “assertiveness” vs. Japanese “submissiveness”, and how it has affected her.

…The Japanese business style is very different from the way I had worked in the UK before. Assertiveness wasn’t really acceptable, and I learned to keep my mouth shut and get on with things a lot more than I ever had before. I also learned to show respect to my colleagues and seniors a lot more than I had done in the UK. There were formal phrases to use, and certain manners like bowing which I needed to follow… keep reading

 

We Live in a Fantasy World

We Need A Good Slap Every Now and ThenToby gives us an excellent post about resisting the urge to be co-dependent when living abroad, especially when you don’t speak the language,  and also the importance of  giving yourself a wake-up slap every once in a while.

…Then, I started realizing that I had gradually stopped asking for help, and just started doing without these things. I would just decide that it was too difficult to get tickets to some event using the Konbini machines, so I wouldn’t go.

I didn’t realize how terrible this behaviour had become until I met *Yinsan… keep reading

 

 

 

 

 

The Japan Guy

Cherish Those Closest to YouWith the anniversary of his fourth year in Japan on the horizon, the Japan guy brings us a two-part list of the top 7 things he’s learned about life and himself during his time in Japan.

4. Cherish Those Closest to You

It’s heartbreaking to lose those you know, it’s even more heartbreaking to know that you can’t make it home to their funeral because you can’t afford the trip. I’ve been there on a couple of occasions. You want those who are close to you to live forever, but the sad reality is that they don’t.

Living abroad can keep you away from your family for extended periods of time, and things can happen. However, the memories you share with them can last a lifetime. So if you’re living abroad, but making that much needed visit home. Make some great memories with the people you love: take pictures, make DVDs, whatever you can. These memories are timeless… keep reading

Thanks so much to everyone who’s participated, everyone who retweeted and shared, and everyone who’s reading now. For all of us, it’s been a great journey with both highs and lows, but I hope I speak for everyone when I say I wouldn’t do it any different, and I’d never give up what I’ve learned.

Things About Japan that were as Good as I Expected

My. Fuji

Don’t you love it when something is exactly as wonderful as you thought it would be? It just doesn’t happen enough in life, but I’m a lucky girl because here in Japan there are a few things that have thankfully turned out to be exactly as I’d hoped.

Japan FashionEveryone is Stylin’

On any given street in Tokyo at any given time there is a fashion show. Women and men are perfectly coordinated — even to do something as simple as go shopping for more fashionable things to wear. Yeah, it makes me feel frumpy sometimes when I can’t be bothered to do more than throw on my jeans and sneakers, but for the most part it’s inspiring! I love art and fashion, and it’s like Tokyo is a big fashion gallery.

Japan is Sightseeing Heaven

To say Japan is a beautiful country is a big understatement. I seriously doubt I’ll get to see all the places I want to see here, even if I stay for years. There are just so many! The traditional beauty of Kyoto and the Gion district, famous Miyajima shrine in Hiroshima, the beaches of Okinawa, the Islands of Izu, the forests of Nikko, the temples of Kamakura, plus dozens more places that are off the beaten track.

The Best Customer Service in the World

It’s almost shocking how far people will go out of their way to help you out. For example at the grocery store, I asked a stock guy for baking soda, and he told me it was on the first floor. I went upstairs and I had some trouble finding it, then out of nowhere he comes to my rescue with the baking soda in his hand. And people often apologize to me for not speaking English! Plus if you’re lost and ask for directions, people will usually either take you where you want to go or find/draw you a map.

The Food is really different…but really good!

Okonomiyaki

Okonomiyaki

Since coming to Japan some of my favourite Japanese foods are Okonomiyaki, Udon, Japanese curry, and Japanese Shumai. I was a little worried about the food here because seafood is so common, and I wasn’t so much about the seafood back in the day, but everyone who had been to Japan told me the food was amazing, and I’m so glad they were right. Aside from seafood the most popular meat is pork, and I have no problem with that ;) . Japanese fried chicken is also totemo oiishi (very delicious).

For my fellow travellers and expats, was there anything about the country you lived in or visited that turned out to be everything you wanted and more?