My friends have been asking me to write an article about Japan for so long, I can’t even remember how many have asked me and since when, but I never really had the privilege that is free time to just sit down and write it. Here I am awake in the middle of the night and can’t go back to sleep, your prayers have been answered.. Oh shoot! I have to finalize that public health report! But you know what, it can wait (It can’t really..)!
Anyway, I would like to think of myself as one of the best promoters of Japan! I probably do a better job promoting Japan than the Japanese government! I post so many great things about Japan on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.. I make people want to fund building a teleport machine just for the sake of being there with me when I post! I love Japan; I mean really, I am one of those people who are in love with Japan! In fact, for those who don’t know already, I liked japan so much, I created my own miniature japan in my country, a project that was later adopted by the Japanese embassy! BAMMM.. How’s that for love? 😉
Japan is a wonderful place, it is, but there is quite the discrepancy between the Japan you know from the Anime, movies, news or your friend’s Facebook feeds and Japan the country you LIVE IN!
As an outsider, when you hear about someone who is eager about japan, you will directly think Anime freak, or an “Otaku” (even if you don’t know what Otaku means, It is what you have first assumed in your native language or abstract thoughts)! This thinking cannot be more wrong! I mean, I used to watch anime, but I wasn’t an otaku! Seriously though, who hasn’t watched Miyazaki’s movies or Death Note? If you haven’t, go watch them NOW!!!
One reason this thinking is utterly wrong is that Japan has way too many things to be fanatic about other than anime! It could be the land itself, robots, bullet trains, subcultures, Onsen ❤, shrines.. Ahh it’s an endless list of this and that!
Ok, now that we have made some things clear, let’s do this!
Before stepping foot in the land of the rising sun, you have probably seen it before. As I mentioned earlier, it could be from the media, movies or your friends who have visited telling you stories about their adventures in Japan, and there are always stories to tell! “We totally saw someone get out of the actual wall in the train station to give us directions, OMG where was he hiding?!”
An idea about this “ideal country” forms in your head and it gets to you, it does! You become really curious and you make up your mind. “I am visiting that country, even if it’s the last thing I ever do!” #What’sUpSmurfLovers!
You pack your samurai sword, your straw hat and your handmade “Kimono” (which is probably a Yukata by the way, but who’s judging), and you venture towards this wondrous island.
As you land, the airport looks great! You walk towards your exit and you start seeing the vending machines, the interactive monitors, organization everywhere, politeness, cleanliness and much more.. Oh joy, but you also have had your first non-English speaking person encounter!!! Wait what? In Japan, there is someone who is an adult and educated, but doesn’t know English? Ok maybe it was that one person. La~la, la la, you go outside of the airport and finally you are in Japan! Hooray!!!
This non-English speaking pattern grows exponentially right after, and then you realize, “shit, it might not be that easy to get around!” But rest assured, you will most probably find someone who will guide you, no matter how bad their English is. People here are awesome that way! Of course, some tend to totally ignore your existence, especially if you landed in Tokyo in comparison to Kansai areas for example!
Now, there are several types of people coming here, but i’ll discuss three of them. Those on short trips either for business or vacation; a period that is typically less than 6 months. The language and short term programs, which are 6 month up to one year, and there are the rest of us, living there one year up to permanently…
Those who were on short trips, they will tell you the most beautiful stories about Japan, the breathtaking sites they visited, the weird things they did in Haraju
ku and the Geisha they saw walking right across them on the street in Kansai! “Yeah I saw a geisha, she was just like in the movies man!!!” (They probably saw a Maiko.. maybe a Geisha, but most probably a Maiko 🙂 )
Those who lived here for one year might tell you all about what the 6 “month-er” did, but with a touch of hawt chili (I assume you don’t keep hot sauce in your bag?..)
They might say that the bills were hard to pay as they were in Japanese, or that fruits and vegetables are expensive, Oh and “Did you know you have to pay money for the land lord to “allow” you to rent one of his rooms he so desperately wants you to rent?” Mind blowing I know!!! It’s called “Key money” and it could go up to 3 month rent if not more! You don’t get this money back either! Ok, housing is a whole new blog, trust me, there are so many things you have to pay, you would rather pay with a blank look on your face (without giving it much thought) accompanied with a big smile put on by a chopstick placed sideways in your mouth…
Finally, the long-term inhabitants!!!
These come in all forms, shapes and sizes andddd tantrums! There are the ones who are here to study, and study their ass off is what they do. You can call them “Basic nerds”; we’ll get back to them in a few, because I was one of them! Others are here to find better job opportunities, let’s call them “Job hunters”! And those in between, I call these “English teachers”… There are also other types of people that I came to notice in the horizon; I call them the “Runaways”.
Let’s start with those who came to study (The basic nerds).
They come expecting the times higher ranking to be accurate, back when UTokyo was ranked amongst the top 10 universities in the world, (well the ranking is more accurate now..) and that in Japan they are getting world-class education, working along Nobel laureates, and laureates to be! Woohoo! Who could possibly not be in for that, eh?
Well once they get here, they see the harsh truth facing international students in Japan! This could go from the very few select of English courses, very few seminars and conferences in English, no extracurricular activity involvement whatsoever unless you are really, really and I say really keen to do so!
Other problems they might face, include neglect by their professors and/or supervisors, suppressing their opinions (we’ll get to “the nail that sticks up gets hammered down” later), feeling that they are not using their full potential, feeling undermined, feeling “not included”, feeling lonely (we’ll get back to this later too), and also the feeling that they can’t reach out, a.k.a. their tentacles are cut by the harsh and sharp edges of the language barrier katana.. Shlllllkk!!! ~I’m guessing this is the sfx for sword slashing? Anyone?!
These are some of the reasons why neither the Global30 program, nor the other international student oriented programs have been working! I can’t believe that MEXT can’t see this yet after several failed attempts!
What is currently happening is that students are gaining the skills in Japan (In universities and training programs) and probably go use them in the U.S. or Canada (Somewhere where they can be more comfortable with language probably or somewhere they think is a better place for them to sharpen those skills)!
Congrats japan, you are officially spending taxpayer’s money to help build some other country academically, without proper use of the talented human resources that you have invested in!
Grasp on to the students you have spent so much money on with your hands and teeth Japan! With your hands and teeth!
Of course, there are those who come here and start hardcore Japanese language studies, but aside from those whose major is Japanese language or culture, or who studied Japanese language intensively before coming to Japan (in their undergrad) and Chinese students (Yes, I know that Chinese and Japanese are very different, but you know most of the kanji, so go sit in the privileged kids’ corner, thank you!), some of us have a lot of things to study in the first place! Like science, economics, and business models for example, etc..
I can’t stress enough how important it is to learn Japanese before coming to live here, but still don’t expect to be a science, engineering or any other workload intensive major and end up writing Japanese poetry as a side job! If you do, then kudos my friend, I don’t know who you are, but you are already my hero!!
Some of the students, who are not as nerdy, have a relatively good life. They come here expecting nothing, they simply want a degree, they don’t care to produce much science or effort in academia, they go find a part time job and barely go to class, they make money, get a degree and care less about giving back to the community or about japan as a whole. They can’t wait to leave when they are done! These are the majority of students Japan’s lousy scholarship selection criteria is fetching for unfortunately! The good students go down the reputation of the majority, so on and so forth!
PS: If you are a Japanese government official related to MEXT, please fix the selection criteria for international students coming to Japan now! Fix it now!
Moving on to those who are here to work (The job hunters)!
What do they whine about?
One thing is Americans, yes, you read that right! If you are an American, you probably haven’t heard this or maybe you did and you’re playing that card load and proud!
See japan has this thing where if you are an American, you are automatically labeled as a skilled individual! “You know that American who never made it through community college?” “Yeah, he must be better than that Indian Harvard grad!” “Yes definitely!”
I actually haven’t experienced this one since I’m not an employee yet, but it’s 99.
9% of what my employed friends report! One day, Japan will get over this complex, hopefully…
Anyway this is one problem, but foreign workers here whine about many other things! Americans are foreigners too! So let’s talk foreigners in general!
Language goes a long way.. Even here!
Yes, language despite how international the company is, will come back to haunt you. I repeat, study the language, study the language, language, language, language!!!
You get how important it is now?
Some of those who are working also get a taste of neglect or feeling marginalized or that they can’t reach their full potential..
Ok aside from that, I’m not so sure about the workforce as I am not part of it yet.
Maybe I can write another blog when I am!
Then comes the English teachers! I separated those from the above section for one reason! These people seem like they are in La La land! They are happy, jolly and sparkly at all times! They are practicing their hobbies, and living their lives to the fullest (Well not fullest, fullest, but still)!
They do crash however when they see someone with a “real job” especially those who are not English teachers to begin with! English teachers who are “legit” English teachers, meaning they were educated to be so, are satisfied, those that are intruding, are not! Some of those intruders start feeling that it’s becoming a humdrum and they make the pivot, which is why it is better to employ legit teachers! That, and many other reasons such as proper qualification for example?
And finally you have the Runaways.. The runaways could belong to any category of the above, but they are in Japan because they are running away from the reality of their own country or their situation in it!
This is true! So I’m in the field of psychiatry, but many mistake me for a psychologist and start venting! Being a great listener makes it even easier for them to talk to me, and I’m never bothered. Actually, even though I don’t give advices, I do like to listen, if that eases things up for them.. Japan could get lonely for foreigners you know..
In fact, most of the foreigners’ problems registered in the consultation and psychiatric clinics, in two of the universities I have attended at least, are because of loneliness! (*Sigh* if only all these lonely people talk to each other then the problem would be solved, but of course as everything else in life, it’s not that easy!).
Moving on, these people found japan to be a sanctuary! “Why?” You might ask? because there is no outward judgment! This is perfect for them! But the interesting thing is, even though they know that people in Japan, like any other country in the world, will judge you; but they do it ever so discreetly that you don’t even feel it, they don’t really mind! I have to investigate this in a study one day…
Everything is hidden, subtle, and “hush, hush” here. So you can live the way you want, but it’s like being a 5 year old in hide-and-seek really; if you close your eyes, it doesn’t mean that others can’t see you!
Anyway, as long as you are happy, that’s all what matters right?
We have been talking about foreigners for sometime now, so let’s give Japanese some intros too! He he he..
Japanese are so diverse, so please stop painting them with the same brush! And guess what, there are some that are nicer than the pope and some that are worse than Hitler!
>>I hope that we all agree that Hitler was a bad person?<<
But I came to see some pattern amongst some…
There are the genuinely nice Japanese that the world knows from their international reputation. The really nice and caring people that will go out of their way, soooooooo much, to provide you with what you want. They help you with this and that and a cherry on top! These people might even invite you to their homes (Not something Japanese people do often), cook for you and much more!
There are the ones who love to think of themselves as crème de la crème! You can usually catch them by the way they talk or the way their eyes squint and their barely visible smile on! These people don’t portray arrogance, they portray opulence, and their sentences almost always end stressing a lot on the su part of desu! Kind of like the Kyoto people if you know what I mean… *Eye roll* (Be careful though, these are most likely to be the most 2 faced people in Japan)
There is also the bubbly group, who are smiling at all times, well most of the time and crack jokes here and there and just damn fun to be around! They are typically Osaka jin and people around that area (The Japanese with Latin blood!)
Unlike popular belief, about modesty and humility in Japan, surely there must be some uptight people here and there! There are! And I always recommend that these people need to have a group enema, to loosen up, given to them by a multi enema injector, kinda like that of a multi-pipette! Because it ain’t worth the time to give it to them individually! Bwhahahaha!
There are more and more types of people to mention, but I can already see the sunrise, so I have to stop writing, or at least move to another section..
What about the Japanese government?
You know what, I sometimes agree with the Japanese government.
I mean, Japan is a very organized place, or at least much more organized relative to other countries! They made this effort and they don’t want foreigners to mess things up. Of course, you might have seen Japanese TV showing foreigners doing bad things, many, many times? There are even shows dedicated for that! God…
>>A disclaimer here is that “People of color, Chinese and some Koreans (but less) might be discriminated against unfortunately.<<
The Chinese however do things sometimes… *sigh*
I like China a lot, both of my X- Chinese girlfriends and most of my Facebook friends know this fact about me, and it pains me so much to see someone do something very wrong in front of my own eyes, and I directly assume they are Chinese and guess what? They happen to be Chinese! I’ll be like, Confucius must be turning in his grave right about now..
Anyway, the Japanese government is yet to know the importance of foreigners in their country! But foreigners should also respect some basic vales in Japan! My message for some foreigners is, “When in Rome people, when in Rome!”
Diversity is beautiful for sure, but the things, or yet the personality traits that you pick up in Japan are priceless! If you allow that to happen that is!
It is very nice to practice your own beliefs in Japan, show your country’s national celebrations, bring forth you Dogon mask, or traditional Bulgarian dress adding diversity to the country, that is the most beautiful thing! But leave some traits that you think might not be acceptable in Japan, back home! Do not jump on tree braches and shake them harshly to make it seem like it’s raining Sakura petals for example, ok? Just wait for Hanami and take that picture!
Ok, i’ll stop here! I know I didn’t cover everything I wanted to, but I have to go nerd up! Check back later when I add things here!
Please let me know in the comment’s section if there is a particular topic you want me to cover and i’ll add it later.
Also let me know if you agree or disagree with some of the points i mention here.
I really hope I didn’t offend anyone with this article, if I did, please let me know as well!
Until then, peace out people!