日本

While I’ve done the odd event report and some bits of poor Gonzo journalism, during my–at this point–two and half months in japan, I’ve yet to lay down any solid opinions about this place on my–sadly neglected, as of late–weblog. I plan to change this now. Not the sadly neglected part, though.

So yeah, it’s been two months. The bright and clear shimmer of being in Japan has long since faded, and I have eased into a normal routine. The first thing I’d like to bring up is my distinct lack of culture shock. I mean sure, some things did take me by surprise–like just how crowded the “crowded Japanese train” can get, and the fact that men wear purses–but overall, nothing thus far as phased me too much, and forced me into hating this country. In fact, I like most of the things about this country that are different from America. To be quite honest, being in Japan has made me really not like America. I am not like one of those whiny, annoying, and absolutely stupid American kids who misses their pizza and hamburgers–I couldn’t care less for that shit. I love a lot the things here, and quite frankly I’ll miss them when I return to America. That said, I do kind of miss grapes, but that’s it.

As you can gather, I really like this place. When I first landed, I really liked this place. Some of that love was in part driven by the intense amount of Japanophile inside of me, but once everything balanced out, I still came out liking this place. The first couple of weeks are pretty rough though, especially if you’re a dumbass American whose image of Japan is painted entirely by Naruto and J-Rock bands, and your pristine image of this country is destroyed right when you realize that yes–you have to use fucking Japanese, here! Even if you’re not like that, and, say, like me, it’s still rough, but mostly because of jetlag, and just adjusting to the pace of the country.

One thing that probably really helped me settle into this country was that I already knew a good amount about it. In fact, I’ve probably collected too much information about Japan throughout that years that I’ve wanted to go, to the point that nothing phases me here. I actually wanted a bit more culture shock. I wanted stuff like, say, casual racism to blow my mind, but I went in fully expecting every single Japanese person to always, at all times, look at me with a strong look of disdain. In fact, my negative expectations were so high that the fact that they haven’t been met surprises me more than anything else. This isn’t to say that I wasn’t totally fucking excited about coming here, but I also came fully ready to despise this country. That hasn’t happened.

Anyway, I think I’ll dispense you all from the intense amounts of elitism and take on a more humble tone. While I do love this place, the language barrier is an issue. Yes–I know basic Japanese–but listening and speaking can still be a challenge. For one, I can’t really effectively communicate with my peers. I do have conversations with a lot of the people in my manga club, but they slow down their speech when talking to me, and even then I sometimes misunderstand. I’ve slowly been improving, but it is something an annoyance. I came in knowing all I’d be able to use with people was Japanese, and I knew my Japanese was bad, but I didn’t realize it was this bad. Practice in the field does help, though. I can now have pretty casual–albeit slow–conversations.

In the previous paragraphs I’ve mentioned that I really liked this place, but I haven’t expanded upon the whys. There are many whys, so I’ll just cover a few of them. One of them is something really simple, but I love the design work in this country. By that I mean, I love the way buildings look, and the way towns are arranged. I love how close together everything is, and how small the living space is. I suppose most Americans would hate this, but I can’t help but love it. I also love being swept away with the waves of people in the hot spots in Tokyo. Once again, I can’t explain why, but I just like it. Another thing I like are the service people–they’re just so nice! Except at hole in the wall places–in those places, they’re charmingly grumpy, and make some damn good food.

One big thing that surprised me was that I actually care about the real culture here. I love the otaku culture, yeah, but the fact that I actually like the real culture is quite surprising. Before I came I had little interest in Japanese culture, but when one’s surrounded by it–especially as an American–you kind of get the feeling of, “Ah, so this it what it feels like to be in a country that actually has culture.”

When all is said and done, I really don’t want to leave this country. In fact, I’d be happy living here forever, never to return to America. I love the people here, I love the food, and I love the life style. This place is great.

Here’s all of the photos I’ve taken so far. There’s about 2000, but they’re all not that interesting. One may notice that I didn’t really cover otaku things here–I plan to do that in forthcoming posts, which may or may not happen. I’m sorry for the snooty tone of this post, but one develops a lot of pent up anger when around some of the stupider not-Japanese people.

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27 Responses to 日本

  1. ETERNAL says:

    Interesting. I’ve always wondered how some otaku end up making the decision to live in Japan, and now I know: it has absolutely nothing to do with anime. Personally, I grew up adoring North American culture and I don’t think I’d want to permanently live outside the continent, but if a person is discontent with America, I can see why they would fall for a place like Japan. I guess the important thing is that you fall for the country’s real culture and customs, since as we all know, anime fandom is never enough to keep a person in a country.

  2. “For one, I can’t really effectively communicate with my peers.”
    So what else is new?

    I keed, i keed.

    Seriously though, I’m pretty jealous that you’re living it up over there, sounds like you’re having awesome times in an awesome place. If it’s not too much trouble though, I would love to see more Akiba photos.

  3. schneider says:

    Whoa wah, I can’t believe you wrote half of this post. It’s nice to hear a grounded opinion, though–other blogs sensationalize all the bad things about Japan.

  4. lastarial says:

    I felt pretty much the same way after just three weeks there in 2001, but you always try and temper that with the holiday honeymoon aspect. Problem is, I love many of the places I have visited – there are even parts of the USA I would love to live in (Chicago and/or New England especially). The grass is always greener and I think it takes a couple of years to really start to get to understand somewhere like a local.

    Somehow I’m surprised that you went in with such a negative opinion (although thinking about it many of your preconceptions chimed with mine), but I’m glad to hear that so far any negatives have been far outweighed by the positives. Two months is a long time, but I’ll wait and see if you have the same opinion at the end of July – I spent two months in the USA in 2002 (and I’ve spent a further 10 weeks over there in various trips since) but I wouldn’t profess to really ‘know it’ (although your experience is much more immersive).

  5. TheBigN says:

    schneider: If you can’t find any bad things, why write about them? :v

    It’s nice to know that things are going fine for you, and I’m glad that nothing has really soured your expectations of the country. To be honest, I was also worried about how much of an impact the casual racism/xenophobia might be on your trip, so it’s good to see that it seems to have become a non-factor in your case.

    Have you started exploring some of the many other cities and towns that Japan has had to offer that differ a lot from what you’ve become accustomed to?

  6. BrendantheJedi says:

    I think your post right here may have just convinced me to go to Japan. I’m thinking about, after college, going to Japan under the JET programme. I heard about it in my Japanese I class, and I think it would be great opportunity to actually do something elsewhere with my life. My only fear of course was the cultural barrier, and your effort seems to be going well enough so I think I might give the country a try as well.

    You know, when you do get around to taking pictures of Otaku crap, I suggest take a visit to that 1/1 scale Gundam statue they just built. It looks awesome.

  7. You’ve confirmed my own desire to go there, for sure.

  8. Mercurius says:

    I totally miss the feeling that I could just walk across the street whenever I wanted to get an anime/manga/game and there would be at least two stores selling what I was looking for. And it still blows my mind that the service people there absolutely refuse tips. Definitely need to go back there for a longer stay.

    Glad to see you’re having a good time. Make sure to enjoy it to the fullest, as that first day back in the States really does suck.

  9. VZMK2 says:

    The food items I would miss if I were to move to Japan would be peanut butter and the other cereal, especially Reeses Puffs cereal.

    I think as much as I love otaku culture and Japan culture, I don’t think I could ever move there. Going on vacation is one thing but it’s another step to totally change your setting. There’s probably too many cultural things and the fact that I can’t actually speak the language that keep me from wanting to be there an extended period of time.

    Unless I find a Japanese girlfriend. That’d be my key to being able to make regular trips there.

  10. hkr says:

    It’s nice to see you like japan that much, and picking up the language like you do
    the first couple of months is rather difficult,but If you just let your tongue loose, and aren’t afraid of making バカ外人 mistakes, then you’re fine. One thing you do want to practice though is reading and writing, otherwise, you end up speaking a language quite well, then not having a fucking clue in a subway station.

    I went to Tokushima in Shikoku for a month to learn shamisen and to better my spoken Japanese, and it pulled through. I greatly envy your position atm, studying over there.

    I hope you have fun for the remainder of your stay, and I encourage you to find a place that does Morioka Reimen, because that shit is the best there is on this earth.

    がんばって~

  11. KagiyamaHina says:

    mmm. i know what you mean with a lot of this. living in vienna for this month has really made me realize how much America is lacking as a country, and in some ways i wouldnt mind just staying in europe.

  12. Dr. Who says:

    Grapes? Walk yourself right in to any real grocery store there and you can grab them for about 500 yen a bunch.

    Horrible times await your psychie when you come back to Land of the Free®. Complete and unmitigated disdain for most everyone. You being aware that the reverse culture shock will be tough will not ease that pain.

    Don’t let the communication barrier get to you. Indeed, it is very annoying when you are completely aware of what you want to say, but not at all being able to relay it back to anyone. Get one of your peers that may know limited english and force yourself into a conversation in Japanese with them. Your mind adapts the longer you force yourself to communicate in a different mode.

  13. the soc says:

    I think it takes a long time to realize fully all of the negative aspects of a culture. I don’t think you (or anyone) could recognize or understand a culture fully from being there for any time under a full year. I think the no where near exact quote, “having a change is ‘good’ because you know things will return to normal in the end” can explain a bit of it as well.

    But that’s just what I think.

  14. Shinpachi says:

    >>>Horrible times await your psychie when you come back to Land of the Free®. Complete and unmitigated disdain for most everyone. You being aware that the reverse culture shock will be tough will not ease that pain.

    I think Dr.Who might be exaggerating a little, but if you weren’t cynical before then I expect you will be when you return. And I liked your comment on service people there, I hadn’t considered how stark of a difference it is from here where you can always find a few people at any store having a bad day and letting the world know it… But maybe they just cheer up around the foreigners.

  15. Hinano says:

    By that I mean, I love the way buildings look, and the way towns are arranged. I love how close together everything is, and how small the living space is. I suppose most Americans would hate this, but I can’t help but love it. I also love being swept away with the waves of people in the hot spots in Tokyo. Once again, I can’t explain why, but I just like it. Another thing I like are the service people–they’re just so nice! Except at hole in the wall places–in those places, they’re charmingly grumpy, and make some damn good food.

    Why don’t you just move to New York City? =_= lol

  16. jpmeyer says:

    “One of them is something really simple, but I love the design work in this country. By that I mean, I love the way buildings look, and the way towns are arranged. I love how close together everything is, and how small the living space is. I suppose most Americans would hate this, but I can’t help but love it. I also love being swept away with the waves of people in the hot spots in Tokyo. Once again, I can’t explain why, but I just like it. Another thing I like are the service people–they’re just so nice! Except at hole in the wall places–in those places, they’re charmingly grumpy, and make some damn good food.”

    You know, you just described New York City :P

  17. Konstantin says:

    I’ve always described Tokyo as what Manhattan would look like if you managed to squeeze another Manhattan’s worth of buildings and people into it.

  18. Alex says:

    Good post. A lot of what you said about your negative expectations remind me of myself. I haven’t been yet but, as much as I love Japan, I think I’ve read one to many travelogues in which the writer describes (with increasing weariness) the countless times he was stared at/misunderstood/made fun of and ends the book by declaring that he’s sick of Japan and wants to go home. So even though you’ve only been there for a few months, the fact that you didn’t end your post that way gives me a lot of hope.

  19. wah says:

    >>hinano/jp

    I’ve been to New York many times and I’m not talking about that at all–I’m talking about the more small, suburban areas where I live.

  20. jpmeyer says:

    Also, like KagiyamaHina, this post does remind me a lot of what I liked about Germany when I stayed there for 2 months.

    (I wonder how much of those feelings were due to the parts of America that sucked that I didn’t see outside America.)

  21. Hinano says:

    I think you haven’t experienced all the “negativity” you came expecting because you’re still a “student” and students arent as pressured by society to do that whole work 24/6 routine salary man life, kissing asses to your bosses by constantly going out to drink, ignoring your family until your wife goes cheating on you with some giggolo lol.

    I work in a Japanese company in the US, I can already tell all the negative aspects about Japan and I haven’t even been to Japan. WAKAI TTE II YO NE~

  22. tomoyo says:

    Yes, well said, WAH. I agree 100%, especially about how everything feels like the buildings and such. It’s been years, and it’s felt like I’ve been living in a 3rd world country here in the US ever since I came back (and I was only there a few scant weeks). Nihon ni kaeritai yo…

  23. tomoyo says:

    And comparing life in New York to life in Tokyo completely misses the point. Future-L.A. in Blade Runner is the only thing that comes even close in the American experience that I can think of, and it’s still way off the mark.

  24. Robert Kelly says:

    I’ve booked myself a flight and a room to Tokyo in Agusut, in time for Summer Comiket, so this post here is actually rather interesting to me. While there may be some things that we might be disagreeing on here (there’s still some American things I enjoy), reading about your experiences in Japan are pretty interesting.

    I’ll see you at Comiket.

  25. saru says:

    Yeah, comparing life in New York to that of Tokyo is way off; it’s not just the infrastructure that makes that feeling, Tokyo is very distinct. Enjoy the rest of your stay!^^

  26. Yoneda says:

    Gundam. Take pictures of it.