Two years ago, if you asked me anything about Japan, I probably would've just laughed and said something about sushi, ramen, or weird anime shows. I seriously had no clue about anything related to Japan, except maybe there was cool neon colored signs everywhere, there's a cat cafe where you can play with cats, and maybe even that saying "konnichiwa" means hello.
Fast forward, and who would've thought I'd have been living in Japan! Ugh, if I knew that I definitely would've taken the Japanese class in high school instead of German.
After living in Japan for almost a whole year, I've been able to see so much of the real Japanese culture. Definitely more than I ever thought I would. And now, I feel like I have a pretty good idea of what life is actually like here, and no, it's not all about anime or video games and robots. The Japanese culture is really interesting and different than anything I could have imagined.
The first time I visited Japan was in the summer of 2019, for one week. When I first stepped off the airplane into the Osaka Airport, the first thing I noticed was how clean everything was. It looked like a brand new airport, or like they just had a huge deep cleaning week. That was my very first impression of Japan. And it is true, Japan is so clean. Literally everywhere, there's no litter on the streets, and even the public bathrooms seem like a luxury. I also thought that Japan seemed like it was in "the future" and that everything was so advanced compared to the United States. Some places there's robots that help you, and there's trains so you can go anywhere in the country really quickly, everything is so fast and efficient. When you go to a restaurant you push a button when you need something from the waiter, there's convenience stores on every corner ( I always love FamilyMart and 7-Eleven), and the trains always run exactly on time. I thought Japan was this super cool, advanced, and futuristic country, and I thought I couldn't wait for America to get to this level.
Now that I've been living in Japan I've been able to really see more into what life is really like for people here. I don't so much believe that Japan is the future, but just the results of a country that works differently than what I'm used to. There's a few main categories of differences that I've noticed between life that I'm used to(in the US) and what life is like here in Japan.
A lot of the people that I've met in Japan have been some of the nicest, most considerate people I've ever met. I've really noticed how important the value is of caring about others, and not just worrying about yourself. I feel like everyone is so respectful of one another, which brings feelings of peace and safety. Japan is such a safe place, and I think this is a big reason why. It is pretty nice to not have to worry about your bag getting stolen if you leave it somewhere, or getting kidnapped, or being in a shooting. I definitely think this is a really positive thing about Japan, everyone is able to work together and help each other out, creating a nice and safe place for everybody.
Okay the Japanese language is crazy difficult to learn!!!(at least for me ahaha) it's been a struggle. But it's also soooo cool to learn! There's three different alphabets in the Japanese language; Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji. Certain letters from certain alphabets are used for certain words, so you can have one sentence that uses all three different alphabets. Woah... right? I feel like everyone here is so smart to have learned everything. I've really realized how amazing it is when someone can speak more than one language. Especially being here, and everyone is so nice about me not knowing Japanese very well. And I'm especially so surprised because a lot of people will be so nice, and try and speak to me in English.
I'm really starting to love Japanese food! At first I didn't really care too much for anything specific. I just thought it was really cool to be eating "real ramen from Japan!" or "real sushi from Japan!" But, now I'm getting some favorites. Like udon, yakisoba, and karaage. I'm even learning how to make them at home! I also have always loved going to the sushi train shops, where your food is served on a little conveyor belt train.
The portion sizes are very nice as well! Perfect size, so you can actually finish a meal! I really love that. I also think the food is a lot healthier here!
The work life in Japan is something I've just started getting into and realizing. As a lot of my friends are working, and I'm getting closer to working a real job, I've been able to see how incredibly stressful work life is in Japan. Everybody works crazy long hours, and work seems to be many peoples first priority. People are very serious about their work, striving to get everything done quickly and perfectly. I realized this is why from the outside, Japan seems so futuristic, clean, fast, and efficient, because everyone is working so hard behind the scenes to make it that way. I find it really impressive, and I admire how hardworking and diligent all these people are. It's amazing to see people fully committed and really care about what they're doing. However, this way of life can be very harmful on peoples mental health. Japan is ranked by the U.N. to be the 58th happiest country. Which, is pretty low, and suicide is considered to be a major social issue in Japan, with a suicide rate of 16 in 100,000 people. Research does show that when you're working too many hours, or put in a stressful work environment it can cause people to feel sad, and unsatisfied with life. And I really do think that the mentality and pressure put on workers can play a big role in these statistics. Especially because I've been able to see how it affects the people around me.
I've definitely learned so much while living in Japan. I've learned so much about myself, others, and have more insight to the way the world works. And all of this I could have never learned any other way.
CARING MORE ABOUT OTHERS, BUT ALSO TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF
Seeing how considerate and careful everyone here is of other people, has made me realize how if we care for others is can prevent and fix so many problems. It's so easy to get caught up in what we want and what is easier or best for ourselves, without caring if other people get hurt or upset in the process. But, it's really important that we put in the effort to think about what we can do to help others as well. It can make things run more smoothly, cause less arguments, and make more people happy.
However, there needs to be a balance. You need to be able to take care of yourself as well. You can't always be doing things for others, and only doing what they want you to do. You'll start to feel burnt out, sad, and lose your feelings of worth. So, learn how to set boundaries, and don't be afraid to say "no" when you need to. This balance can be hard to find, and it's something you have to figure out on your own. But, I think if we are able to find this balance of caring for others and ourselves it can solve so many internal and external struggles we may have, and eventually bring along feelings of peace and happiness.
RESPECT THAT PEOPLE THINK DIFFERENTLY
Something that you see whenever you go to a different country is that people do things differently. It's inevitable. Different cultures always do things differently. We all grow up doing things certain ways, and we usually keep it that way our whole lives. And it usually comes down to our culture. You can think that they way you keep your shoes on when you enter a house is completely normal, just like how another person thinks that leaving your shoes at the door when you enter a house is completely normal. There really is no normal.
And usually, when we go to a new culture, and see someone doing something completely different than us, we are quick to judge. It's almost instinct to look confused and say, "what in the world are you doing?" But, it's important to see that they probably think the way you do it is weird too. This really opens your mind to so many different perspectives, and it's important to respect and accept that we all do things differently.
I've definitely been on both sides of this issue. When I first came to Japan, and I realized everyone showers like 3 times a day, I was so shocked. I would constantly laugh about the need to shower every time we come back inside after going out. I thought it was so weird, and unnecessary. However, this was just a cultural thing, and they all thought it was weird that I only showered once every day, or even every other day.
It's inevitable, in every aspect of life, that you're going to come across people that think and do things differently than you do. We need to learn how to accept that, and not judge others.
LIFE IS SO MUCH MORE THAN WORK
A big thing that I've learned while in Japan is that there is so much more to life than working and getting money. Yes, we need money, but we don't need to commit and dedicate our lives to something we don't care about just to get money. It's important to find your passions, what makes you happy, and follow your dreams. We all deserve to live a life that we enjoy, no matter what it is that you enjoy. We should work so that we can live and pursue our dream life, instead of living so that work is your sole purpose.
It's been so cool, and definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity to live in another country and learn all of these things, especially in Japan! It's been crazy to see how different literally everything can be just because of where you live. It's also interesting to see how growing up and living somewhere plays into your personality and makes you who you are. I've also been able to notice things about my own culture that I never would have thought about before.
Traveling opens your mind to so many new perspectives, and makes you learn so many things you'd never usually think about. I really believe that the knowledge you gain from traveling is some of the most valuable knowledge you'll ever learn. And, you'll never regret it:) So, get out there! Move somewhere new just for fun! Maybe even Japan!