Now, as I type this post, I’ve only lived in Japan for 4 weeks. It’s not a milestone, but it’s the longest I’ve ever lived in Japan, let alone another country. There are many things I’ve learned about while living in Kanayama. These include the following:
1) Whenever you meet someone new, especially someone of importance or someone older than you, be sure to bow and say, “Yoroshiku onegaishimas.” The more you say it, the better. It doesn’t hurt if that’s the only phrase you know, especially when you’re meeting new people.
2) You will definitely build your neck and back muscles from all the bowing you do. Whether it be to co-workers, important delegates, in respect to your students, or even people you see on your bike that you have never met nor will ever meet again, BOW BOW BOW! It’s the common thing to do here, and you’ll definitely get browny points in the eyes of the elderly.
3) If you even attempt to speak the language, people will think very highly of you. I admit, I’m not fluent in Japanese and I am no where close in being fluent, but I do try. I ask how to say certain things in Japanese, practice, repeat, say it out loud, and try to use it as much as possible after I learn it. By attempting to learn the language (even if it means butchering pronunciation and/or grammar), most Japanese people will be impressed. They appreciate that you are attempting to learn their language, and they will actually go out of their way to continue to help and teach you if you’re willing to learn. I try to practice with the teachers at my schools, with people I encounter while waiting for the train, at the grocery store, and even while playing drop-in soccer at the gym. The more you try to immerse yourself in the language, the better!
4) Always care a towel or washcloth with you. There aren’t many paper towels in public places. Everyone has some type of towel with them, whether it be to wipe your hands after eating at a restaurant, drying your hands after washing them, or even to wipe off the sweat from the intense humidity. Never leave home without one…and if you do, be prepared to think like McGyver and use what’s available.
5) People are excited to meet you if you’re a foreigner, especially if you don’t look Asian (which obviously doesn’t work for me…). For some reason it seems that many Japanese people I’ve talked to or have met usually talk a lot with foreigners/visitors, but when it comes to randomly talking to another Japanese person you pass by on the street, there’s no smile or acknowledgement. I don’t know if it’s part of the culture or just the people I meet, but it seems that it’s just not customary. However, when a foreigner engages in conversation or looks friendly, or both, that wall is completely broken down. I’ve met some really interesting and nice people simply by being from America and speaking English. There were definitely times when we didn’t understand each other (and it helped that some friends I was with do speak Japanese), but we were still able to get to know each other and have a good time. I’m not saying that everyone needs to acknowledge and smile at everyone, taking the time to talk with them and telling each other your life stories, but this just doesn’t seem as noticeable of an action in Japan as it does in the United States. Who knows why?
Well, I’m off to sleep to get some rest for Elementary School Undokai’s! (My next post will be about Undokai’s with pictures and stories! So Stay TUNED!)
Positive Outcomes Only 🙂
-Wishing on a Star