Tokyo Chameleon

Reverse culture-shock and thoughts about Japan

I returned to America back in late December, and of course I’ve missed Japan since I’ve been back in the states, but I wasn’t really hit by it until a few days ago.

I was specifically thinking about the nights I’d hang out with my friend Danny in Ishikawadai at his share house, and stay there til ridiculous hours. I’d usually leave anywhere from midnight to 3am, and spend 40 minutes walking back to my dorm in Ontakesan. I really enjoyed the walk, it was peaceful and usually pretty quiet. Whether there were people around or not, I never felt threatened or unsafe, it was such an alleviating feeling. I did this almost every night within the last month I was in Tokyo. I don’t think I’ve ever felt that level of security anywhere I’ve been in the US, even in extremely low-crime areas.

Another thing I really miss is the honor system there. Sometimes I caught  myself feeling anxious and paranoid that someone would try to steal my things, or I’d have to keep a close eye on my belongings or whatever. But really, the only people you have to watch out for are other foreigners (unfortunately)   :T
I would hear about my classmates leaving stuff on the trains by accident, and just very casually saying “It’s whatever, I’ll just go get it after class. I’ve never had an issue getting things that I left somewhere. It’s happened a lot.” Danny even said he left an umbrella out at his share-house for a few months and when he came back it was still there where he left it. 

More things I miss about Japan that I generally never experience in the US:
-The extreme cleanliness of EVERYTHING. It got to the point where if I even just saw a wrapper blowing in the wind I felt extremely off-put because seeing any kind of garbage lying around was so rare.
-EVERYTHING WAS SO ORDERLY?? Getting around the train stations was so nice. Everyone stood on the left side of the escalators and walked on the right side. There was hardly ever anyone breaking this order. even when it was extremely crowded, people would form lines to get on the trains. Never once saw any buttheads cutting in front to get on the train, people would just wait for the next one if it filled up.
-Speaking of trains… oh my god the trains. I didn’t think such a perfect train system could exist. The trains came frequently and were always on time. Clean, quiet, fast.
-I don’t know how to explain this one, but it has to do with personal space boundaries? In America everyone seems really uptight and easily agitated if that boundary is broken. There’s always some kind of tension, I’ve experience, when walking around or taking any kind of public transit. I don’t want people near me and people don’t want me near them. In Japan though (at least on the trains, possibly other places too) I never really felt that same kind of tension. If the train filled up people had no hesitation to sit next to someone else, or stand next to someone else, or push through a crowd of people. Might have to do with the overcrowding of trains during rush hour, since that’s something everyone has to deal with there at one point or another. I always experienced it during my morning commute to campus, and I personally didn’t mind it that much (sometimes I would stand next to a really stinky person though and that was unpleasant).
-Quietness. For the most part everyone was pretty quiet, you rarely saw people talking on cell phones in public. Even if it was really crowded and they were talking to friends they would keep it down. Every now and then there’d be the typical obnoxious teenagers, but that’s to be expected anywhere.
-Food. And probably not the kind that pops into everyone’s head, haha. I really really miss the McDonald’s and 7-11s there. 7-11 in Japan actually has some really good, cheap meals. I was on a tight budget, so convenience stores like 7-11, Lawsons, and FamilyMart were places i went to frequently. They were also open 24/7 (most of them anyway), so if you had any late-night cravings you could just walk down to the conbini for a quick, cheap snack.
-cheap health insurance.

Granted, Japan has its downsides too, and I’m sure with extensive living there a lot of what I find endearing now would lose it’s wonderment down the road. A few things that I struggled with while I was there might seem kind of obvious, but the biggest issue I had was feeling extremely alienated. The first month was very hard for me to get through, but became MUCH easier to manage when i began making friends. Also, the other foreigners (Americans) that were with me in the dorm were uhh… unpleasant to be around, to put it VERY nicely. Think typical college students being loud and drunk in a residential neighborhood. Because of this the locals around Ontakesan HATED us- had to deal with a lot of nasty glares, which made the alienation aspect of the experience a lot harder to deal with.
Surprisingly though, the language barrier was not something that bothered me. I can’t really think of any time that it became an issue (but learning some Japanese made picking out food a lot easier, lol).

Uhg ok I took this post way further than I meant to. There’s so much more to mention, but it’s impossible for me to get my thoughts organized enough to articulate them, and this post is long enough already. All of this was basically just to lead up to me saying that after I graduate from Temple, maybe a year or two after that, I was thinking of moving to Japan for a few years. They have some language schools in Tokyo that will sponsor your visa if you go to learn Japanese. After that, who knows!
All I know for sure is that I’m not done with Japan, and it will be in my life again in the near future.

  1. thatlizchick reblogged this from tokyochameleon
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  4. twotibsawhisker said: You should talk to me about this cause I need a US break too, baha
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