As we venture into the beginning of our second full week in Japan, I've reflected on the feelings/opinions/expectations I've realised (yes, I just spelled it like I live in Britain; leave me alone) in my time here.
But first it's time for a little game called NAME THAT JAPANESE STEREOTYPE in which I address stereotypes that I've encountered and attempt to prove them one way or the other. Please see my previous post if this doesn't seem PC enough for you...
Stereotype #6: Japanese people are technologically advanced and have crazy tech inventions for everyday things. Truth. We've eaten at two sushi places so far and they have both had conveyor belts for sushi that just travel around the restaurant offering plates of sushi for you to grab. Then they keep track of your tab by the colour-coded (seriously, just shut up about the way I spell things...) plates (blue is 108¥; red is 230¥; etc.). It's efficient and way cool. We also dined at a restaurant where you order from a vending machine, get a ticket which you give to the server who then brings you the food. Cool part is you've already paid at the vending machine so when you're done, you just leave! And then there was THIS magic:
Stereotype #7: The Japanese style is very modern with clean, uncluttered lines, therefore Japan is very modern with clean, uncluttered lines. False. The design elements of houses may lean in that direction, but on the whole Japan is an efficiently crowded place with loud, bold, and colourful (...let it go) designs that belie a chaotic, sometimes unfocused theme in the more rural areas. 'Exploratory' might be a kind way to say this. It doesn't seem that any sections of town are ruled by the regulated design standards that you might find in areas of NYC, Boston or even downtown Columbus, GA. Don't misunderstand me: I love it. The chaos is charming and the colours enchanting...it just shatters the Mulan village motif I had in my head. Thanks, Obama.
(disclaimer: I've been in ONE Japanese town so this is clearly an overgeneralisation to which I will happily find exceptions later)
Stereotype #8: Japanese people love Hello Kitty. Truth. I've already visited two stores dedicated to this classic Japanese character. #childhoodmemories #grabbags #taylorswift (Tay, we have to stop meeting like this...)
Stereotype #9: Japanese gardens are world-renowned so every Japanese person has a meticulously tended landscape. False. Maybe they would if they had yards (!!!), but there's simply no room. Some people have lovely balcony gardens, but mostly there are just concrete areas for cars and then some communal parks in the centre of town. I will attempt to remedy this tragedy by having the best garden I can cultivate in 2 years and 5 square feet. (Pictures to come).
Stereotype #10: Japanese/Asian people are bad drivers. Don't you DARE judge me for putting that one out there. You've been wondering when someone would put this to rest, once and for all, SINCE YOU WERE SIXTEEN!!
As a brand new driver in Japan, I feel I finally have a platform for this incredibly important topic. That's right, I'm a card-carrying member of the Japanese Driving Club. (disclaimer: this is not a real club. or if it is, it probably has something to do with golf...golf is HUGE here.) After taking the drivers' ed class (and flashing back to my 15-year-old self for a morning) I learned a few things.
1. Japanese pedestrians and cyclists have the right-of-way 100% of the time.
It is NEVER their fault if they get hit.
2. Japanese pedestrians and cyclists do not feel the need to obey standard precautionary practices such as looking both ways before entering an intersection, changing lanes or crossing the street.
They just raise their hand and go.
3. Japanese pedestrians and cyclists are missing the part of their brain that registers fear...ok, so that's not true, but it's seriously fascinating the trust they have in the drivers on the road.
4. As a driver, you must CONSTANTLY be scanning for erratic behaviour among the Pedestrian and Cyclist Community.
5. As a driver, you must experience all the fear that the Pedestrian and Cyclist Community is not BECAUSE SOMEONE HAS TO FEAR FOR THEIR LIFE IN THIS SITUATION.
Needless to say, I've come to believe that maybe Asian drivers aren't so bad, they're just scarred from a
terrifying horrifying PTSD-inducing high-pressure driving environment in their home country. So go easy on those Asian drivers. You don't know what they've been through.
This concludes our game of NAME THAT JAPANESE STEREOTYPE, but we hope you'll join us next time. And now a word from our sponsors... HA. Sponsors. Good one.
Shout out to my sister, Sarah Ann (SA), for this next segment:
Questions From Family & Friends Who Are Wondering What Life Is Like In Japan & Finally Know Someone Who Lives There So They Can Ask Them Anything They Want
Please feel free to ask questions about life here in the comments or to my personal email: firstname.lastname@example.org and I will do my best to find out the answers and share them with you here. It encourages me to explore AND satisfies those burning queries about Japan you've been harbouring for all these years.
Question: What is one thing you've seen in Japan that made you think, "Man! I can't believe this isn't in America yet!"?
Answer: Probably, the all-matching school uniforms with different coloured caps depending on the age. How has this cuteness escaped the Department of Education all this time?!
18 children in bright yellow hats walking to the playground?!?
Confession Time: Sometimes I hear Taylor Swift's Welcome to New York in my head, but it's Welcome to Japan and I'm ok with that.
Weird Fact: You are not allowed to disable the camera shutter sound on your iPhone in Japan. It's a privacy issue. Here's to obnoxious sounds every time I take a picture for the next two years!
I typed 'cardboard' in my Japanese iPhone the other day and it auto-corrected to 'catboats'.
WHAT DON'T WE KNOW?
On a slightly more serious note, God has been abundantly gracious with me the past week and I am feeling the grace of the prayers being sent up on my behalf. A sincere thank you to those of you praying for Oakie and me as we transition. You are our family and we love you.