A Simple List – 21 February 2013
I’ve been living in Japan for nearly six months now and I’ve seen things, lots of things that were once fascinatingly different from what I had been used to in America (as was to be expected), but now have become common as I’ve acclimated to my no-longer-foreign surroundings. I’ve been thinking of the best way to format this post for several days, and because I’ve seen so much I think a simple list is probably the best way to get my point across this time.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, either.
Cars here are maybe 20% smaller than their American counterparts, as there is less room to sloppily park that wide body in a parking lot with tight spaces.
The crows here are HUGE. Not. Even. Kidding.
There are actually a great number of people here who are my height or taller, and are Japanese. (I know this one is kinda stereotypical, but, like all stereotypes there is a grain of truth in this one.)
There are Japanese who will be short with you, and a surprising number of them are of advanced age.
Music is very important here – small tunes play everywhere; on the subway platform before the train arrives, when the adorable seafoam green garbage trucks move through the street, standing in line at the movies, etc., etc.
The garbage trucks are adorable, and where I’m living they’re seafoam green and play music as they move through the streets.
Most people here don’t make eye contact with strangers unless absolutely necessary, and that goes double for gaijin – foreigners.
At the time of this post I have experienced two small earthquakes. They felt weird, and I could almost feel them coming before they came.
If you’ve ever seen an anime where there are students dressed up in school uniforms, the young people here in middle and high school wear uniforms that look exactly like that. Related – the little kids really do wear those yellow hats. I’m looking into acquiring one for myself.
More foreigners than Japanese have made fun of my stilted Japanese. This was genuinely a surprise.
There appears to be an overabundance of Ferris wheels in Nagoya, and in Japan in general.
Japanese food really isn’t all that weird. But some of it is, even at this point in my adventure.
There are almost no Burger Kings here. If I had a Whopper addiction, I’d probably be in rehab by now.
(I learned anime lyrics because I wanted to become skilled in speaking Japanese. It’s a double edged sword, though – I learned lots of words, but not so much in the way of grammar.)
Japanese girls are smoking.
Some Japanese guys want to become as smoking as the girls (read visual kei).
On the whole, Japanese police are fairly quiet where I live. I could be running a cathouse out of my room and as long as I was quiet they wouldn’t come get me.
Clubbing here is… different from back home, but I don’t really like clubbing so this point is moot.
You can get a tattoo here. I am living proof of that.
You can not go into an onsen (hot spring) or sento (bathhouse) if you have even one. I am living proof of that.
This place is fucking expensive.
The trains and buses really are never late. Planes – international flights, anyway – are another story.
People here work as hard as possible, even in the most menial of jobs. It’s refreshing.
I thought that conveyor-belt sushi was the bees knees when I first got here, but the novelty wore off inside of two weeks. It’s good stuff, though.
The oddest thing I’ve seen in the grocery store? Dried krill used as flavoring. Pretty cheap stuff, too.
The oddest thing I’ve seen in the street? A drunk girl passed out on the sidewalk while her two friends squatted next to her. It was still warm out, so she didn’t freeze. And she was still smoking.
The oddest thing I’ve done since I’ve been here? I went with a couple of friends to a maid cafe, where waitresses in maid outfits serve their almost-exclusively male clientele and make small talk with them. My skills weren’t very good then, so that portion of the night was a bit lost on me. Still fun, though.
The absolute oddest proposition I’ve experienced? I was approached by a woman who worked at a semi-erotic ear-cleaning parlor. When I saw the prices quoted on the flyer she gave me, I had second thoughts. But not before I took a picture with her.
I’ve followed symbolic prostitutes of the Emperor through a temple and the shopping arcade behind it, and into a grocery store where they stopped to rest and bless the store with good luck for the coming year.
A parade here is one of the most polite things I’ve ever seen. No one yells, no one screams, and the audience calls out to participants politely to get the perfect photo-op.
The Japanese love everything western – from Halloween decor to hip-hop to Harley-Davidsons to American football. I even bought a pot-leaf chain and pendant during a festival here, and wore it to school without incident.
I’ve almost been run over by drivers three times, and the first two incidents happened at the same intersection a week apart, while I had the right-of-way to walk across the street. Take from that what you will.
Not a lot of people hang out at Nagoya Port, but apparently that part of town is home to a Yakuza enclave. I haven’t seen any, but it’s on the list before I return home.
Some of the shrines and temples I’ve seen are the oldest things I’ve ever seen in my life. They’re also some of the most profound experiences I’ve ever had in my life.
Without question coming to Japan is the craziest, most exotic and by far the best thing I’ve ever done. And there’s still four-and-a-half months of the ride left.