Do you love Japan like a lot of my friends do? What do you like about Japan?
First of all, I need to confess something. I cut my hair! lol totally not important, I know.
I actually look worse now. That only looked decent because the hair dresser did a good job drying my hair. I can’t decide if I like my new hair compared to my previous hairdo below because I really look super toot with bangs now.
My next confession is…
I actually don’t love Japan that much.
Granted, I like the country but what most people don’t understand is that while I absolutely love and adore Japanese language, it does not translate to me loving the country. A typical conversation often goes like this:
Me: I’m going to relocate.
X: I KNOW! JAPAN RIGHT?!
Me: Eh? How you know?!
X: Knew it. Cos you love Japan.
Me: Hmmm, I love Japanese language but actually, I don’t love the country.
X: Eh? Why do you hate the country?
Me: Erm, I don’t love it, but that doesn’t mean I hate it? Hahaa.
X: Ahh, I see. I’m so happy for you because I love Japan.
Me: What do you love about Japan?
X: The culture! I love their culture.
Me: Culture… What about it?
X: The culture lor! The food is so nice, the people are so nice, Japan is amazing!
First of all, why do people always assume the extreme? I’m not going to go into this because I’ve spoken about this before (that people like to base their argument on extremes) but still…
I know many people loosely use the term culture to reflect their love for Japan as a travel destination. They are talking about the kind and helpful passersby on the road who will go out of their way to guide them to the right direction, the cleanliness, the orderliness, the amazing shinkansen, the courteous service staff, the safety, the festivals, and all the other quirky things that only happen in Japan. Still, having heard much about Japan — the ‘underlying’ culture — what with the shitty working culture, the sexism, the cronyism, the archaic bureaucracy, the shallowness of a smile without sincerity… I find the culture a bit tough to love, to be honest.
It doesn’t help that I did not exactly get very fantastic experience when I was in Japan. From super rude JR counter staff to commuters who snatch seats to general service staff who just respond with an insincere pleasantry smile (sometimes not even a smile, just a nod and a mumble of !@!#!#zaimasu) after I flash them a genuine bright smile of gratitude, I have met them all.
Having said so, I love Japan for a number of things. I shall not go on about the language because I’ve mentioned it before. I just find it beautiful. But what I do love about Japan is firstly, how solo everything is in Tokyo. There are more seats set up for single person than for group. And no one gives a shit about what someone else is doing. Awesome. Secondly, people are really genuinely helpful. The safety and cleanliness of the place and toilet is amazing too. Thirdly, the people still read! Lovely. The book stores too; how the book cover that is so simple but so helpful to protect your newly purchased book. I also love how most products in Japan are designed properly for user friendliness. The packaging are usually innovative, like a nice little corner to drain the fluid from your yakisoba cup noodle, or the easily tear-able sides to crackers that do not require you to run for a pair of scrissors just to open it. Last but not least, I love the seasons. I admire and marvel at how powerful Japan is, that in April, everywhere in the world sakura themed products pop up in stores — that’s how far their influence reaches. Not forgetting how Japan is a country that can attract foreign talent just because… it is Japan. It just has this allure that draws people to it. For no tangible reason. No amazing tax structure, no amazing pay scale, but people still want to work and live in Japan. Wow. People who are ready to throw away their high paying job to work as an English teacher in JP — just so that they can live in Japan. Wow.
I used to want to head over to Japan to work very much when I was in my early 20s though I did not know how. Of course, life happened and I didn’t, and also cos I never really wanted it bad enough (which explains how I never found out how to make it happen too lol). That was also how I came to know about G’s blog years ago because I wanted to know how Singaporeans actually gain access to Japan to work. In any case, I love working in social services and found no reason to go to Japan along the years, other than for holiday, which I finally did, for the first time in Dec 2016.
I always had a feeling since I started studying JP language when I was 17, that my life would change when I reach Japan. It was just this super strong gut feeling. But when I was there >10 years later, finally stepping foot on Japan’s soil, I was like…
“Doh, you think too much.”
Of course, I still enjoyed my trip, travelling from Osaka to Kyoto, to Hiroshima, then to Tokyo over 2.5 weeks. I had thought nothing changed but when I was in Japan, back home in SG, everything did change, just that I wouldn’t know till a couple of months later. By March 2017, my life had changed completely. Of course, G happened in later part of 2017 and boom! Everything changed.
By now, I’m actually waiting to tender my resignation to prepare for my impending move to JP to join G in end May/early June.
Life is tough, funny, amusing and most of all, amazing.
And I hope I grow to love Japan more when I am there!