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Monday, May 28, 2018

6 Things You Need To Know About Japan Before You Go - Part 2

I guess this actually makes it 12 things you need to know about Japan before you go, but I am only adding six more items with this article. Click HERE to see the first six.

7) Learn the language. While the JET Programme has been sending workers to Japan for close to 30 years, and private individuals have been living in Japan teaching English since the 1850s, Japan is still not anywhere close to being fluent in English. Despite your best attempts to teach Japan English, you will fail. You may teach a few people here and there some conversational English, heck you may even inspire a few kids to become English teachers, and you may even be able to encourage some people to travel outside of Japan and actually work and live, but truth be told, you are mostly going to help them pass their English as a second-language courses in junior, and senior high school. Nothing wrong with that. The problem, however, arises when these same people - all of whom have studied English as a second language from anywhere from seven to 12 years - don't get much of an opportunity to use it. As such, they lack practice, or simply lack the confidence to use it. I myself can get my face slapped by a women using the eight dirty little phrases I learned in French through my schooling. I won't always get my face slapped, and when that happens, it's a magical evening. Now... since you are going to Japan, it is only polite that you learn a few simple phrases. It could be as simple as "Hello, my name is XXX, and I am lost." "Where is the XXX?" "Please help me." As such, you should learn how to say "Thank-you." and "Please." If you are going to be a stranger in a strange land, at least be polite about it. Japanese people will do their best to help you if they can. It's in their blood. And, if you are going to stay longer in Japan to live and work, regardless of your situation, please learn the language. I didn't. I was a bum. I did have plenty of people around me, however, who helped make my stay agreeable. Not everyone will be as lucky as I was.

8) Dual-language dictionaries. I would recommend you purchase two books: one is an English to Japanese dictionary; the other a Japanese to English dictionary. You can find a word in English and point to it so the Japanese person knows what you are asking about, and you can hand the Japanese to English dictionary to them so they can find the Japanese word that answers your response so you can see what they mean. I actually had many a meaningful conversation with a Japanese co-worker, Mr. Kanemaru - aka Kanemaru-san - this way. In fact, the very first time we met, he used one of the books to slowly tell me a joke to help put me at ease about being in Japan. I miss him. These books are a must for any person going to Japan with limited or no Japanese language ability.

9) Proud Japanese. At first, it may seem like the Japanese are an overly proud people, pointing out such mundane things as Japanese chopsticks, Japanese rice, Japanese kimono, Japanese cars, and Japanese flowers, when to you they are simply chopsticks, rice, kimono, cars, and flowers. It is part of the Japanese make-up to ensure that you know that these things are more than what they seem... that they are indeed Japanese. Cripes... I didn't know that Korea had kimono, or that there were different types of rice and chopsticks. Don't worry about it, and please do not comment on it. Just give them what they want to hear: flattery. It sounds insincere, but it's part of the game. The Japanese have two ways of thinking... the group mentality of what everyone wants to hear; and the personal, individual thought that is never revealed to anyone. As such, your Japanese rice is delicious. It's a short-grained, sticky rice and if you realized it, it has a different flavor from other similar short-grained, sticky rices. Indian rice is long-grained and non-sticky, by the way. You might even be asked if you think the rice is delicious... and if you enjoy the flavor... and your initial thought is: "It's bloody rice! It's rice-flavored!" which merely shows one's ignorance. Don't be ignorant. Use the flattery approach.

10) Japanese women do not want to sleep with you. This one is a shocker. I slept with a lot of Japanese women, and I don't even think I'm close to good-looking. But that was also 25 years ago. In the interim, perceptions amongst the Japanese have flipped upside down. Maybe that's the gaijin (outsider) influence, but Japanese women are wanting to work, not get married, and thus keep working. In the past, they would work for a few years, get married, and have kids and never return to the workforce. Nowadays, Japanese women may still get married, but they are in no hurry to have kids, if they ever do. It has contributed to Japan having a negative population... which implies that it's population is shrinking. This is also due to a lack of immigration, but that's another issue. Now... if it appears I am placing the negative population thing or no-sex thing squarely at the feet of the Japanese women, I am not. Japanese men today are also not in a hurry to get married. Like the rest of the world, people are becoming more and more insular. People don't talk to each other. And in Japan, it's worse. If there is the need for sex, men have video games or soaplands (see my first set of 6 things to know) or escorts. The problem really is that the entire country seems to have become quite blaise about sex - generally speaking. They like it fine when they have it, but there's not that underlying seething of horniness that one would expect any first-world country to possess. I'm horny now, as I write this. What I'm trying to say is that if you are going to Japan to try and sleep your way through your work week like I did - that ship has long sailed. You might get lucky getting lucky, but you would then be extremely rare in your endeavors.

11) Japanese food. For crying out loud... if you are going to Japan, you gotta eat the food. My friend Jeff managed to survive three years on the JET Programme without ever eating Japanese, which is really weird considering her was able to marry a Japanese woman without getting her pregnant. I'm happy for Jeff, of course, but I have no idea how he pulled that entire thing off. Regarding Japanese food, the Japanese are very proud of what constitutes their food. I would recommend you go to Japan with a completely open mind. Even if the Japanese people tell you that you won't like XXX food because foreigners don't like, please... please blow the stereotype out of the water by at least trying it. Natto was was of those food - stinking, rotting fermented soy beans that were wet, covered in a cheeseloth and left to rot, before they are served to the Japanese. Now... those west of Tokyo will not eat it (generally speaking), while those to the north of it will. When someone told me that I won't like something because gaijin (outsiders) don't, it was my pleasure to blow things up and to try it. In the case of natto, even here in Toronto, I can order it at a restaurant and enjoy my meal. It blows their mind! All of a sudden, something as simple as that challenges what they know about gaijin. And, it challenges their superiority about what makes the Japanese Japanese - just a bit. Besides that... use the old adage about Rome... when i Rome, do as the Romans do. Well, when in Japan, do as the Japanese do. No one is saying you need to overwork yourself to death, but we're talking about food. Food is life. Enjoy your life.

12) Rail Passes. For the visitor to Japan, as opposed to the person looking to stay for a year, I would recommend you purchase a rail pass. Japan certainly has one of the most efficient public transportation systems in the world. It's a country that publicly apologizes when a train leaves the platform 20 seconds early, or Buddha help us, three seconds late. Still... you get what you pay for, implying that if you sat around and converted yen to whatever your currency is, you would realize that things in Japan are expensive. Get a rail pass, use it, and go and see the Japanese world. Personally, I would travel to Hokkaido, and all the way west to Kyushu... but note that it's a helluva distance, and you should take a shinkansen bullet train. It ain't cheap. Tokyo is great. It's like an Asian version of New York, where if you wanted to, you could find something to do there 24 hours a day. Most of it legal, some of it kinky. All of it fun. By the way, check out the 1988 movie Mondo New York. You'll really discover why New York is called the city that never sleeps. Rail passes will allow you to travel and see Japan, and save you a few coins. Oh... and please keep in mind that Japan is known for having festivals... you might actually want to book your hotel rooms in advance. I stayed at a Japanese-style hotel once or twice, and always hated it. That doesn't mean you will. My experiences need not be your own. They do have western hotels in Japan - especially in the larger cities. Keep that in mind. But book early.

Okay... that's it for now. I've been writing this blog since 2009, everyday since February of 2011. Obviously there are a lot of things to know about Japan that I could tell you, but heck, I have not even begun to scratch the surface with my 3,900+ blogs.

I'll be back to tell you a few more things you should know about Japan at a later date.

Kanpai (Cheers)
Andrew Joseph

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