Japan: Oh Yeah…Shucks (I Forgot)

It’s a Saturday afternoon, the sun is hot, the cicadas are loud, an occasional train goes by and I’m barbecuing with a cold Sam Adams.  George is graciously playing with the kiddos…sounds of 3 yr old giggles are floating outside.  Basically as a very American moment in Japan.  I look over at our smoking mosquito coil and hope we get to stay here longer than a month.  In the spirit of this moment, I want to remember some of my “oh yeah I should have known that” moments.

  1. Hazards generally mean backing up: This shouldn’t be that big of a deal but I forget this every time I see a car with their hazards lights on.  So much so I recently turned right behind a car with their flashers on, mentally thought oh that’s weird but ok they need to pause or something. I completed my u-turn and then saw them back into a parking spot (another Japan thing it seems…no one pulls into a spot!).  I drove off rolling my eyes and annoyed that I came across as the dumb foreigner.
  2. People don’t say no: I really do try to be respectful of Japanese ways. I bow, I say arigatou gozaimasu…I try (TRY) to be quiet…but being indirect is so ridiculously hard for me.  If I ask my neighbor (a dog trainer) if he can walk our dog while I am working 8-10 hour days….and he says well I’ll have three dogs this month. And we chat amiably for a bit.  I say I’ll take them to the kennel instead…it wasn’t until a day later I realize he was saying no.  Blast. I didn’t even register a no…at all.
  3. Help means holy smokes some serious help: First and foremost I truly appreciate the help but it surprises me every time. I feel like it’s intrusive help? I mean if I say I’m lost to someone they will probably walk me right to where I need to go. This sounds so ungracious! I just get surprised when it happens.  I seriously had a gentlemen clear out the train for me so the kids and I could get off at our stop. He had to wait for the next train to continue on his way. All I can think is WOW! I love you Japan…after thanking him.
  4. People actually abide by pedestrian lights: Yup. Even when there isn’t any traffic. (Most of the time even when there is no traffic!)
  5. I will never be Japanese: I love the food, the culture…but I will never be local.  Obvious but sometimes this can be frustrating.
  6. Eye contact: Bowing while looking someone in the face is rude….darn it.
  7. Bowing: When you see teenagers bowing to each other to say goodbye…it’s very much a “oh yeah” kind of moment.
  8. Look right THEN left: I may have nearly gotten in a car accident because of this.  It sounds obvious but when you’re passing a car on the left…and you look in your right hand mirror instead of straight ahead (due to habit)…it’s down right dangerous.  Sometimes it’s really hard to retrain your brain…drive on the left…no problem…try crossing the street….not so easy (in my opinion).

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    If You Ever Go To Japan: Go To a Baseball Game.  It’s AMAZING!! (Go Baystars!)
  9. Japanese….can read Japanese: Ha. We went to Kyoto in January. I brought back a New Years present from a Shrine to Madeline’s Japanese teacher.  When I gave the gift to her teacher I literally started to apologize because I had forgot to write down the name of the Shrine.  Right as I was about to apologize, her teacher said oh from X Shrine! Thank you (in English). I just stood there for a minute to think of course she can read Kanji…..this sounds so silly but this has happened more than once. I get so used to not being able to read/write Japanese that I forget that’s not the norm!
  10. A yield sign and a stop sign are now the same shape: Yes.
  11. People are just…people: So if you experience the US when we drive or travel to work you would think we are an awful nation.  Same here.  There are cultural differences but at the end of the day…we’re all people with goals, deadlines and destinations.
  12. No Japanese pull into parking spots: I have no idea why! I am starting to learn to back my car up!!
  13. What Are People Yelling At Me? If you’ve ever been to Moe’s or some such restaurant that says “Welcome to Moe’s” every time you walk in or a similar greeting when you leave…that is Japan.  I feel that way anytime I walk into a restaurant here…except 80% of the time I have no idea what they are saying so I bow and hope I’m doing the right thing.
  14. The car driver seat is on the right side of the car: How many times have George and I gone to the right side of the car (at the same time)…most of the time I remember the passenger is on the left but every so often I forget.

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    Yes. Our kitchen is TINY
  15. The car turn signal blinker is on the right side of the steering wheel (and wipers are left): My favorite joke…if you find yourself driving on the right side of the road (by accident) and the other driver turns on their windshield wipers…you’re both learning to drive here.
  16. Centipedes are not to be ignored: I almost rented a house that had “centipedes”…here they have blue legs and are poisonous! Know your bugs! (And goodness they’re scary).
  17. Am I the only one driving a beater car? I swear everyone drives an Audi, BMW, Mercedes Benz!
  18. Not everyone plays well in the sandbox (cultural animosities): I flew to Korea with the kids recently. I know literally two Korean words (hello and thank you). I was trying to buy a tuna with mayonnaise Onigiri for Sweetpea at one point so I asked a Korean person if they spoke Japanese…the look of disgust and response was not hard to miss.  Apparently (I have since learned) Korea and Japan may not be friends.
  19. Non Asian people are lumped into one bucket (I think): I hate to say this but I feel Americans generally lump Asian countries into…Asian.  When we first moved here my neighbor told me he had gone to Ikea as if to say hey I’ve been to or appreciate your culture. I almost responded with oh that’s Swedish but quickly realized he was trying to pay us a compliment. Oh. I’m Euro-American? Different.

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    This eel bowl (in Nagoya) was delicious. (They also gave us a private family room because we had four adults and three children…THANK YOU JAPAN)
  20. San vs Chan…Respect: I consistently forget that children have respectful ways of talking in Japanese to adults.  I still have to double check how children say hello to adults.  (San is for an adult and chan is for a child so Sweetpea-Chan or George-San).
  21. There are free texting services that people use (LINE): So crazy! And it seems like people use them! We don’t even have a phone line on our smartphones! We have a flip phone for emergency and use Facebook messenger or LINE exclusively to talk/text people!
  22. We both get embarrassed when we can’t understand each other: A Japanese person may not be trying to avoid you…they can be freaking out that their high school English is rusty and that they might not understand you.  This happens both ways except I have a year of train Japanese (learn kanji etc on the train by matching and asking questions).
  23. I’m learning Japanese: I can read every fifth letter/character (on a good day)…So much to learn! Everyone says it’s hard but so is English for non English speaking people!  According to a quiz I took recently my vocabulary is somewhere around 29000 English words…well Japanese have kanji, hiragana and katakana….
  24. How is everyone’s makeup so darn perfect…always. SERIOUSLY.
  25. Can I stop mixing languages already? Mas grande or come se dice ____ nope.
  26. Drier Sheets are a commodity…who knew!

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    Food Trucks…NO WAY!!!
  27. Amazon Japan is awesome: Amazingly fast delivery beats waiting a month or two for one package with one thing in it…to arrive.  Now…product selection is different.
  28. Black Cat…Thank You Japan! I literally shipped my large suitcase from the airport to my house for $15? I intend to ship our bags to the airport next time we fly! I’ll pick them up at the airport and fly out! Such a stress reducer!
  29. Japan Airlines have Family Check In Counters (WHAT! This is awesome!): Enough said…oh ok and they seriously help you when you travel with kids.  Not a begrudged I have to help you but a genuine what can I do to make your trip better.  It’s amazing. If I can choose an Asian airline over any American Airline….done.
  30. Tolls are really expensive (or can be): I can take non toll roads but the times Google has sent me down “streets” that have maybe three inches of room on either side of our Nissan March…I pay the $26 to go 30km round trip.
  31. Does everyone wear heels?  It sure feels that way.
  32. Gas is pumped in liters: I am not fast enough to figure out how much it’s going to be…or I haven’t invested the five minutes to learn…I drive to base to get gas.  The two times I got gas off base, someone came running out to help me pump my gas.
  33. Two hour rule (mine): If it’s a new location were driving to…I feel the likelihood is I will get lost. So recently I drove the girls to a play date…I got horribly lost. $40 in tolls later and two hours late…we went for a walk by ourselves. I don’t feel I’m bad with a map! Sometimes when you’re driving playing “match the kanji” while driving alone with kids…a left turn with three options can be daunting. We just keep a good attitude and make it happen….late.

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    Signs Can Be Difficult At Times
  34. Addresses…how come I can’t find it? I will take our house for example. Google maps (which I find is significantly better than Apple maps…and I like Apple) puts a driver or pedestrian a street over from our house. The times I’ve had to wait on that other street for guests! It’s very frustrating when we’re trying to find a place, think we’ve arrived, can’t read signs and hope we’re walking up to the right house…
  35. America is not the United States: Obvious.  But when you go to Disney Magic Kingdom/It’s a Small World…the North America exhibit has a cowboy and a Native American representing the US. Now I feel arrogant. Shucks.
  36. Trains can shut down: That was a surprise! But power outages and accidents happen.
  37. Why is it so expensive to get my nails done? No idea but it’s something like $60 for nails.
  38. Weight…stone, kilo, pound?  The same could be said for Fahrenheit and Celsius. A fever is what in Celsius? My daughter weighs how much? Thankfully I have a calculator…but if a mom asks me how much Baby E weighs I have to use a calculator every. single. time.
  39. Children bowing and Thank You: it is so darn cute.  Trying to teach Sweetpea cultural differences has been interesting. I ask her to point with all her fingers but in the US one finger is fine.
  40. Hand Gestures:  Who knew the way your fingers point when using your hand to say come here has different meanings and can be quite rude.
  41. Construction Worker Traffic Personnel and Hand Gestures: First, there seems to be an over abundance of traffic personnel for construction sites…maybe it’s because some of the roads are so narrow? One of my first experiences of said sites…a construction worker waved his direction wand in a downward direction and then made circles with it almost as if he was stirring a pot.  I sat in my car for a solid 20 seconds trying to determine if he meant turn around or go forward.

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    Hm.  Time to get a toddler sized carrier. (He is tall even for US standards…)
  42. Baby wearing and co sleeping: Everyone does it! I kind of love it .
  43. No trash cans or hand towels…pretty much every where: So bring your own and carry your trash. Let’s not even talk about trash separation
  44. Sunglasses vs umbrellas: If I were to count the number of umbrellas to sunglasses on a given day…umbrellas win. It seems like the sunnier it gets…the more clothing articles are worn to include sun visors, arm sleeves, long lose pants, and flowy but long sleeved shirts. (And I’m in shorts…)

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    Purchased at Homes (Think Home Depot/Target/Pet/ Furniture store amazingness).  SO CUTE!
  45. Clean, small, well maintained, beautiful, cute: Japan. There are flaws like any place but it’s been an eye-opening amazing experience so far.
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Wholesome Living: Finding Balance

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