Exploring the stark differences between expectations and reality in Japan became an intriguing topic when suggested by a former colleague. However, as someone who has lived in Japan for several years, I’ve grown accustomed to the exquisiteness of life here, making it a bit challenging to revisit my initial expectations. Despite the challenge, let’s delve into the interesting dynamics of what I anticipated versus the realities I’ve come to know in Japan.
Please keep in mind that this post is not intended to tarnish Japan’s reputation. My affection for Japan is evident in my previous posts. I enjoy my life in this beautiful country. However, I aim to candidly share whether expectations truly align with the realities I’ve encountered.
NAVIGATING THE LANGUAGE BARRIER
Upon my initial venture into working in Japan, I arrived armed with some foundational knowledge of Japanese, thanks to the language training provided by my former company. I believed that basic proficiency would suffice, assuming that gestures could effectively bridge any linguistic gaps. Little did I realize the true significance of mastering the language for seamless communication and survival in this new environment.
After more than five years of residing here, I’ve come to the realization that relying solely on gestures and basic Japanese falls short, especially if you aspire to establish a family in Japan. The intricacies of crucial documents written in Kanji, coupled with the profound nuances of the language, highlight the necessity for a deeper linguistic understanding. Moreover, in the professional realm, while some companies may accept a lack of Japanese proficiency, the ability to communicate in the native language proves indispensable for fostering strong relationships with colleagues and comprehending intricate company policies.
It’s not Japan’s fault, of course, it’s our responsibility to learn the language. Adapting is on our end.
PRECISION, UNWAVERING ORDERLINESS
Guided by media portrayals and the accounts of those who have visited Japan, I anticipated a nation characterized by tranquility and precise order.
In all honesty, my expectations have aligned with reality. While not flawless, Japan stands out as the epitome of organization and orderliness, particularly in document processing, diverse queues, and maintaining silence, notably in public transport and communal spaces. Although urban areas may exhibit occasional bustling and organized chaos during rush hours, such instances seem to represent a mere 1% of the overall experience.
CULTURE OF POLITENESS AND RESPECT
Japanese people are globally recognized for their politeness and respectfulness. Mainstream sports events often showcased their commitment to cleanliness. The prevalent gesture of bowing became synonymous with respect in Japan. Witnessing and hearing about these positive practices shaped my belief in the cultural values of courtesy and consideration.
While I understand that not everyone embodies the stereotypical politeness, experiencing disrespect in Japan, especially from someone older, was genuinely hurtful and disappointing. Despite my usual respect for elders, a man in his 60s or 70s, seemingly fragile, physically pushed me on a train to Ueno. The incident, occurring on a day off from work, left a lasting impact. Though I strive to respect others, the blatant disregard for courtesy was unacceptable. While I chose not to escalate the situation further, I made it clear through a stern gaze that I wouldn’t tolerate such disrespect.
Certainly, while many in Japan are courteous and polite, it’s important to acknowledge that, like any country, not everyone may exhibit such traits. Individual behaviors vary, and politeness levels can differ among citizens, contributing to a diverse social landscape.
AESTHETIC SPLENDOR IN NATURE AND HUMAN CREATIONS
The allure of Japan captivated my dreams, fueled by the enchanting images and narratives encountered on the internet. The promise of breathtaking cherry blossoms, the rich hues of autumn foliage, the iconic silhouette of Mt. Fuji, serene Zen gardens, grand castles, the towering presence of Tokyo Skytree, historic shrines, temples, and the gleaming skyscrapers all beckoned with beauty, inviting me to witness their splendor firsthand.
Their magnificence in photos set high expectations, and I anticipated firsthand encounters to be equally as breathtaking as the captured images.
As cliché as it may sound, the reality matched the visuals – what I saw on the internet and in photos was indeed authentic. If anything, the beauty surpassed my expectations when experienced in person. Japan’s allure, both in natural landscapes and architectural wonders, captivated me from the moment I set foot in the country. Even after residing here for some time, the enchantment persists, and I find myself continually amazed by the beauty it offers. With each prefecture holding its own unique charm, Japan undeniably stands out as one of the best destinations for sightseeing.
In my country, there’s a widespread belief that Japan is a nation of affluence, a notion often reinforced by the media’s portrayal of it as a well-developed country. The assumption is that if a country is well-developed, its citizens are financially secure, and homelessness is nonexistent.
Japan is undeniably well-developed, with a majority of its citizens able to comfortably meet beyond their basic necessities. Car ownership is common for many, although it’s not necessarily seen as a symbol of wealth unless it’s a luxury vehicle. Despite the overall prosperity, there are still instances of homelessness, as observed during my time living in Tokyo.
I anticipated a demanding work environment in Japan for people from all walks of life, with a focus on dedication and punctuality. This expectation aligns with the information shared by my former students, indicating that business trips, both domestically and internationally, are commonplace.
Japan typically maintains a rigorous work environment across various sectors, encompassing both domestic and international business trips. The commitment to professional responsibilities is a notable aspect of the work culture in the country.
Having grown up immersed in anime, I was captivated by the stylish attire worn by the characters. This sparked an expectation that Japan’s fashion scene would mirror this cool and liberating style. Given my passion for fashion, I was genuinely excited about the prospect of expressing myself freely through clothing.
Japan’s fashion scene is undeniably unique and cool. Many individuals express themselves through captivating cosplay costumes, adding a distinctive touch. In bustling cities, you’ll encounter locals confidently showcasing their very fashionable styles. Personally, I appreciate the diversity, as there’s also a modest side to Japanese fashion. Embracing neutral colors that seamlessly blend with the crowd, it provides a soothing visual experience.
Just like my personality, I enjoy the occasional reveal with my clothing choices, experimenting with styles, yet there are moments when I prefer the modest and understated elegance in what I wear.
Absolutely, like any country, Japan has its challenges, but there’s a reason for the positive reputation. The people here truly aspire to excel in their pursuits, striving for perfection and caring for the well-being of everyone. This commitment is evident in the daily hustle and bustle, showcasing a well-disciplined nation that, while not perfect, exemplifies a dedication to excellence and collective welfare.