In my last entry, I promised to talk more about the types of people that I have seen or met. I will also discuss some of the activities that I have done, as well as some of my plans for the future.
When first coming to Japan, I had an idea in my mind about what Japanese society would look like. I had seen things on the internet about how Japanese people are extremely polite, humble, shy, along with living with futuristic technology, while also valuing cultural traditions very heavily. All of this is true to some extent, but I feel as though many of these claims were overexaggerated. I have come to realize that many things in Japan do not feel too different than back home in America. The culture here feels very different, and certainly people are very helpful to me, but because I am living in the city, and have to walk, commute, eat, and buy things more like that average Japanese person (in comparison with a tourist living in an expensive hotel), and talk closely with Japanese students, I have a more clear picture into what Japanese life, especially student life, is like.
Over these past few weeks, I have seen that Japanese students are normal people. That seems like a strange statement, but I feel that the hyperbole used in discourse about Japan makes everyone’s expectations about students too high, unrealistically so, and place them in a box where you think that you how students are, but that isn’t the case. In my classes, I see everyday people just like at IWU. On most days, there might be a few brave souls who might answer questions in class, but most of the time, students are hesitant to ask questions, which is strikingly similar to school in America. I see students who sleep in class (mostly freshman), students who like music, students who like to gossip, students who are really into the class material, students who like sports, students who like video games, etc. This was honestly really refreshing, and makes talking with them much easier, as I can relate to them much more than I initially thought I would.
I love walking, and I find myself exploring areas during my travels to places in Tokyo. On weekends, I have notice many families with children either biking together or at a local park. It feels nice to watch families have fun, and runs in contrast to what I hear about Japanese people not having any time to have a family due to working so much. I know that this is the weekend, and that I do not often see families together during the week, but it is nice to see that family bonding time does exist here.
Hearing that Japan had public Wi-Fi available in the cities, I had assumed that I would not need a SIM card, so I never purchased one. I have since learned that public Wi-Fi is spotty at best, and non-existent at worst, so I often do not have access to the internet or even a map at times. This has made getting around difficult at times, as I am not able to read some signs, menus, and informational screens because the kanji is difficult to read. This has made asking for help really important for me, as I am otherwise unable to read. Fortunately for me, the culture around helping strangers is very positive. Oftentimes, I am able to ask someone for directions, and they are always willing to help me out. Sometimes, they even offer conversation if they are in the mood, which is always pleasant, even if I do not understand everything they say. Asking people is also a way to get good food, as they usually recommend their favorite menu items, which is always a treat.
Speaking of food, I have had the pleasure of eating a lot of different foods recently:
Udon, from a “fast food” place
Pizza (not very Japanese, but still very good)
Yakiniku, a do-it-yourself grilled meat dish where a stove is in front of you, and they bring raw meat and vegetables as you order, and are cooked on the stove
Okonomiyaki, an unsweet pancake with egg, cabbage, bacon, Japanese mayo and a special sauce
Baskin Robin’s Ice cream, it is surprisingly very popular here, and is also called 31
Tonkatsu in Kabukicho (also I visited the nearby Godzilla head)
Udon, from a more traditional place in Kawagoe, where I sat on a tatami mat
Sushi, including Uni (sea urchin) which is a Japanese delicacy. Uni is intimidating at first but I think it tastes like fishy butter (in a good way)
Taiyaki, a pancake like dessert with filling, usually shaped like a fish (this one was a special Hello Kitty strawberry variety)
Some of the places I have went to are:
A maid cafe
That is a rough summary of what I have experienced so far. In the next blog entry, I hope to talk more about Japanese culture, as I plan on visiting the Tokyo National Museum, where I hope to learn more about Japan.
Also, I am having trouble sending some of the pictures from my phone due to the way that the images are converted, so hopefully I will have more pictures next week!