A true to life drama of a Jamaican male, living and working in Japan since March 2008.

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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Day 456 { Exhausted / General Things Foreigners Must Know Before Coming To Japan Part 1} Thursday, June 18, 2009

Day 456 { Exhausted / General Things Foreigners Must Know Before Coming To Japan

Boy football wasn't so much fun today at all...
We started off by playing against each other to start the warming up process... Now because the place was hottttttt we all got exhausted very quickly...Then this was the time our usual opposing team decided to come and play against us.... Ohh boy.... The opposing team came with some sort of vengeance and goals were scoring on us maybe every 3 mins or so... I did manage to score 1 goal in the early part but that was about it. At the end of the time which was about 10:30 pm.... We were all very very exhausted and my team members were so demotivated.... The foreigners didn't give a heck though because its all in good fun...

General Things Foreigners Must Know Before Coming To Japan Part 1

As I mentioned in the heading above, these things are very general... And they may vary depending on where in Japan you are, and believe it or not, the colour of your skin... This is all information that I have experienced personally as well as information received from friends from other countries.... So this is in no way intended to offend anyone... Just stating what I have noticed thus far and its about the good, the bad and the ugly things about Japan.... So here goes:

1) You will be stared at -

Whether you like it or not, whether you are black, white or purple, unless you wear your
Asian suit, you will be stared at..... However, the intensity of the stares vary from community to community, prefecture to prefecture etc... for eg... In the BIG city parts of Hiroshima, Osaka, Kyoto, Fukuoka, Yokohoma, Tokyo and Kobe etc. The stares are far less intense...

Let me see if I can further break this down by race and if you are in a very rural town or even suburban area......

White/latin or otherwise clear skinned --------------- -------Stare intensity x3

2 or more clear skinned persons are seen together -----------Stare intensity x5

A non-Asian clear skinned and an Asian (Japanese or otherwise) Stare intensity x6
The intensity increases if its 2 people of the opposite sex. And this may be accompanied by chatter and occasional laughs

Black or dark skinned in any way ----------------------------Stare intensity x7

2 or more dark skinned persons are seen together -----------Stare intensity x9

A mixed crowd of dark skinned and clear skinned together---Stare intensity x10

A dark skinned person and an Asian ------------------------- Stare intensity x12
The intensity increases if its 2 people of the opposite sex. And this may be accompanied by chatter and occasional laughs.

Again this is in the rural areas, but I do remember going to the city part of Tokyo, and this lady was walking by and could not stop staring.

As to why foreigners are stared at so much, its more than likely because they are not used to seeing foreigners in these rural areas....

2) Japan is Expensive

Many people assume wrongly that because these brands like, SONY, TOSHIBA, PANASONIC, SHARP etc etc etc.. are Japanese brands, it means that they are cheaper in Japan... Ha... nothing could be further from the truth.... Those brands are here in abundance yes but the products, what ever it is, are not cheap.... Its probably the same price or more expensive here... Even bread and soda are expensive here... The only thing that I can think of that is cheaper here in Japan, are cars. Nothing!!!! else that I can think of is cheaper here.

3) Many Japanese people you meet, may ask you the same set of questions ... Most popular questions include:

i) where are you from?
ii) when did you get to Japan?
iii) how long have you been in Japan?
iv) why did you come to Japan? (a lot of them are actually expecting you to say the culture)
v) do you like Japan?
vi) do you like the food?

Almost every Japanese person you meet in Japan, will ask some or all of these questions to you.

4) Japan is an extremely paradoxical country

i) So even though Japan is big on technology and has these name brand technological stuff... If you should go in a regular school classroom, you might see very old computers with old Windows operating systems... Ohh and at some schools, not sure if its all of them.... The class rooms do not have AC units... So in the hot and humid summer, you will fry, if you are a teacher.

ii) You can find very old buildings and companies that are around even before 700 BC SERIOUSLY!!! As a matter of fact the 2 oldest companies in the world are Japanese. they are Kongo Gumi and Ho-Shi owned by the same family for centuries. But at the same time, just around the road from those old buildings, you might have a highly sophisticated, earthquake proof, rotating building full of lights....

iii) You will have persons who realllly love foreigners or are realllly disgusted by foreigners...

iv) Japan is one of the most peaceful countries in the world, but they also have one of the highest suicide rates in the world


5) Time -
Everything is on time in Japan... And sometimes ridiculously early... If a Japanese person says they will meet you at 5:00 they really mean 4:45.

6) Food -
Some of the food here is delicious, some is not so good. But in general, being very very general here, if you refuse food offered to you by a Japanese person, then it is equivalent to throwing the food in their face...... And you are expected to eat everything given to you.... If you are eating around kids, you will be stared at...... and even though you are already weird because you are not Japanese, you will even seem weirder if you don't like the food given to you....

So don't be surprised if you are offered food that you don't like, refuse it, then start to get some weird treatment from the person(s) who offered it to you...
eg. My friend last year, refused the school milk and ooooh Boy.....He had a difficult time getting through the school year with the teachers..... My friend in my community also opted to take lunch to work and suddenly everyone is starting to treat her weird.
For me, when I just got here, I told a principal that I didn't want to take the lunch for only 1 month, because I was planning to save to go Germany... And he instantly called my company......

Well again, thats just their culture, we in the west couldn't care less if you eat our food or not... We just need to understand each other thats all... Westerners don't like to be forced into doing anything...


7) People who you met before, may pretend not to know you

Ok so maybe say you go to a friends house and met several Japanese persons. The possibility exist that you might see one of them in the Supermarket the very next day and they don't pay you any mind.... Some may even stare you in the eye and look away... This has happened to me several times... My friends in Kobe, said it happened to them too.


8) You will be discussed

Whether at work, at the shopping mall or wherever, Japanese people will talk about you. If you are in the mall and a group of persons are talking about something, as soon as you are seen by them, the conversation will instantly change to discuss you.


9) People may run away from you or be scared of you

My friend said he opened his apartment door and 3 Japanese high school students scattered in 3 different directions, one apparently hurting herself... My Jamaican friend who is in Nagoya (which is maybe the 5th or 6th biggest city in Japan by population) said she was in the super market, and she attempted to ask an old lady a question... When the old lady saw her, she walked away quickly to the other food aisle.


10) Assumptions

If you are black, the general assumption by many Japanese people, will be that you are from somewhere in Africa... And most Japanese people see Africa as a country and not a continent. If you are white they will assume that you are from the USA.

Tomorrow or some other day I will add more to this list..


Jamaipanese said...

very useful post dave, off to read the continuation

melissainjapan said...

Thank you! Very useful information!

Larisa M said...

Great advice with a little humour!