It’s June 13th when I’m writing this, which marks my 9th year anniversary of living in Japan, my Japanniversary if you’ll allow me to butcher words for my amusement.
Nine years of living as an immigrant in a country that does not speak (generally) your first language is an experience. One I really think every person, especially from English-speaking countries should experience.
I wish I could say it’s all been sparkles and awesome, but that isn’t the case; neither has it been an only negative experience. No country is perfect. No place is perfect. It’s up to each individual, I think, to decide the place that is most effective for their personal happiness, which (in my opinion) is the goal of life.
So, let’s have 9 bads and 9 goods of living in Japan for 9 years as a US citizen/immigrant married to a Japanese national~! YAY! I love lists! No, really, I f★cking love lists!
- Anorexia as a cultural norm. I’m a chubby lady and this is often pointed out like it’s a sin.
- Bleaching your skin as a cultural norm. I am a very pale lady, this often leads to strangers petting me on the bus, in schools, in hot springs when I am naked!
- Talking about foreigners as though they can’t speak your language, but I love to wait and then tell them I understood every word and they are very rude for what they’ve said. It’s never nice.
- The stigma of anyone outside the cultural norm. Even my husband has to play his role as a Japanese citizen, which means hiding his hobbies and skills, because having a white wife is really the limit they can handle.
- Tattoos and colored hair equal criminal, or at least a low life…. *whistles innocently*
- Really bleh coffee shops filled with screaming babies and loud people (though I’ve heard this is increasing abroad as well)
- Libraries/ book shops with English book sections maybe one shelf big. It just makes me sad, OK?
- The idea that women must wear makeup, perfume, be cute, kind of dumb, and do double the work of their male counterparts. The patriarch is strong in Japan.
- The price of fruit. You would not believe what strawberries cost me!
- Hot spring and bath culture. My gods, scalding water that comes up to my chin and I can stretch out? It’s like knowing what having a core body temperature is like and what living without arthritis is like for a couple hours after.
- Playing the I don’t speak Japanese card when church/TV/newspaper people ring the door bell. Hey, if they’re going to think I can’t I’m gonna use it.
- Socialist democracy, although Japan has been leaning more and more towards an American democracy… noooo, my healthcare~
- Hori-gotatsu are in-floor holes in your house with a heated table over them. Bless.
- Pokemon Centers because I really like Pokemon plushies. I didn’t get to have many toys and now I am repairing that misdeed! (Metagross and Espurr forever)
- Knowing I can probably find employment if something happens just because I speak English and Japanese and can teach grammar in either language. I can speak, therefore I can find a job. That is madness.
- Japanese sweets (except chocolate and ice cream). They’re just so much milder and more flavorful.
- Matsuri. Japanese festivals are amazing fun and the food is to die for. On the down side, they’re super crowded and loud and it takes me days to recover.
- Being able to be who I am without repercussion. Not of a certain religion? OK! Not of a certain sexuality? OK! As a foreigner it’s true people have few expectations of me, but still those two things are true. I have more freedom here than I did in the USA.