AUGUST 2020 (VOL.154)
August 2020 (VOL.154)
From Vancouver, Canada
What do you do in Japan?
I teach at a Montessori style preschool as an English teacher, as well as just a general teacher/helper. I also do after school work with former students that have entered primary school.
What are the distinctive differences between Canadian and Japanese lifestyle?
Although many things such as convenience stores, restaurants, izakayas, and alcohol are much more convenient and cheaper here, the banking system is straight out of the 1980s and desperately needs to be updated. Along with that, the people in my city, Sapporo, are much colder than the people in Vancouver and the rest of Japan.
What do you miss about your maternal country living in Japan?
I miss friendly and outgoing people. The people here are very shy towards strangers. I also miss it not being snowy. I used to be able to play rugby all year round, and now I am confined to the 5 months or so where there’s not an absurd amount of snow.
What do you find different about living in Japan over the term compared to when you first arrived or came as a tourist?
I first lived in Osaka as a student, and then in Tokyo for a short-term contract. Everywhere in Japan is different and has good and bad points. I live in a place now with world-class skiing that I can enjoy at my leisure, whereas when I traveled for skiing before I had to take whatever conditions were available at the time. I can now also plan for longer-term traveling, or relaxed day trips compared to having to cram as much stuff into a single day as possible. I live close to an onsen resort, which is great. I can fit in a trip in an hour or two, whereas before I would have to find things to fill the rest of the day to make it worthwhile.
What do you appreciate most about Japanese culture?
I really like the service here, as well as how most people will leave you alone unless you need help. I disliked shopping in Canada because of the shopkeep constantly asking me if I needed help. Here I can just browse and go to them when I’m ready. I also really appreciate the serving sizes. In Canada, meals usually came in big amounts, but things come individually in smaller sizes here, which lets me try a lot more on the menu. Finally, I appreciate the effort Japanese people put in to making sure people have an amazing experience during their time in Japan.
Are there any aspects of Japanese culture or its people that you find bizarre or unique?
I find that there’s a huge generation gap in the ability to communicate here. I am not sure what happened, but people around 30 years and older can typically converse quite well, understand and make jokes, argue points, listen to counter-arguments, and on the whole, are capable of deep and interesting conversations. But when you drop below 30, for some reason, people are incapable of talking about anything other than something superficial, and even in those conversations, their replies tend to stick to “yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes” then the conversation dies. It’s really odd, but they just can’t form connections to people the way the older generations can.
Which places in Japan do you recommend to foreigners?
I would say to just live in Osaka. The heat, the noise, the dirt, the food, the humor… It all adds up to a great experience. Otherwise, Kyoto during the cherry blossom season or fall is a must, and I’d say skip Kinkakuji for Ginkakuji. It’s much more beautiful. Other places I’ve enjoyed have been Sukayu Onsen in Aomori. It has amazing water and beautiful onsens in a very old building with a lot of history. The hiking trail there is amazing too. Kinosaki Onsen is also a really beautiful place, although it is typically full of tourists.