Sunday, February 10, 2013

Living in Japan - Disillusionment

Up until now you've seen a lot of me doing this.

And this.

And a little bit of this.

I've now been in Japan for just a smidge over a month. And while yes, I am very, very excited to be in Japan, there are also elements about being in Japan that I have yet to disclose. So prepare for my one month update and prepare for a little bit of disillusionment.

First off.

Coming to Japan is NOT like walking into an anime or manga. No crazy random fountain nose bleeds. No mecca suits walking around. Heck, I don't even think I've seen a cosplayer since I've been here. Well, there was that one girl in the pikachu costume, but she was dressed up because her job required it.

Now, some of you are going to argue with me. I'm not going to deny that there are some cosplayers who probably walk around the streets. Just because I haven't seen them, doesn't mean they don't exist. But I wouldn't expect to come to Japan and find groups like this. It just hasn't happened for me yet. Though I'll keep a lookout around the end of March, that's when the Tokyo International Anime Fair is happening.

Walking around on any normal day a crowd will look more like this.

Though you may find a more varied group if you go somewhere like Harajuku/Yoyogi Park on Sunday. I hear that those are pretty great. So that's point number one. Don't come to Japan expecting to see cosplayers everywhere! Sure, there are some places they exist, but you're far more likely to run across a lolita on a daily basis than a cosplayer.

Which brings me to point number two.

Ask nicely. They may just say yes!
Please, please, please, dear god, please.  Do NOT just take pictures of people without asking! It's rude now matter where in the world you are! Now, a picture like above, a group of people who so happen to be in a larger area you want a picture of, yeah, whatever, no big deal. However, if you're going to start taking pictures of individual people, perhaps that maid advertising a cafe in Akihabara, just don't. How would you feel if someone started taking random pictures of you without asking permission? I'm not sure of the specific laws in Japan, but usually shooting in public places is permitted, due to some legal mumbo-jumbo. However, it is still very rude. Especially if you see someone dressed up and they are obviously working. ESPECIALLY in those cases please, please, please ask first. Sometimes people will say no, but just as often they will probably say yes. So do you part, don't shoot first ask questions later. No one wants to be that weird, creepy tourist.

We asked, they said yes! No problem!
Next up... I am in Japan! Yes! I am quite excited, but there are also other things I didn't expect to find. Places such as Walmart, Subway and Dominos exist in Japan. My first couple of weeks I would get very excited to find "something from home", but walking in you will almost always find that it is different. If it is a restaurant usually the menu is slightly different or they will have different offerings. So while it has the overall feel of what you remember, just remember that it is also a very DIFFERENT place from what you recall.

Going to start jumping around here. Sorry.

People will be nice to you. That doesn't, however, mean that you can be a rude foreigner. Try to blend in, don't talk too loud and use Japanese as much as possible. Even if your Japanese is very broken people appreciate the attempt and usually will help you the best they can.

When eating, especially if it is a meal with a host family it is polite to take a little bit of everything. If you don't know if you like something take just a little bit so that you're not leaving a bunch of leftovers on the plate. It is also considered rude, at least in my household, to leave only the stuff you don't like on the plate. Usually if you explain that you haven't eaten something before and try only a little bit they'll be okay when you don't like it. After all, you can't like EVERYTHING, right? Also, if you have dietary restrictions, such as being lactose intolerant, make sure you disclose at the very beginning.

I have found that Japanese people in general don't understand lactose intolerance/sensitivity. So if you can't have it at all make sure you tell your host family if you stay with one that you simply cannot eat it. Not even a little bit. They will work to accommodate you. Since I'm only lactose sensitive, and thus still can have dairy as long as I take my lactaid it was a hairy first week until my host family understood. Now, even if there is just a tiny dash of milk in the diary my host family tells me so that I can take my medicine.

What else did I want to tell you......

Oh yes, the normality factor. I'll admit, while I knew Japan wasn't all anime and Godzilla before I arrived it was one thing to try to imagine Japanese daily life and another to really experience it. Everything feels so monotonously normal. Yes, the laundry gets hung outside to dry, but there is still laundry to do. Maybe there is raw fish or sushi with dinner, but no one makes any to-do about it because it isn't unusual. Those first few days the biggest shock was just the normality of everything about the situation. Once you're standing here you realize just how SIMILAR it really is. The language and customs may be different, but there are some things you can expect everywhere.

So, those are my random jumbled up thoughts. My disillusionments.


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