What People Expect of Japan

Deborah K. Vick
Japan sticks to 2030 climate goals, accused of a 'disappointing' lack of  ambition

“I reach looking for the door knob, but it’s not there at all. Then I looked down and there I found it.”

You have just opened the doors to Japanese society. I’m sure you’ll be surprised with what you find there, especially if you expect them to be the same with your own home country. Instead, there you will find a sliding shiji (rice paper) door.

Many come to Japan carrying different expectations. They expect things so different and even exotic, definitely not the same as they know in their home country. They expect they will find a country where the language, customs, and food are different, where the labour rate is not as high as the cost of living in Japan, where people are competing with each other getting into train during rush hour, and where people hide their emotions more than any other cultures.

Most grown-ups come with a prepared mind for some surprises, discomfort, and also some unique adventures. No matter how well prepared they are, eventually they will always face incidents or situations that may provoke interested and unexpected reactions such as anger, confusion, or low moments. Some people expect that those interesting experiences will make an impact in their life. In order to make yourself comfortable with such experiences in this country, you should make quite a few adjustments, and only then will you make the best of your time in Japan.

There are people who come to Japan expecting that they will find a country filled with well-mannered and reserved civilians, and they are shocked to see a man coming out from bars with loud and boisterous behavior, in the evening time. Other people may be frustrated to find small plastic bathtubs in their apartments, instead of spacious Japanese ofuro (baths) they hear so much before.

In fact, Japan is full of that kind of contradictions. People look polite and yet at different times they are very rude to others. They seem to be obsessed with hygiene and cleanliness, yet there are so many places filled with mountainous garbage and clutter. They tend to be private and reserved, yet in some respects there are vague boundaries in personal terms, like urinating in public. The peacefulness and serenity found in temples are quickly erased by the yakiimo men’s loudspeaker (that are selling sweet potatoes), the election campaign trucks, and right-winger jeeps.

For those who are not well prepared, it is quite a shock and discouragement to see the quality of public institutions like hospitals, schools, and government offices run-down, while as we know, Japan is supposed to be one of the most advanced and wealthiest nations on our planet.

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