A Life in Japan – The Good and The Ugly of Japanese Living

#brokenfantasy The Realities of Living Abroad in Japan or AnywhereWant to Live in Japan?

Discover the good the bad and the ugly of Japanese living from actual foreigners who came to Japan and ended up staying + my own experiences of the #brokenfantasy

Throughout my 15 years of studying Japanese culture I’ve noticed one thing when it’s comes to researching about Japan, and it’s that very few places ever tell it like it is, there’s always a grass is greener attitude with many Japanese hopefuls (people wanting to go to Japan for work or school). The reason I believe is because many people when they want to elope to another country want to see it as ‘greener on the other side’ and of course that comes with a side effect of what I call bullshit blinders. But the fact of the grass is greener is not always the truth. But it goes farther then just creating a fantasy island in your head and ignoring the troll under the bridge.

It starts from your own personal experiences and attitude of where you are at right now beyond what the true ‘bad’ or ‘ugly’ that may be cascading through out the given society at any given time.

…What do I mean by that?

It means that the ‘grass is greener on the other side’ does not work because of YOU, not because of the place you are currently at vs where you want to go. It all stems down to your attitude about where you are now. There is an old story about a monk who was sitting at a cross road between two cities. As he sat there resting, a man traveling trekked up to him and asked him “I just came from the city in the west! Do you know how the people in the east are like?” and the monk looked at him for a lengthy period of time then asked “How were the people in the west?”and the traveling man said “I loved the west, the people are wonderful”, and the monk quickly stated “The people in the east are wonderful as well”. An hour went by and another man trekked up to the monk and he asked the same thing but this time he said he was from the east and the monk again replied similarly “How were the people in the east?” and this time the man blurted out “The people of east are pompous, snobby and mean” and the monk took a deep breath and replied “I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this, but the people of the west are also pompous, snobby and mean”.

The point of the story if you’ve not caught it yet is to basically tell you, if you are looking for greener grass to escape from something you dislike, chances are, you’ll find it where you’re going as well. The point I believe in fantasying about moving to Japan is to be realistic and open to all varieties of experiences but to create a positive attitude where I am now and take that with me. So my goal in studying for Japan is to not only see the wonderful things about Japan, but to also see it’s strife, it’s poverty, it’s robotic society and how they operate through shame and fear. I believe many of otaku (Japanese culture nerds) believe they want to live in Japan for all the glorious reasons that one would want to live in Japan, but end up never seeing the darker sides of Japan. I’m sure for many of these individuals seeing or hearing about these darker sides could very well burst their fantasy bubble that they’ve held on to for so long and emotionally invested in, thusly creating doubt or cognitive dissonance. I’m sure this territory here is quite scary for some folks #brokenfantasy (it doesn’t have to be though – and shouldn’t).

So being the person I am, and having been mentored and taught by many different entrepreneurs and mind mentors through out my life, I have a sort of perspective that some don’t naturally have when it comes to being lost in the mind of fantasy. Don’t get me wrong, dreaming of the good that will come from a change in ones life is the bread and butter of the mind, it’s the reason anything really changes for anyone, so I’m not knocking on creating the fantasy, but at a certain point one must recognize that not everything is as it seems or better yet, it’s not always going to be peaches and cream when you get to Japan (or where ever). Knowing how to handle yourself when something happens, be it political with the law or by just social standards of how you might be treated or to even how you might be living when you arrive in Japan is all very much a positive to know before coming over. Now, you’ll never know exactly what you might be up against, but knowing some of how the culture is in a seemingly negative way, might be good to know, this will fortify you in a way before ever arriving.

I believe many people make a country change and immediately regret it because they had a land of fairies and green isles dancing in their head, but when they finally arrive to their locale of their dreams they quickly see the same load of crap that they left behind landing right back in their lap before they could even leave the Airport. So my suggestion here is, keep researching your fun and exciting interests of Japan or whatever place you may be going to, but also let a good %15 of negativity come in with it as well. I don’t want to give up my dream of living in Japan for a period of time, I don’t want a political craze or social difference to break my will to experience Japan, it doesn’t actually have to be what you or I think of as negative, it is what it is and it’s good to know but not dwell on. So living it through others experience’s can give you time to prep for some up coming battles that will undoubtedly happen while you’re in Japan, in fact when I day dream I also see the tough times that could come down the road and see how I would deal with them when they come up, which makes me confident. (this is not dwelling, I do not accompany these thoughts with the feelings of fear, except I see these challenges and use the feeling of confidence while day dreaming – #mindtrick tip)

I see things like:

being pissed off about the amount of homework I might end up with, getting pissed about someones attitude I didn’t agree with, getting pissed at a teacher, getting pissed that a cop would screw with me because I’m a foreigner, getting frustrated not being able to communicate with someone fully…

These things are fears, but the more I can go to these fears through research and being up front to myself and the world (and feeling confident), the less these things will even take place and when they do, I’ll be prepared long before they happen. I’m much more excited then I am worried about anything that will happen, but being able to work these things out and know they could exist help me feel even more confident in moving to Japan for two years, in fact it may seem weird, but having the feeling of being the minority is something I look forward to experiencing. I know I’m much more then just a water bag implanted with encopretic emotional spew (involuntary defection) that’s purely triggered by emotional responses of my surrounding reality, so I know I could very well appreciate the awkward feelings and use them to my life experience and advantage.  Feeling what many throughout the world have to deal with their entire lives gives one an eye into a world that is fully real and offers much more compassion by understanding it at a core level, in the end gives those such as myself a better light to guide future generations forward (children and society).

In the end, I do feel that there is more positives in experiencing and moving to Japan then any of the negatives and perhaps you will feel the same after you view the video I listed here on this page. I’ll be sure to mark all my ‘negative Japan’ posts with #brokenfantasy and through my meta tags. But even now after watching information about the working poor, politics and fear and shame tactics I’m still just as excited if not more, because the #brokenfantasy is allowing me to see exactly what I’m getting myself into and I honestly don’t think it’s that bad at all considering all the pros an cons at this moment in time.

I guess the ball is in your court, what do you think about learning about the negativity of the culture you want to move into? Is it positive… or more negative in your eyes and why?

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Japanese Bowing Etiquette 101: CRASH COURSE

Bowing 101 in JapanLearn Japanese Bowing Techniques and When to Use Them!

If you’re totally confused about when to bow in Japan, this quick crash course guide and videos will give you an idea of when and how to use these bowing methods.

The more I researched into this field of etiquette the more I found that it’s not as easy to really completely master and understand. But, it’s good to note that the Japanese do not expect foreigners to bow and really understand the nuances of this social custom, so for those who are visiting don’t sweat it, but I still suggest do as the Japanese do and learn these three basic bowing customs. This video here though is good to take note of as it will show you several examples of other types of bowing body language that you may see while in Japan.

While you’re in Japan or if you are watching movies about Japan or Japanese people or their culture you will notice that when watching the Japanese bow, the person initiating the bow is expressing appreciation and respect to the other person which is being bowed to. When a person bows, they bow from the hips, not the chest. But it can be used to say hello, good bye, thank you, I’m sorry or, I’m EXTREMELY sorry and many other types of expressions.

There are three different types of bowing in general in every day use in Japan and it really all depends on how deep one bows from the waist/hips when it is performed. The first is the most casual bow, it’s called ‘eshaku’. Eshaku is when the bow extends from the waist at about 15 degrees, it is also common to dip the head slightly and your gaze is straight out from the level of the head. This eshaku is preformed in casual greetings or if you happen to pass by someone of a higher social status then you.

It’s also proper to speak when passing or meeting, but if you add eshaku while saying thank you it will further the expression of how you feel towards being grateful towards the person. It’s said that %7 of our words convey what we really say to another, but our body language is what is really speaking, and the Japanese truly want to express themselves through the act of body language instead of just language, which is quite interesting, being that some western body language is barely seen at times when someone is conveying gratitude or appreciation, yet feels it!

The second most common situation with bowing is called ‘keirei’ bow. This is generally used for business interactions. The bow comes from the waist, and the torso of the body reaches down to about 30 degrees. It’s used when leaving or entering reception and meeting rooms as well as when meeting or greeting a customer.

Diagram of Degrees of Bowing in JapanThe third is called ‘saikeirei’ and it is the most polite bow. It’s extends down to 45 degrees and is used for express extreme feelings of thankfulness ‘Domo arigatou gozaimashita’ or if it needs to be a very sincere apology. ‘Gomenasi!!!’.

Hand gesture in Japan before and after eatingThere is another custom that can be noted here as well. There is a gesture called ‘gassho’ which is clasping of the hands. It’s a gesture of putting the palms of both of your hands together in front of your chest. This gesture originally comes from Buddhism, and being that most of Japan is Buddhist it’s fair to say that this custom is common. It’s custom to ‘gassho’ before and after when it eating.

‘Itadakimasu’!

Which is a word that means ‘to receive’ or ‘accept’, it’s a way to express thankfulness towards the food and who prepared it. But at times could also come off like ‘LETS EAT!’.

Here is a great video with a bit more bowing etiquette within it! It’s great to actually hear stories from an actual Japanese person about bowing, you really can start to understand it a bit more by seeing it through their eyes.

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Izakaya Food, Drinks, Atmosphere and Etiquette

The How to and Dos and Donts of Izakaya Etiquette Foods Drink and MoreThe Japanese Izakaya

All you really need to know about Izakaya in Japan

It’s said that the infamous izakaya of Japan are basically small (sometimes large) restaurant/bars. This is where a lot of Japan goes before they end up going home for the night. Many will either visit a izakaya before or after their last train home. This is what makes Japan so alcohol friendly, there’s no need for designated drivers as long as you jump on the last train for the night (Usually between midnight and 1am).. but if you’re drunk as hell, you might want to remember your manners on the train.

Want to impress the local Japanese with your izakaya etiquette elite skills?

Try this one: Open the door to the izakaya, enter slightly inside (mostly with just your head), and say the following “haitte mo ii desuka?” which means, “may I come in?”. Now since you’ve totally just impressed everyone, lets move on!

When you arrive at a izakaya you may hear “otsukaresama deshita!!” (You look tired and deserve a drink!) and Kanpai (cheers)! This is a great place to unwind, relax, get wasted if you so choose and enjoy a great variety of izakaya foods. It’s not solely about the drink! During the weekdays you’ll notice a lot of coworkers sitting together talking and laughing to end their day before going home, and on the weekends izakayas are a popular location for get togethers, parties and the like.

First Snack and First Drink at Izakaya in Japan
“First Snack and First Drink” – o-tooshi tsuki-dashi

But it’s good to know when you first get there you will most likely be brought what they call a “o-tooshi tsuki-dashi” it means, “first snack, with the first drink”, and they can range from a basic cabbage mix to a bowl full of recently frozen edamame from China to a delicious seared tuna. But be sure to say something immediately if you do not want these appetizer/hors d’ourve then say “o-tooshi katto shite kudasai/お通しカットして下さい!” It means please remove or cut the appetizer. You can learn more about how to say Japanese hor d’ourves and Appetizer by reading this post.

But lets get to the good of an izakaya. What kind of foods are usually available at a izakaya in Japan?

Yakitori Food at a Japanese Bar
Yakitori at a Izakaya

The Top 7 Foods from Izakaya in Japan

#1: Okonomiyaki It’s usually a build your own pancake if you will, and it’s one of Japans more popular dishes believe it or not on street corners and izakaya. The Japanese meaning behind it is “as you like it”. So you can throw anything and basically everything you want into it!

Many times you’ll have cabbage, pork, fish, squid, or shrimp on the inside. The crispy and gooey meal is usually then drizzled with Kewpie mayo, blasted with some bonito flakes and layered with a bit of tonaktsu sauce!

#2: Korokke is a famous drinking appetizer in Japan at izakaya’s, it’s a fried croquette with potatoes and crabmeat.

#3: Yakitori of course is also a famous Japanese choice of appetizer and many times full meal. Yakitori is basically a skewered piece of chicken meat that it served with dipping sauce and a side of vegetables which are also skewered. You can also expect to see the skin, liver and heart of the tori (chicken) to be served as well

#4: Ikayaki is a basic type of o-tooshi (appetizer) that is a soy marinated squid (Ika) which is then grilled and sliced into pieces. It’s also a favorite street food in Japan and many street vendors will sell Ikayaki

#5: Omusubi and Onigiri are similar foods to sushi. These are basically rice, salmon, pickled plums, code or teriyaki spam or bacon wrapped in a nori (seaweed) wrap and severed with a blast of vinegar on the top.

#6: Karaage is Japanese fried chicken which is coated in potato starch which is called katakuriko. It’s a much lighter fried chicken then what most westerns are use to.

#7: Gyoza is a traditional Japanese food which is stuffed with vegetables and ground up pork meat. Gyoza is actually a potsticker, it’s a crispy meal that is covered in a sauce which is based around rice vinegar, soy and rayu which is a chile oil, this can be found in many real Chinese restaurants.

You might do well to learn basic chopstick etiquette while you are visiting izakaya in Japan.

It’s great to know these izakaya will pair their food nicely with the alcohol they serve.

Best Practices and Etiquette in a Izakaya in Japan
Drinking Etiquette in Japan and while at Izakaya

Izakaya Basic Etiquette

Izakayas are most of the time casual in their atmosphere, which overly means you leave the formality at the door!

#1: If you are with a group of people, it’s best to order the same drink as everyone else for the first round. Many times this will be a ‘nama biiru’ (which is a draft beer), this is normal and it’s something you will order before looking at the menu. You can ask for draft by saying ‘ Toriaezu, biiru’ (just beer for now).

#2: Using the phrase ‘Kanpi’ (cheers) before drinking and the phrase ‘itadakimasu’ (time to eat/thank you for the food) before you eat is a great way to be apart of the energy of the izakaya and to politely express that you are ready to eat.

#3: It’s considered polite to pour for others while in a group if you are drinking from bottles of sake or beer when they finish their cup, of course you can use this as a reminder for others to pour for you by pouring for them. If you are done drinking, just leave your cup full to avoid anyone else pouring for you.

#4: If you happen to be at a traditional izakaya, they may have bathrooms with bathroom only slippers. You’ll take off your shoes and use the slippers while in the bathroom, then you will take off the slippers when coming back out. It’s said that wearing the bathroom slippers out of the bathroom is one of the most embarrassing etiquette slip ups that you can make in Japan. I suppose it would be similar to have a piece of toilet paper sticking out of your shoe or pants.

You should be able to make your way around Japan and enjoy all the Izakaya you can possibly find!

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