Epilogue – Being a Foreigner in Japan

Consider this an epilogue of sorts. Four months in Japan is a long time, relatively at least. For someone who has never left the country, never traveled alone, and especially never lived alone, it feels like forever. However even as the trip came to an end, I knew that my experience only scratched the surface of what others have been through.

Some of my friends here have been studying since last September, meaning their return marked the conclusion to a year-long trip. Having spent about seventeen weeks dumping all my thoughts and experiences into this blog, I figured it would be nice to look a bit outward and do some research.

In this essay I will endeavor to report the experience of being a foreigner in Japan, contrasting my experience with the accounts of those I’ve grown close to along with some statistical information and stories I’ve found online.

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Week Five – The Little Things

Man, I swear if I didn’t feel like it would be ill-fitting I’d just make this entire update a review of Avengers: Endgame, which I went to go see with some friends today. Of course, while I’m sure at least some people would be interested, I had a better idea. I’ve spent a month here in Japan. I’m officially one-fourth of the way through this trip and that is crazy, but there are all kinds of little things that set daily life apart from back in the states. So with no particular objective in mind, let’s run through three of these small differences that leave a big impression.

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Blog Post #10 – One Place I’d like to Visit

One? JUST ONE?!?!? I mean, that’s kinda hard. Japan has so many things that I have grown to associate with the culture that I consider to be essential things to do. From visiting shrines to participating in seasonal festivals to enjoying the art of the country. But if I play along with the theme of this final blog post, I suppose I know one place I’d like to visit.

Obviously, it would be Tokyo. Ok, now I say obviously fully aware of the stories I have heard from my upperclassmen regarding their experiences in the big city. It’s crowded, the trains are packed, and the city is generally pretty claustrophobic. However, the city is only a little over an hour away from Nagoya by bullet train and it is literally one of the first things people associate with Japan when they hear about it. How can I not go there?

So what am I looking forward to? Admittedly, the nerdy stuff. Shops full of merchandise and apparel from games and anime, most notably. Akihabara will basically be the holy grail of media pandering to my hobbies. That and Japan’s nerd culture is a lot more niche-focused than here in the states. For instance, there are tons of cafes that are owned by and themed around companies in pop culture. Game companies like Capcom have cafes and bars themed around their games. Major animation studios have cafes of their own on the main floors of their buildings and sell limited-time menu items based on whatever hot new show they are hyping up at the time.

In general, Japan’s merchandising culture, while not entirely unlike here in America, will be really cool to experience, because I get to see the stuff I’m used to seeing in maybe one aisle of my local best buy (*ahem* anime) taking up entire stores dedicated to specific studios, shows, and brands.

Will I get maybe a bit claustrophobic? Perhaps. Will I have to resist the temptation to buy A LOT of things? 100%. Will the trip be worth it? I guess I’ll find out when I’m there.

Blog Post #9 – The Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Every civilization has parts of its history wrought with tragedy and regret. There is a lot of bloodsheds which humanity has tried to atone for and even more still to this day. We are not above these types of tragedies and it is never too late to talk about these incidents and try to learn from them. I say this because I, an American, will have the honor of going to Japan next year, a country which America bombed almost 73 years ago.

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Blog Post #8 – Government (And I somehow find an excuse to talk about Godzilla)

My strongest frame of reference for the structure of the Japanese government is the 2016 film by director Hideaki Anno, Shin Godzilla. Apart from being a fresh take on the classic Godzilla tale, it was a thinly veiled satire of Japanese politics. Early scenes stressed the very rigid process by which decisions were made, with briskly paced boardroom politics dominating the stage. Though as one who both indulges in over-stylized action and yet also finds himself addicted to more grounded political fiction, this was most intriguing.

Intriguing enough, in fact, to warrant investigation, as Japan’s political process is not one I am entirely familiar with. How heavily does its government borrow from the west? If so, how much of it stems from America and how much from Europe. Moreso, how does Japan’s own cultural norms merge with its western-influenced structure, and how might a change in that culture affect the future of the government?

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Blog Post #5 – This Week in Japanese News

On Monday, Reiji Yoshida of the Japan Times reported on an incident in the sumo wrestling community in early April. Specifically, the article focused on the controversy and discussion that followed. “Maizuru Mayor Ryozo Tatami suddenly collapsed while delivering a speech during a sumo exhibition in Kyoto. He was having a stroke,” wrote Yoshida. A woman suddenly ran to the mayor and administered CPR. I would hazard to say that most would call this act heroic.

However, the woman’s actions ended up creating a controversy. An ancient tradition in Sumo wrestling states that women are not allowed in the ring. This is “based on Shinto and Buddhist beliefs that hold that women are “impure” because of menstrual blood, an idea criticized by many as sexist and outdated.” So when the woman rushed to the mayor’s aid, she and several other women who tried to help were told to leave the ring.
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Blog Post #3 – My Recomendations For Japanese Music

I listen to a lot of Japanese music in my free time. Musicians commonly credited with soundtracks in major shows or movies like Yoko Kanno and Taku Iwasaki, to pop or alternative artists like Daoko. There are plenty of others, but a good portion of the music I listen to hails from Japan or Japanese artists.

The trouble is that it is pretty hard to get specific sales numbers of music from Japan… or maybe not, depending on where you are looking. When looking up the highest grossing musicians from the last 10 years, it is really hard to know if the numbers are legit when Oricon, the conglomerate creating popularity charts for Japanese music, only counts physical sales rather than digital ones.

This might seem like a red flag, and a sign to go looking elsewhere for your information, but in fact, according to Forbes back in 2014, “85 percent of music sales in Japan [were] CDs.” Still, it is pretty difficult to find data on artists who have been the highest grossing WITHIN the last ten years.

So at the risk of straying from the initial rules I set out with looking into the Japanese music industry, I am going to do some things differently. Rather than look into just one popular artist who I may not even be familiar with, I am going to share a bunch of musicians who I love, since I am already familiar with what I consider to be some pretty awesome artists from Japan.
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Blog Post #1 – Nagoya and A Brief History of Japan

My trip to Japan next spring will be taking me to Nagoya, “located at the center of Honshu (the main island of Japan) with a population of 2.24 million,” according to Nagoya-Info.jp. Three major lords from the Sengoku era, Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Ieyasu all hailed from Nagoya.

According to the Nagoya International Center (NIC), The former two were pivotal players in Japan’s unification, but it was the third, Ieyasu, who went on to become ruler of Japan. “(Tokugawa’s) shogunate ruled Japan for 250 years.” Nagoya still celebrates these three icons every year and takes pride in them hailing from the region.
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