The rest of this writing is unscripted. Just me lying in my bed and let my mind and hands do the work.
Last July-August, I had the opportunity to receive a 1-month internship in Hokkaido prefecture. And I wasted no time to learning the culture and many of Japan’s wonderful traditions, as well as its people. The below insights are composed from my Japanese boss, supervisor, coworkers, friends, hosts who I’ve stayed with, outsiders’ perspective like TANTEIKID94-kun, and my own opinions.
Japan, isolated from the outside world for nearly 1000 years, has developed a unique culture and a society unlike any others. The tradition has shaped the community and those who live it in that even though several years have passed, some traditions still remain. From the behaviors towards your work to those towards your family, they are all filled with respect, as it is demanded so. And with these, they give birth to some of the most spectacular and unique festivals, as well as exotic food. Hanami, temples, summer festivals, onsen, drinking, karaoke, and have fun. This aspect makes me fall in love with Japan.
I’ll cut it short on the food section since everyone has an idea of how unique the cuisine the Land of the Rising Sun has to offer. For most of my time traveling, eating was something I always look forward to.
If you want a quick snack at 3AM. No problem, convenient stores are everywhere, and vending machines are 1:4 ratios to humans there. The speed and efficiency in which the Japanese work amazed me. Sadly…that is only half-true. Getting things might be easy and quick, but making a decision takes days and months. From my experience, I was assigned to edit 5 pages of English text. Used to editing jobs, I finished within 2 hours, double-check and proofread many times. Yet, the only thing I received was the doubtful eyes from my boss. Of course, she didn’t say it out loud, but judging from her eye and body movements, as well as she asked another person to check, it was clear finishing fast equals “making small mistakes and laziness”. I know. It sounds weird, and I agreed. But I decided to test it out. For the next assignment I received, this one similarly to the last, I put in the usual amount of work, but this time I consulted with my boss once and only turn it in at the end of the day (6 hours). She was pleased, very pleased.
Everyone knows of how polite and respectful Japanese are. And this is true. From the moment you wake up, to when you tuck in bed, everything you do has respect in them. It was very refreshing to see, yet…also very stressful as well. Working in the company and interacting with the customers, you must smile and never complain in the workplace. One time, as it was a busy day, I sighed (out of breaths since we have to help about 18-20 customers with only 3 people). My supervisor called me over and reminded me never to do that in front of the customers again, and how it represents a bad picture of the company. Smiling, that was never questioned.
Working in Japan is extremely stressful. Japanese has too many dumb traditions. Even for the people themselves, a lot think that some of their practices are outdated or simply an abuse of power. New recruits are supposed to work overtime, and pour drinks/book reservation for party places for their superiors. Things must be done in order, and if there’s a disparity, stick to the manual. An innovative idea can be unwelcoming. A misconduct can be seen as a shameful display. A misstep guarantee grumbling from others. Living everyday having to worry about every actions is very stressful. When asked by me how do they feel about it, most of my Japanese coworkers and friends said they love Japan, but they feel like they are just living…an empty and frustrating life. Being a white/black foreigner, Japanese can let go if foreigners are doing some “disrespectful”. But that in itself is very frustrating. It is as if even after spending 15 years with them, they still expect the same thing from when you just arrive. Things aren’t very nice for Asians. I still remembers having to go through roughly 30-49 pages of “how to act properly in _____”. Japan is Japan. It will not change for you or anyone else.
Then again, maybe because it is what it is, Japan is very safe. You can pass out on the street in a dark alley, and wake up there next morning to find yourself with everything intact. One time, my friend forgot a ¥500 coin in a cafe (she forgot to take the change), the staff came running to return it to her. And heck, the polices just found my list passport. Best of all, nothing beats being able to walk alone at night (ok…there are still creepers and such, but hey, I am proud to being attractive to both sexes).
Sadly, Japan is still a very man-society. Women are expected to be feminine, doing girlish things, such as know how to dance, pour beers, wear femininely, high heels, speak quietly and politely, especially towards the male. Women are expect to not come back working after maternal leave, stay home to cook and take care of the children. And then there’s the “dark side” of Japan. That topic, I don’t wanna go too deep into. if you are interested, you can always read articles and watch videos about the “Sex Industry” of Japan. When I was over at my boss’s house (…learning the proper etiquette and performing them flawlessly…now that was a feast!!), my boss ordered his wife to bring tea, in a tone as if he’s ordering servants. This irritated me a lot, but, remember, this is Japan. The good side of this is that in recent years, voices for women’s rights have been heard and things have been, although slow, changing.
And to my surprise, I was not the only one who thought so while living in Japan.
There are many more things that I want to say, but I’m in need of a power-up nap time. If anyone is interested in knowing more about the culture and the people, I hope that my little experience and knowledge will help to satisfy your curiosity.
P.S. by no means I intend to ridicule Japan and its culture and people. I love Japan, too much in fact; however, love is blinded, and one must realize the reality and fact.