As I write this post I am still in disbelief as this is actually happening, this is real and tangible, not something in my head; the photos and videos I’ve seen about Japan now give perspective, context, and meaning. Everything is coming full circle. I can go outside and feel the moist air on my skin, the small cars whizzing by on the narrowest of streets, and the most beautiful landscapes I have laid eyes upon. I AM ACTUALLY HERE! I AM IN JAPAN! A childhood dream turned reality and it feels immense! It is the kind of feeling you get when you first went to Disneyland or of your first love, except that in this case it is every waking moment, every ticking second. This is as close to a description I can give of the feeling I have living (so far) in Japan.
First impressions (key impressions):
The people of Japan are amazing to say the least. To say the most would be to say that the Japanese people as a collective are helpful (segitokesz), understanding, polite, and respecting of themselves and others. They dress up not only for the occasion, but for everyday life. They even manage to keep their hair straight during the humidity of the summer heat. They care about their hygiene as well as their cleanliness, as most everything is spotless. When asked directions, they will not only do what is asked, but walk often with you to the destination (we once joked that we should ask for directions knowing that the destination is 1 mile away just to see what happens :D).
I live in Takarazuka city which is in the Kansai region of Japan. It is essentially on the outskirts of Osaka but not actually a part of the city of Osaka. The specific area where we live is suburban with a 5-10 minute walk to shops, train station, and Pachinko (Japanese slot machines). It is also a five minute walk to the surrounding forests which give a nice contrasting feel to the area. Not too urban but not too rural. And, as you will see in the images, it is quite beautiful; with rolling steep hills swept over by clouds/fog, houses and apartment buildings stacked on top of each other, and the occasional solar farm in the distance.
What better way to learn about another culture than to eat their food on a daily basis, with your mouth, eyes, and nose. The Japanese food culture is definitely distinct in its appearance and taste but does share some traits with other Asian food that have influenced throughout the years. From the savoriness of ramen to the “aquired taste” of natto (fermented soy beans), Japanese food is something to be experienced for yourself.
From Norway to Germany, France to Indonesia, the people that I interact with on a daily basis have opened my mind and perspective to a whole new world of understanding. It is as if I were a member of the UN talking to a new country; exchanging words, thoughts, ideas, perspectives on life, food, laughs, and happiness. This is definitely refreshing in contrast to the massive amounts of disagreements and suppression of communication among different peoples back home. I feel as though we are building each other up to be better versions of ourselves instead of tearing each other down. Who knows, maybe I won’t be who I am today by the time I get back to the states.
Overall this has been the best decision of my life!
p.s. I will write more specific posts in the future.