It has now been about a month since I left Australia for the land of the rising sun and I am beginning to settle into life here. Classes have begun, I’ve made quite a few friends and I have experienced the devastation of a typhoon! Twice!!! But what have I learned from these initial experiences, and more specifically, what have I learned about Japan?
Well firstly, Japan is visually very stunning. Many of the temples in Kyoto fit in seamlessly with the surrounding gardens, which – in my opinion – are even more beautiful then the temples themselves.
The Japanese clearly revere nature, so much so that they build fences around trees and construct supports for boughs and branches that bend too precariously!
Japanese people are also very friendly, helpful and incredibly polite. Many Japanese people will treat you with great kindness. An example of such kindness is if you become lost whilst out travelling you will be approached by a multitude of people asking if they can help you in any way possible.
The food is also incredible (as most would already suspect) and I have yet to be disappointed by a meal. Additionally, the food here is so cheap that, in fact, eating out is only slightly more expensive then making your own meals! And not being a particularly good chef myself (quite a shocking one actually) it would be safe to assume that I eat out far more often than I did in Australia.
These are all very pleasant aspects of Japan and it must be said that, in general, Japan is a very pleasant place to live. However, if there is one thing I could warn people about before they come to Japan it is the emphasis the population places on order and rules.
This doesn’t only entail abiding by the law (of which you should do regardless) but the multitude of social rules that govern day to day life in Japan. In fact, people who break more serious social rules or continue to break minor social rules are often stigmatised as deviants and treated as such. Personally, I do not like this aspect of Japanese culture, as it forces the populace to discard their individuality and focus on conforming to cultural ideals. But, if you would like you’re stay here to be a pleasant one you should undoubtedly respect these rules.
So, one tip that I can offer to people considering an exchange to Japan is to have a sense of the many social rules that govern the society before you come here. This often involves simply being polite and bowing; but there are more subtle rules, such as limiting physical contact even when exchanging money with shop clerks. For more information please check out the link posted below, which comes from the youtube channel I recommended in my previous post: Abroad in Japan.
Overall, I can say that in my short time here I have learnt a lot about Japan, but obviously there is still much more to know. The culture here is vastly different from Australia’s laid-back way of life. As a result, I have had my fair share of pleasant and unpleasant experiences during my stay. Nevertheless, I am acquainting myself with a completely different society here and I am learning new things and discovering new perspectives every day. In the end, that is all I want from this experience.