Category Archives: Culture

Canada Day Fireworks!

For the first time in quite a long time, I actually got to see fireworks up close. Yesterday was Canada Day, and my family went to the Canada Day festivities. During the afternoon, we enjoyed some rides, but the highlight was at 11 pm: fireworks!

I took some video of the day, including more than two minutes of fireworks. Enjoy!

If you’re Canadian, what did you do on Canada Day? If you’re American, what will you do on Independence Day? Let me know in the comments below.

Am I Privileged?

Having lived in two countries, I can definitely tell you that my level of “privilege” is different in each country. Here in Canada, I’m part of the majority. I’m white. I’m what people would consider privileged, a white male in a rich country, married, have a kid, and a university degree. I haven’t been discriminated against in Canada.

In Japan, I have been discriminated against. A couple times, actually. I was in the minority there, so I know what it feels like to be treated differently because of my race. I was sometimes a novelty to some people.

What’s interesting is that foreigners aren’t treated differently in Canada, because people are used to them, and there are so many. Canada is an immigrant country. In Japan, there are many people who have seen tourists, but rarely interact with them, especially in the countryside. I’ve been talked about by children who stare and are surprised that there’s a foreigner near them. But of course, I did get an advantage that many Japanese people didn’t. I was treated better in some cases by the companies I worked for, because I was the product.

I took a Buzzfeed test about privilege. I find Buzzfeed mostly stupid, but I took it anyway. My privilege score was 56 out of 100. How about you?

My Daughter Can Do Anything

I have a four-year-old daughter. She likes pink and purple. She loves wearing skirts. She loves dolls, My Little Pony, Frozen, Pretty Cure, and drawing hearts and flowers. She also loves cars, trains, and airplanes. She has shown interest in ballet and singing. She’s also shown interest in soccer and baseball. She is full of energy, strong-willed, stubborn, and takes control over whatever group she’s playing with.

She has shown a very strong ability to problem solve, work with her hands, do puzzles that are meant for older kids, and create things with Lego. She has an incredible imagination, as I would expect kids to have. Within a few months, she should be fully bilingual in Japanese and English. She loves numbers. She loves animals.

She’s told me she wants to be a ballerina, singer, and a doctor.

She can do it. She can be whatever she wants. She can do anything she wants. If she wants to join a baseball team, then I’ll be there cheering for her. If she becomes the top kid in her school in math, I will be very happy for her. If she wants to become a singer and go on a show like Canada’s Got Talent, then I’ll be behind her all the way.

I will not tolerate people who tell her she can’t do something because she’s a girl. If she has a teacher who ignores her ability to do math, tells her that girls can’t do math, I won’t hesitate to tell the teacher that I will be reporting them to the Principal and school board for their sexism. If she’s a great pitcher, and her baseball coach has her sitting on the bench because she’s a girl and girls can’t throw, I will not tolerate that. I want her to be recognised for her ability, not her gender. If she’s bad at something, then she can practice more. She needs to earn her place. But if she’s ever told she can’t do something because she’s a girl, I will not be a pleasant person to deal with.

She will do what she wants to do. I will support her dreams. I won’t let her settle with what society expects of her. She needs to do what she desires. It’s her life to live, not anyone else’s. I’m happy to live in a society that supports this. But there’s still a long way to go.

The Culture of Politeness

Canadians are known around the world for their politeness. So are Japanese. And the British (to some extent).

Americans are not known for politeness. Neither are Chinese. Or French.

320px-Flag_of_Canada.svgIt’s interesting to notice attitudes about these people. As a Canadian, I can confirm that Canadian society is polite, in general. There are rude people, as in any place you may visit. But Canadians are more likely to help a stranger who’s in distress. They’re more likely to run to the aid of a person who has fallen in the street. They’re more likely to smile at a stranger on the street and say hello. There’s a genuine warmth there. There’s a joke that if someone steps on another person’s foot accidentally, both people apologise. One apologises for being the one at fault, while the other apologises for the situation existing in the first place. Canada’s a society that says sorry whether it’s an actual apology or a way to relieve whatever tensions there may be.

320px-Flag_of_Japan.svgIn Japan, customer service is incredibly polite. The customer is always right. The customer is not always polite, though. I have witnessed outraged customers shouting at staff who are only following procedures, yet they continue to apologise for the inconvenience, even if they’re not at fault. Whenever there’s a problem, there’s always an apology. If there’s an accident, there’s an apology, repeatedly. Japan likes its efficient train system. If it’s disrupted even by thirty seconds, there’s an apology. Like Canada, Japan apologises, but it tends to be one way. People are generally polite to each other, but that’s to maintain harmony. It’s not because of genuine concern for one another. I have seen elderly people fall in the middle of the street while every single person walks past ignoring them. That’s to prevent the elderly person from being embarrassed. In Tokyo, people ignore each other. It’s crowded, and they just want to get where they’re going. Eye contact is not polite and avoided. But most people I have met are wonderful people. Very kind and friendly. But there’s one thing you’ll find about Japanese people. They’re not direct. They take a minute to say something that would normally take a North American ten seconds to say. Politeness is how they communicate, how they maintain the peace, not how they feel.

320px-Flag_of_the_United_Kingdom.svgThe British are a curious case. The image outside of the UK is of a country that is cultured and polite. But then speak with someone from the UK, and you’ll notice that they may be friendly, but many can swear like a sailor. And don’t get me started on hooliganism. I know people from both sides of the coin. There are those who are incredibly polite and friendly. And then there are those who are incredibly blunt and show a large amount of confidence.

320px-Flag_of_the_United_States.svgAmericans get a bad rap, mostly because of the foreign policy of the government. They’re viewed as the police of the world, and thanks to some bad apples, the tourists are viewed as boorish, loud, and self-centred. There’s a sense of self-entitlement. However, I find that it depends on where they’re from and their background. Most Americans I’ve met are pretty much just like Canadians. Friendly, open, and polite. But thanks to the image and some tourists, all the stories you hear about are of Americans who say, “I’m ‘murican! Why don’t you speak ‘murican? We saved your ass in the war. You should give us what we want. Why are there so many Mexican-speaking people in Spain? Go back to Mexico!” Okay, so maybe that’s an exaggeration, but there are some people who have that attitude. You can thank Donald Trump for making this stereotype even stronger. But really, if you go to the United States, you’re bound to be greeted by friendly, polite people who will go out of their way to help you if you’re lost. At least outside the big cities.

Flag_of_the_People's_Republic_of_China.svgThe Chinese are notorious for being bad tourists. But it’s not entirely the people’s fault. The government actively tried to get people to stop being polite because they view it as too western. From what I’ve heard, before the revolution, the Chinese were very polite, hardworking people. But when the revolution happened, things changed. There seems to be an attitude of defying everything that is not Chinese. There are territorial disputes with nearly every neighbouring country. They don’t back down, even if they really have no claim to the territory. There’s an image of Chinese people always being angry, speaking angrily, and always shouting. I’ve heard about how drivers will run over people on the road, then run back over them to make sure they’re dead so that they don’t get sued by an injured victim. Dead people don’t sue. I’m sure that’s not always the case, though. From what students have told me, they’ve met some wonderful, polite people in China. I have known very friendly and nice people from China. Again, you can’t assume a group of people isn’t polite based on a stereotype. There are genuinely good people in China.

Flag_of_France.svgThe French are very well-known for their food, the beautiful landscape, amazing cities, and an incredibly strong pride in their language and heritage. This pride can come across as being rude, especially if you try to speak English first while you’re in France. But from what I’ve been told, if you try to use French, they’ll appreciate it and then try to help you out in English. Doesn’t seem that bad, does it? But sometimes it goes too far. And this is actually a French Canadian example. This is an unconfirmed story about some French Canadians criticising French pilots of a French airline in France using English to speak to air traffic control. They said something along the lines of, “If they’re in France, they should speak French!” Sorry, my fellow Canadians, but it’s international aviation law that requires them to speak English. It’s to prevent unnecessary deaths and destruction. But to be honest, I haven’t met a French (or French Canadian) who was rude. They’ve all been polite, normal people.

It doesn’t really matter where a person is from. I’ve heard people in Saudi Arabia are extremely generous and hospitable with guests. The idea that Germans are unsmiling robotic people is shattered by Oktoberfest. The lingering impression that the southern United States is racist is destroyed by stories of incredible hospitality. The opposite can be true for anywhere, as well. You find all kinds of people, rude or polite, friendly or angry, reserved or brash. Every place has every kind of person. I think we need to drop the stereotypes and actually meet people from other countries. Then we will know what the world is really like.

Have you had your stereotypes shattered? Or have they been confirmed? Share your stories in the comments below.

The Global Community of Blogging

I love to connect with people from all around the world. I’m curious about different cultures and enjoy speaking to people who are from different backgrounds than I am. It’s fascinating. And I feel that the better we know each other, and the more we understand that many of us have the same feelings and thoughts, the better the world will be.

Blogging has allowed me to talk to people from different countries. Of course, I live in Japan, and most of the visitors to this blog are American, Canadian, British, and Australian, but there are many representatives of India, Singapore, France, Germany, Norway, Sweden, New Zealand, Russia, the Netherlands, Brazil, and Nigeria. But there are more from many other countries who drop by here.

So, I’d like to ask you where you’re from. Which country are you from, and where do you live now? Also, where have you been and made friends? Let’s see how global we are. Answer in the comments below.

A New Year in Japan – A Temple Visit with Luck?

We went to another temple, this time Monjuji in Saitama City. I’ve been there before about three times. This time, things were a bit different.

The main gate of the temple.

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The main hall of the temple.

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We went next door, to an attached building, where most of my wife’s family went up for a New Year’s service. My sister-in-law’s husband and I stayed downstairs to watch my daughter and his daughter. The cousins played while we waited. After that was over, it was time for something a bit different.

My daughter got to drink some amazake, a sweet drink available at New Year’s.

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We waited in line to go up to the temple, ring the bells, toss in a coin, and pray or make a wish for the year.

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And then, I got an Omikuji. This is a fortune. I was trying my luck.

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It turns out my fortune said suikichi. That means future luck. So, I should have luck later on this year. It said I shouldn’t rush into things and take my time. When looking for a new job, I should be patient, and one will come. Health will be better, and to stay the course in my studies.

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I wish I had luck after that because when we returned to my wife’s grandparents’, we had lunch. It was a good lunch, and we ate a lot. However, my daughter had diarrhea. We had no change of clothes and ran out of wet wipes. We returned to my wife’s parents’ house and did laundry. I am now waiting for it to dry in a coin laundry.

Well, that’s it for now. We’ll see what’s in store for later.

A New Year in Japan – Hatsumode

Hatsumode is a tradition on New Year’s in Japan. It’s the first visit to a temple or shrine in the new year. We went to Wakoin, a temple in Saitama city to visit a grave.

Here’s the main gate of the temple.

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And the main hall of the temple.

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I didn’t take a picture of the cemetery, since that would be considered rude. This is probably the biggest tradition on New Year’s Day. Some people do it at midnight. Temples and shrines are typically quite busy after midnight, and some have thousands or hundreds if thousands if visitors in the first three or four days of the year. Wakoin wasn’t very busy.

One more update for today.