It still doesn’t seem real. I’m here, in my apartment in Japan, and Canada seems so far away. It’s not just distance, but time, as well. When I first came to Japan, I had no idea my time here would be nearly eleven years. I’d intended on two. A lot of things happened, both expected and surprising. I’d like to look back on a few of those events.
This is one of the first things I did. I’m used to it now, but there are a few differences that surprised me. One is that salt is with the oil and soy sauce, not the spices. Took me a long time to find it. Also, packaging is a bit too much here. Large trays for a single piece of fish or meat. Individually wrapped cookies. And so many kinds of soy sauce, I had no idea what to buy.
I was expecting hot and humid, but I’d never experienced it for four straight months before. I remember walking home one night around one in the morning, and it was still hot and humid. But you know what? I love Japan’s summer now.
I’d always expected to feel earthquakes, and now I feel slightly desensitised to them. However, the big earthquake on March 11, 2011 is something I’ll never forget. You can read about my experience here (written just two days after the earthquake, and the entire experience was very fresh in my mind) and here (this second one was from this year and includes videos).
I knew that the train system in Japan was amazing, but I was expecting it to be difficult to use. On the contrary, it was quite easy. The only difficulty I had was with the Tokyo subway system, where nothing was in English. There’s English now, though. But I love Japan’s train system so much, it’s one of the things I’m going to miss terribly. I wish Canada would build a convenient and efficient system like this. Much easier than flying and driving all the time.
I knew about people jumping in front of trains before I came here. I just never thought I’d witness it. And I did. Right in front of me. It was just a couple days after I climbed Mt. Fuji in August 2005. Everything was in slow motion as it happened. You can read about that experience here. I still remember the entire thing very clearly.
One of my highlights, and I did it early. The weather was perfect, and the view was amazing. They say you should only do it once. Well, I want to do it again! And the next time, have a better camera.
Before starting my English teaching job, I’d never really had any experience with children, other than having been one. But I was an unusual child, wanting to study, wanting to have my nose in a science book or encyclopedia. My first lesson was nerve-wracking. Now, I have no problems with kids.
I don’t like mayonnaise. Unfortunately, it’s everywhere in Japan. If I want a sandwich, I have to make it myself, or else I’ll get a huge glob of mayonnaise in my mouth. Ugh. I even wanted beef stew one day from Family Mart, and guess what I saw. Mayonnaise on top. What the hell?
It’s damn cold inside in winter! No central heating, poor insulation, and a single air conditioner in one room. I used that air conditioner a lot when I was single. My apartment was tiny then.
My first two apartments were so small. My mom visited me after I’d been in Japan for a year, and she laughed the first time she saw my apartment. That was my first apartment, the one without internet. Nice view, though.
Ignoring the law
Japan is a safe country with law-abiding citizens. That is in most ways, they are. There are two cases where I see people constantly breaking the law. The first is smoking laws. I’ve seen people smoking in no-smoking areas, next to no-smoking signs, and even on train platforms and inside stations. The second is driving laws. People run red lights all the time, don’t signal, and don’t yield to pedestrians at crosswalks. I’ve been nearly hit by cars on six or seven occasions.
There’s a lot more I could say here. I think I could write a book about it. Maybe I will one day.
Did anything surprise you? If you’ve been to another country, is there something that surprised you? Share your experiences in the comments below.