Saturday, February 14, 2009

Ten Reasons it's Great to be a Foreigner in Japan

I don’t care what anyone says, but being a foreigner in Japan is a real kick. It’s not always easy being the object of attention – at least in small Japanese towns – but it’s better than being anonymous in Pennsylvania! So here’s my list of the top ten reasons it’s great to be a foreigner in Japan.

In no particular order, here we go:

  1. Low Expectations. No matter what you do, the Japanese will be impressed. Call it the benefit of low expectations. The Japanese people are tough on themselves, but forgiving with foreigners. If you can use chopsticks and eat miso soup, they’ll be impressed!
  2. Different, but First World. Let’s be honest, you can get quite a thrill from being in some far-flung third-world country like Mongolia, but at the end of the day you’re still in Mongolia! In Japan you get all the thrill of being in a very different place, but with lots of clean bathrooms.
  3. Japanese Food. Enough said.
  4. Same, Same. Japan is culturally homogeneous. You can go from one end to the other and people all kind of “think Japanese,” which means that once you get things figured out, you’re good to go anywhere.
  5. Smoking. If you’re a smoker, Japan is still a free country.
  6. Women and Drinking. If you’re a woman, and you like to have a few drinks, the Japanese will think nothing of it. There is no such idea of a women being a “lush.”

    Lonely Planet's Japan Guide is a sound resource for people preparing for a trip to Japan:
  7. Bamboo. This is a personal preference, but I think bamboo groves are the best. To fly by endless groves of bamboo in a bullet train is a perfect merger of technology and nature.
  8. Hot Springs. Public baths, either outside or inside, which the Japanese call onsen. This is one of the genteel and civilized customs of Japanese culture.
  9. Ego Boost. If you happen to be a western man who is reasonably attractive, you will find that both Japanese men and women will give you a lot of attention and compliments. I once had a male Japanese taxi driver (all of them are male actually) tell my wife how handsome I was.
  10. Beer Vending Machines. I actually don’t drink, but I think the idea that an adult can buy a beer from a vending machine at 2 a.m. or even 11 a.m., is another sign of a mature civilization

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