Japan, Year One

I woke up this morning and had a brief, but profound conversation with myself.  It went a little something like this:

“Great jumping Justin Trudeaux has it been a year already?”*

“Yes Graeme you intrepid fart, it has.”


Seriously.  I’ve been in this insane country for almost a year.  Mentally I think my cynicism and sarcasm arrived well before me physically and set up shop preparing for my eventually arrival.  I adapted surprisingly well considering my cultural background is more tea-based than ninja star-based, and I think I had a very quick culture shock compared to two very poorly remembered weeks in China.  But after one year things have been both surprising and disturbing.

Overall, I’ve been pleased with my cultural progression and adaptation, but my Japanese is a sore spot.  I haven’t had any drive at all to improve it beyond the basic phrases and words that I need for my day to day existence.  In fact, I’ve developed a well maintained air of ineptitude as it really really really helps me get away with all kinds of crap.  I discovered fairly early that a foreigner who can do more than I or has been here longer has a lot of expectations of their capabilities.  But if I keep myself at a very specific level of useless than I can accomplish a lot more with a lot less effort.

I learned a lot about Japan that I would never have known by living in Canada.  It’s amazing how much a country changes when you experience it first hand.  I know this seems obvious, but I’m not referring to the kinky fun stuff that we all known about Japan.  Japan has a lot of surprises for visitors but even more surprises for someone who joins into the culture.  Experience has taught me to keep an open mind, but experience in Japan has taught me to adjust my thought process from why to why not.  So many of my personal assumptions have been completely changed and I’ve adopted an intentionally rational thought process to adjust.  I’ve also had to adjust my interpretation of rational as well, but that’s a whole other rant.

This is a country that really desperately needs to get a grip on the future and embrace the rest of the world, but this won’t happen.  Japan and the Japanese people recognize there are problems and I have a very strong impression that the right people in the right places of power understand where these problems stem from.  Yet despite this nothing will change here.  The zeitgeist of Japan doesn’t want to, at least not right now, and this is a sad conclusion for me to draw.  There is a lot this country has to offer and culturally there is a lot we all could learn from them.

Hopefully this changes before it’s too late.


*Actual words may have varied

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