Contradicting Values

American Values

  • individual achievement
  • directness
  • material success

Japanese Values

  • group orientation
  • politeness
  • harmony

Six Questions You’ll be Asked as a Gaijin Teenager

I have lived in Japan for almost a year and have had many opportunities to meet new people. I have noticed that people tend to ask me the same same questions over and over again. I can only say these questions are asked to gaijin teenagers because that is what I am. I can’t speak for you adults going on business trips, sorry! (Maybe in a few years!)

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Here are the top six.

Do You Like Japan?

At first I thought this was a silly question for people to ask me. Of course I like Japan! That’s why I’m here. Oh well, this question just gives us another chance to express it even more. It’s nice to give specifics rather than just a general “yes”.

“はい!日本好きです!特にコンビニのおにぎり。今日初めて食べてとっても美味しかったです。”

Yes! I love Japan! ..especially the convenient store rice balls. I ate one for the first time today and it was delicious.

Where Are You From? 

If you are from a super unique country (basically anywhere besides America, China, or Korea) then answer with pride and they will all say “kakkoii~~” and think you are so cool. If you’re from America, just tell them which state you come from because saying “America” is just to general. (example: アメリカのミシシピ州/amerika no mishishipi shuu). be prepared to draw a map of America in the air and point to precisely where you’re from. Also, it won’t hurt to know all the states around you because they will likely ask. Most people really want a good idea of where you are from geographically. On the other hand, there are people who ask you what state you are from just to be able to tell you what state they have been to themselves. ;)

“どこから来られましたか?” Where are you from?

“ アメリカのミシシピ州です。” The state of Mississippi in America.

“ 私ワシントンにいったことがありますよ!” I have been to Washington!

“ え〜、そうですか。ワシントンD.C.?ワシントン州?” Oh, is that so. Washington, DC or Washington, the state?

“ はい、ワシントン 。” Yes, Washington.

。。。. . .

(Maybe she didn’t know that there were two Washington’s or I made her nervous. Either way, way cute. )

Why Did You Come to Japan?

Be prepared to give a good answer for this one. Not just “I’m an exchange student” or “vacation” or “for a gap year”. Give them more. Some Japanese people have no idea how we have this fascination with their culture and language. Maybe they won’t completely understand your interests and passions but they will be flattered to hear about it.

ハワユ〜〜?

“ha~wa~yu~” or “How are you?”

Most of the time this is a question asked by random people who just want to practice English with you. It is amazing how many people just walk up to me and start speaking English without knowing I am from America. I always thought that I looked more Japanese than anything, but apparently not. I also noticed that most students are taught to answer “I’m fine, and you?”  So depending on their level, they might be thrown back if you say “mighty fine, how ‘bout yourself?” or something kind of unusual like that. :)

Boyfriend?

Most people who meet you will want to know what kind of relationship you are in. But it is basically only the younger kids (younger in age OR spirit) who will ask you up front. When they ask you, they might stick up their pinky as if they want to give you a pinky promise, but that is just a gesture that means “boyfriend” or “girlfriend”. I have never had a boyfriend myself so unfortunately, I don’t know what kind of reaction I would get if I said yes. :P

Can you eat Natto?

or wasabi or sashimi or anko or anything else that is uniquely Japanese. Of course, answer if you can or can’t or haven’t had the chance. But the interesting part comes when you ask them if they like it themselves. You’ll be surprised at how many Japanese people don’t like the food they are encouraging you to eat! XD

Have fun in Japan all you teenage gaijin! (^_-)☆

Nattō 納豆

If you have no clue what natto (納豆) is, I will leave it up to the rest of the internet to teach you. For the dry basic explanation: nattō (納豆) is sticky, stinky, fermented soybeans that have a very strong taste and unfamiliar texture which can be off-putting to Western palates. It’s worth trying at least once, though. But do not make the mistake of eating it plain, straight out of the package.

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I think that the reason why I always hated nattō (納豆) is because I ate it like that. ⤴

Now I love nattō (納豆)! Here is how I like to eat 納豆:

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Did you memorize the kanji characters for NATTŌ ?

I’m just preparing you for the next time you have the chance to buy some!

Why do the Japanese love cherry blossoms?

Something spring is always associated with is 花見 (hanami). I have been hearing about it since I came here in August last year. Hanami, I learned, is basically when you sit underneath blooming cherry trees and eat an お弁当 (obentou, lunch box), with your work friends or loved ones. Others drink 酒 (sake) or just take a stroll under the trees to take it all in.

Initially, I was surprised and slightly disappointed when I heard about what it was, especially after all the hype. How could everyone be so crazy about tiny little flowers that only bloomed for two weeks max.
I realized that maybe I didn’t understand the Japanese people’s love for and fascination with one of their countries emblem.

I honestly wanted in on this happiness that sparked in a Japanese person’s heart when they talked about cherry blossoms. I started to politely ask people in Tottori what they liked about Cherry trees.

I got many responses. All of which were along the same lines.

“きれいに咲いて、「スパッ」っと散るから。”
They bloom beautifully, and fall quickly.

“しぼんだ格好しないから。”
They never appear withered.

A man at a shrine even compared it to the honorably and boldness of 切腹 (seppuku).

Another man, rather than answering the question, went on for a couple of minutes about his own cherry tree. He expressed his excitement to see his little cherry blossoms bloom after working hard to save his tree from a sickness or infection that he struggled to get rid of.

One rather blunt woman said,
“聞いても仕方が無い。自分で見れば分かる。”
It is useless to ask. You will know when you see for yourself.

I guess she is right. I will have to see for myself. I become more and more excited for the cherry blossoms to bloom as special seasonal products line the shelves in stores, as fliers for hanami events start circulating, and as the weather finally gets warmer.

There are many kinds of cherry trees, but this one is my favorite!
Here is a post on おじいちゃん’s (my grandfather’s) blog!
What’s awesome about it?
Well, his cherry tree is shaped like an umbrella and his blog post shows how look looks over a one year period.