Daily Archives: January 11, 2010

New Year Resolutions

I have a few goals this year.  I’ve lived in Japan for nearly 5 years, and there are so many things I haven’t done or seen.  I’d like to do some of those things this year.  Here are my goals:

  • Study Japanese every day and practice speaking with Japanese friends.  It’ll take a while, but I eventually want to pass JLPT 1.  And to my students, I won’t speak Japanese to you at the school.  That’s an English only zone for me.
  • Travel to another part of Japan.  Right now, I’m thinking about visiting Osaka.
  • Visit a new place at least twice a month.
  • Attend some festivals.  Yesterday, I went to my first festival.  Yes, that’s right, I’ve never attended a festival in Japan before.  I’ve seen them through my classroom window, but never attended.
  • Watch sumo live!  I might even do this next Monday.
  • Cook in my apartment occasionally.  It’s cheaper.  And I think it’s more delicious than conbini bento.
  • Get a table and chairs so I can use my computer at a table instead of the kotatsu.  I want to use my kotatsu for heat.
  • Get a microwave oven.  Very important!
  • Exercise and eat less.
  • And of course, update this blog more often and keep it up-to-date.  I’m a few months behind in photos.

Here’s a wish list, but not essential:

  • Get a Nintendo Wii, but not the Japanese version.  There’s no English language support on those.  I’ll check duty-free shops in Akihabara.
  • Get a bookshelf.  I have so many books, but nowhere to put them.

So much to do this year!

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Misconceptions about Japan

Living in Japan, I get to see what Japan is really like.  People who live in other countries and have never visited Japan often have some preconceptions about Japan that are incorrect.  When I was in Edmonton for the winter holidays, I was asked some things about Japan.  I had to tell them they were completely wrong about what they thought about Japan.  Here are some common misconceptions about Japan that I’ve heard:

1. Japan is a poor country

Really?  Some people seem to think that since Japan is in Asia, it is poor.  Many people confuse Japan with China.  They are completely different countries.  Japan is one of the most highly advanced countries in the world technologically, and one of the richest.  The standard of living in Japan is among the top 10 in the world.

2. Can you speak Chinese?

Why?  I live in Japan, not China.  Japanese people speak Japanese.  It’s amazing how many people think Japan = China.  The languages are different, the food is different, the cultures are different.  They are almost complete opposites.  No, I don’t speak Chinese.  I speak bad Japanese.

3. Japanese people always eat raw fish.

Sashimi is raw fish.  Sushi is rice with vinegar and a topping that is usually raw fish (but not always).  These dishes are delicacies and not an everyday meal.  They are usually eaten at special occasions.  They can be quite expensive!  I usually eat it once a week, though.  It is quite delicious.

4. Japanese people all watch anime.

Many watch things like Sazae-san or Meitantei Conan, but really, most people don’t care about anime.  I’ve told people in Canada who are anime fans (they even call themselves otaku, which is not a nice thing to call yourself in Japan) that people in Japan like anime in the same way that North Americans like Saturday morning cartoons.  Kids love it, adults don’t care.  There are exceptions, such as Studio Ghibli movies, which are almost universally loved.

5. Where can I see samurai, ninja and geisha?  They’re everywhere!

Sorry, you’ll be very disappointed.  There are no samurai anymore.  You can only see them on TV or in movies.  Ninja are the same.  You won’t find them, although people can still study the martial art ninjutsu.  Geisha are still around, but you’re most likely going to find them in Kyoto.  They are not at all common.

6. Japanese people are good at math.

Not really.  They’re about as good at math as people in any other country.  There is a big stereotype that Japanese people love math, and I’ve found it to be very wrong.  Many people hate math.  What I have found is that Japanese schools seem to teach math better (or at least put students through drills a large amount).

7. Japanese people are all short.

This may have been true in the past, but not so much now.  Older people tend to be shorter, and while it may have something to do with genetics, it also has to do with diet.  Milk and dairy products are known to help childhood growth.  But also people today are eating more western food.  Young people are often tall.  I know junior high school students who are almost as tall as me.  When I walk around, I find that I’m probably slightly above average height.  I don’t tower over people.

Feel free to add some more misconceptions.

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