Oh boy… T-minus 2 days before I leave for Japan.
I’m definitely nervous about finally leaving to start this 5 month long experience. Most of my nervousness revolves around my lack of knowledge about the language. I have taken two terms of Japanese in college as well as a limited amount of self-study. This all puts me at the level of *maybe* a five year old Japanese kid, cue the nervousness. Luckily my school in Japan, Aoyama Gakuin University (青山学院大学), is kind enough to include English instructions along with all Japanese instructions and will be providing me with a tutor who will be able to help me learn Japanese as well as register for classes and adjust to life in Japan. We’ll see how much that all helps, especially because my first two days include a stay at a hostel that apparently doesn’t have any English speakers at all… straight into the frying pan. The rest of my nervousness stems from just the basic concerns like making friends, not getting hopelessly lost in the largest urban/metro area in the world, money issues, etc.
seriously, Tokyo is freaking gigantic
Part of the reason that I chose Japan was because the culture is very different from the United States. I’m definitely nowhere near an expert on Japanese culture, although I have done a large amount of research. Japan is much more of a homogenous society than the United States, with about 98.5% of the population being ethnically Japanese. I think that, partially due to this factor, the Japanese tend to be much more community driven and place less importance on individuality and “freedom”. For example, in the US, no one bats an eye when someone is having a fairly loud conversation on their phone while riding a bus. In Japan, having a phone conversation while on public transportation is considered rude and you’d be likely to get some stares. Asian cultures in general have been interesting to me for a long time, and getting to experience one for myself was an opportunity I couldn’t allow myself to pass up. There is so much history, and so many differences, in the region compared to what we have in the United States.
I’ve always been something of a chameleon and have been used to being able to at least somewhat fit in no matter what I’m doing. This experience is probably about to turn that whole thing on its head. Being in such a homogenous society as part of the “out group” is going to automatically mean that I’ll be treated differently and will be acting differently than I usually do. The life of a gaijin (foreigner) will be a very new experience that I’m simultaneously excited and scared shitless about, to be brutally blunt and honest.