I first came to Japan a decade ago and spent a night in a dismal hotel in a silent corner of Tokyo. The next day I went out for a drink and randomly met an amazingly beautiful girl who insisted I switch hotels to the Roppongi nightlife district, and that I take her out to dinner and karaoke. I was like, Wow, Japanese people are so friendly. She of course later turned out to be Filipino, and Roppongi was mostly filled with grimy gaijin bars. Anyway, I still think she was pretty hot.
The day I arrived in Japan, I began studying Japanese, which is just slightly harder than solving Fermat’s last theorem. If you want to learn a language that opens doors and helps you make friends in Japan, then Japanese is not the language for you. That language would be English.
Moving on. After my Roppongi adventure, I flew back to Japan for a couple of weeks every year, before finally settling here in 2008. I’ve had a dozen jobs at this point, some of them good, and some bad. Well, most were pretty horrible, actually. Japan isn’t known for it’s easygoing work environment. I’ve made the yen equivalent of hundreds of dollars an hour (good), and other times got paid nothing more than beer and rice (slightly less good). What can I say, it’s a pretty bipolar country. But maybe that’s why I feel so at home here.
Over the years, I’ve read everything I could get my hands on about Japan, its people, culture, and language. You’ve probably read a lot of the same stuff. Unfortunately, much of what has been written either glamorizes Japan or treats it with cartoonish Orientalism. And some is just butt wrong.
It’s certainly not easy to depict an entire nation in a few words, and I don’t pretend to do so. Well hey, Japan’s a big country. But maybe that’s the point. It’s not something that can be summed up easily. Even living here, I barely know what the hell’s going on half the time. So I’ll simply give you my perspective, for what it’s worth. As the Japanese say, Hope you enjoy.