Living in Japan

“The Gaijin Nod” or “Ron, I’m so sorry about what happened yesterday”

I come before you today, readers of RocketNews24, with a confession. What I am about to tell you may shock you, but it’s eating away at me and I need to get it off my chest. You see, yesterday afternoon on my way to lunch, I did a fellow foreigner–a fellow gaijin, if you will–a tremendous injustice. It was not my intent to do so, but at the very moment this gentlemen, this benevolent stranger, put himself out there and sought to make a minor connection with another foreigner, I turned away.

That’s right, gentle reader, I accidentally ignored a Gaijin Nod.

Allow me to explain.

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On living in Japan: Five essential essays from the internet, the greatest library on earth

Ten years ago, I used to read a lot of books. Now, I read a lot of content, which is to say, blogs and online articles. But when I read something that sticks with me, even for a fleeting moment, I still want to reach for a highlighter and shade the words fluorescent yellow, so I can find that part again later. And I’m not alone in my instinctive response to treat the digital word in the same way I do printed material. There’s a reason browsers still call it a “bookmark” when we save a webpage.

There are all kinds of great English-language blogs about Japan out there. But there are also a number of stand-alone articles that, over the years, I’ve read again and again – and they still make me want to grab my highlighter and start collecting quotes. I’ve put them together into this short list, which we may think of as a small (highly subjective) foreigners-living-in-Japan canon: seminal pieces of writing from around the internet.

Some of these are very long. Some are controversial. All of them have stayed with me for some reason or another, and maybe they’ll stick with you too.

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We want this sleeping bag with legs

Sometimes it’s ridiculously cold in Japan.

We know what you’re thinking, and we agree; it’s way colder in many other parts of the world. However, when folks in Canada are stepping into a nice warm insulated home with central heating and a quaint little fireplace, those of us in Japan come home to a rush of frigid air that’s as cold or colder than the outside temperature thanks to the breezy, uninsulated nature of Japanese houses.

That’s why were aren’t surprised to find this unconventional product on a Japanese site. Only someone so mind-numbingly cold could invent a sleeping bag with legs.

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You know you’ve been in Japan too long when…

So you’ve been living, lounging, working, or studying in Japan for a while now. The feelings of homesickness you first experienced are but a distant memory, and whenever you Skype with your family, you unconsciously use the word “home” to refer to your place in Japan rather than your home country. Not only that, you can finally navigate the Tokyo Metro without getting flustered, barely even notice when a girl dressed in kimono passes you in the street, and you think nothing of visiting a convenience store two or three times a day, sometimes just to flick through the magazines.

But what about all of the things you do unconsciously or that seem so normal to you now but would make you stop and stare back home? Today, we bring you a list of 10 moments that, if and when they happen to you, you can safely say, “Wow, I’ve been in Japan too long.”

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Expat blogger dishes on her favorite foods to bring back to Japan after a trip home

It doesn’t matter where you are in the world, if you’re an expat, there’s something from home you’re craving. Whether it’s chips and salsa or a good, strong beer, not having easy access to your favorite foods can put a damper on even the most enthusiastic of world travelers. That’s why knowing what to bring back after a visit home is so important, and Sharla, a university student living in Tokyo who makes videos about life in Japan, is here to help. Take a look at her video titled “What to Pack for JAPAN 日本に持っていくべき物!” and be prepared to take some notes. As an added bonus, Sharla speaks in English but includes subtitles in Japanese so anyone studying either language can get some extra practice.
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10 things Japan gets horribly wrong

It should come as no surprise to our readers to hear that we’re big fans of Japan. Pretty much everything here works as it should, the food is amazing, the culture rich, and people are on the whole likeable and friendly. But there are times when Westerners, and Japanese who have spent any amount of time abroad for that matter, realise that Japan gets some things not just wrong but horribly wrong.

So join us after the jump as we redress the balance no doubt offset by our constant admiration of Japan by discussing the 10 little things that drive us nuts in this otherwise great country.

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Survey Among Expats in Japan: What Did You Think About Japan Before You Started Living Here?

When you hear the word, “Japan,” what comes to mind? Mt. Fuji? Animé? Cherry blossoms? Those of us who have lived in Japan came to this country with ideas of what we might encounter and many of those preconceived impressions turned out to be completely false. We asked foreigners who have been living in Japan for at least three years to share what they thought about Japan before ever stepping foot inside the country. Take a look at their answers:

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Privacy Please?【You, Me, And A Tanuki】

You, Me, And a Tanuki is a weekly featured blog run by Michelle, a Californian who is currently one of only two foreigners living in Chibu, a tiny fishing village on one of the Oki islands in Japan. Check back every Saturday for a new post or read more on her website here!

From my experience, there is very little privacy in Japan compared to the US.  You want to take some time off during the summer break to go on a vacation?  You better write down where you’re going and for how long so that information can be distributed to not only your boss, but everyone in the office.  Make a big mistake at work?  You’re purposely going to get scolded about it in front of your coworkers.  A close family member passed away?  You’re going to have to make a public announcement about it whether you want to or not (at least that’s what I was forced to do at work when my grandmother passed away and I had to suddenly go back to America).

The oddest invasion of privacy that I have ever encountered here in Japan is always during the yearly health examinations. Since I’m a public worker, once a year I am required to have a full physical.  This sounds awesome, I get a free health check-up and I don’t even need to make an appointment.

Wrong, it is awful.

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The Problem With Everyone Knowing Where We Live【You, Me, And A Tanuki】

You, Me, And a Tanuki is a weekly featured blog run by Michelle, a Californian who is currently one of only two foreigners living in Chibu, a tiny fishing village on one of the Oki islands in Japan. Check back every Saturday for a new post or read more on her website here!

My husband and I live on a five square mile island with less than 600 inhabitants. To make matters even cozier, most of our island is mountainous so the houses are clustered together on the coasts where any flat land is available. As a result of our close proximity to our neighbors and the fact that we are the only two foreigners on the island, everyone knows where we live.

This is a great thing most of the time. People often come to our door to give us extra vegetables from their garden or fish they caught. When Khoa and I stayed on the island during New Year’s, the principal of the elementary school saw the light on at our house, figured we were home, and invited us over for a big New Year’s feast.

However, there is a downside to the entire island knowing our whereabouts.

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