I’m at Super Saiyin status! Yup, I’ve reached 4 complete years of living and blogging in Japan!
I know, I know. Some Americans have reached city-stomping, moon-transforming monkey status in their tenth, twentieth, or even thirtieth years in Japan. Good for them! For me, it’s an awesome thing: I’m still living my dream! And I’ve learned a few things along the way.
Anime and manga does and doesn’t equal culture.
Just as any media doesn’t fully capture a single culture, it also says a lot about that culture. The Japanese population is mostly Japanese. From the time Japanese people are born until they die, there are certain things that’re taught to them. Did you know that Japanese students take Ethics and Morals in junior high school? And did you know Japanese students are punished more for not following the rules than their grades? No, maybe not. In reality, Japanese people aren’t allowed to stand out. Japan is a collective society, and in a country the size of California housing millions, the population can’t afford to be individualistic. But in anime and manga, you’ll see students who are totally different because of their natural talents or super abilities. In a way, these media are reflections of a country where the hammer strikes down the standing nail.
Design and marketing is on a whole different level in Japan.
Wherever you walk in Japan, you’re bound to find billboards upon billboards, posters behind posters, signs above signs of ads, ads, ads. Even if you can’t read them, these ads are successful at embedding colorful and creative images into your brain. Everything has a mascot (ever hear of Hello Kitty, Kumamon, Pikachu, or Luffy?). When I think of American ads, they don’t compare. Then again, the States has it good with creating recognizable brands. Hmm, maybe I’m wrong… Still, Japanese advertising makes me laugh!
Quality of (Insert a Noun) is cities above the American sense of quality
I’m absolutely in love with Japan’s sense of quality. It shows in mundane things: merchandise at thrift stores are clean and cared for; lunches are freshly prepared by mothers and lunchbox pros same day; fast food actually matches the pictures. So, yeah, quality of life is awesome in Japan. There’s the national healthcare that every working person can receive (OMG, Japan is Socialistic ::gasp::), and the older you are, the cheaper your optional car insurance becomes. Don’t get me wrong, I do miss the States, but some things–the crappy secondhand buys, the fat-salt-sugar-saturated processed food, and the bombardment of unhealthy lifestyles–aren’t living up to my quality of life anymore.
I miss the straightforwardness of the West
Japan is the land of beating around the bush. You can’t say anything directly because it’s seen as unfriendly. Instead of saying, “Why aren’t you wearing an undershirt?” you have to opt for a round-about way of saying things. “Aren’t you cold?” The real meaning: you’re not dressed properly for work! Then again, no one will tell you at the very beginning how to dress for work in Japan like in the States. “Do I have to wear suits? What color? How long?” You have to become a really great observer in Japan and answer the questions yourself. In a way, I find it refreshing. As Haruki Murakami wrote in 1Q84, “If you can’t understand it without an explanation, you can’t understand it with an explanation.”