Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Expat in Japan Observations, Second Edition

Getting closer to hitting the 3 month mark in Japan and figured it was time for another collection of my random expat ramblings. Similar to my 11 Early Observations, ranging from the minor details to larger themes of adjusting to life in the land of the rising sun, except this time it's a list of 10.  

Fake food is a real thing. You know how there are collective concepts of what is typical in certain places - cowboys in Texas or bullfights in Spain or rude people in Paris - but you aren't quite sure what is actually prevalent and what's just been blown out of proportion? That's how I felt about fake food. Everyone has heard of the use of plastic food in Japan to advertise a restaurant's offerings, but before getting here, I really wondered whether this was actually a thing, as we're led to believe. It is. Or at least much more so than rude people in Paris. 

Japanese way vs. the American non-way. In Japan it seems there is a right way, and therefore a wrong way, to do just about everything, from eating to parking to riding on the train. If you are unsure about proper procedure (you can be sure there is one) the general rule of thumb is to watch what everyone else around you is doing and then do the same exact thing. Just recently we went to the grocery store for a couple of things, literally two, and Graham asked me why I grabbed a basket. And I was like, look around you...everyone has a basket, so we have a basket! As an American, I certainly regard etiquette as a positive thing, but normally reserved for particularly formal scenarios - dinner parties, weddings, funerals, etc. Everyday American life tends to be more relaxed, with less protocol. Here I fluctuate from feeling like a bumbling, unrefined idiot to an American flag-waving rebel cowboy. Yeehaaw, I just jaywalked! Oh no, everyone is staring...

Friday, April 10, 2015

Sakura at Shomyoji Temple

The cherry blossoms (sakura) in Japan are renowned for their stunning beauty, but they also have a deeper meaning for the Japanese. The short-lived blooms are a metaphor for the fleeting nature of life, the transient nature of existence. They are also a symbol for spring and new beginnings.

Sakura season, though a brief couple of weeks, is highly anticipated - everything becomes about these tiny pink and white flowers. Looking at them, taking pictures of them, sakura flavored food and drink, special limited edition sakura packaging. People plan everything from a short stroll to hours long, food filled and alcohol drenched picnics, called hanami, under the flowering branches.