Life in Japan: The good, the bad and the ugly
Posted by Baburam on July 24, 2007
You’ve got to love what you hate
Japan is a country of juxtapositions: East meets West, ancient tradition versus modern technology. I love the technology — the keitai. I hate the lack of house insulation, taking my damn shoes off every time I enter somewhere, or wearing toilet shoes
While on the subject, I love the heated toilet seats, hate the Japanese-style squatters, though you do get used to them. Japanese people can be very friendly, super helpful, but then extremely reserved, refraining from expressing their opinions because one should be able to know how they feel through mental telepathy! Right?
My verdict — You’ve got to love Japan, even the things you hate, and learn to accept them, except, of course, for natto. What you hate, as well as what you love, is what makes it Japan.
Cuteness not a good attribute
As a Canadian woman living and working in Japan, life is great. It’s safe, financially rewarding and culturally enriching. But one thing that frustrates me is that the life of Japanese women differs so much from that of men.
Certainly there are gender roles in Canada, but they do not dictate social roles as much as they do here. Of course, Japanese traditions are at the heart of these unbalanced gender relations. But nowadays it seems traditions have transformed into Japan’s obsession with cute things.
To be called cute is a high compliment. Cute is cute because it’s nice to look at, harmless and on a deeper level, subordinate. Japan’s love for cute things has been internalized by women and demonstrated in their looks and actions. Because of this, life for women here is full of day-to-day and lifelong compromises.
This is not a criticism of Japanese women, but of Japanese society. Is “cute” all women can and are expected to be in Japan? More importantly, is that all they want to be? Unfortunately, I think the answer to these questions is yes and no, respectively.
Iwata, Shizuoka Prefecture
3 G’s make life safe, orderly
In Japan, the three G’s — gaman, ganbaru and giri (patience, persistence and obligation) — undoubtedly exert a strong influence on society and affect the behavior of virtually all Japanese. The fact that there is no precise or adequate translation for these words indicates that these concepts don’t exist in the same way in other countries. Among non-Japanese they arouse strong reactions varying from admiration and approval to scorn and condemnation.
These three words work as powerful means of external control and also demand great self-control by every individual. This means that self-expression and personal freedom are seriously curtailed, which to outsiders in particular can seem an unacceptable price to pay. It also can lead to excessive conformity, lack of free thinking and even impinge on the development of a personality
The positive side, however, is the safe, orderly and harmonious face of Japan. About 127 million people live in close proximity to each other. Without such control, life could be chaotic. Instead, it is predictable and secure. In general, people can be relied upon to be honest, courteous and considerate to others. These qualities are not always present to such a degree in other countries, including those in the West, and it is for that reason that I like and respect Japan.
Gifu(Taken from The Youmiuri Daily)