Pretty soon John and I will have a few months worth of friends and family visiting us here in Japan. Starting the beginning of October and going into the New Year. We are so excited to have such wonderful family and friends that are willing to make the journey to literally the other side of the world for us. However, there are times when I get a bit nervous about it. I say this because I barely get myself around Japan each day and now I will have visitors relying on me to help them too! Not that I’m not up for the challenge or not looking forward to it, but given that we’ve now lived in Japan for almost five months I wanted to share some of the things that our friends and family should expect when they arrive in the Land of the Rising Sun.
It took time to adjust to life over here and everyday we are working more and more towards assimilation, but as a precaution to those visiting I thought I should share a few observations:
- This one maybe obvious, but hardly anyone in Nagoya speaks English. Since our time in Tokyo and even Kyoto we’ve learned that larger cities tend to have more English speakers. This is not the case in Nagoya. It is so easy to speak your native language and so uncomfortable to try and communicate when you don’t understand. Helpful terms such as sumimasen (excuse me) , wakarimasen (I don’t understand), arigato gozaimasu (thank you), and dai jobu desu (it’s ok), are staples in my day to day life here in Japan. Along with nama biru o hitosu onegashimasu (draft beer for one please!). Just remember, it’s clear that you are foreign and most Japanese people will be patient with you.
- Toilets! Ok, I touched on this a few posts ago. But this is legitimate and should be discussed again. Most of the time you can find a western style toilet, however, in most subways, some very Japanese restaurants, and tourists areas, it can be hard to find a western toilet or there is only one stall. Be prepared to pee in a hole! I’m just saying, even when you walk off the plane at the Nagoya airport (which is a beautiful airport), they have mostly squatty potties. In case you forgot what one looks like, here is a photo. Surprisingly, these get easier to use the more you do it…just saying you are probably not going to pee on yourself (TMI?)
- Get ready to be stared at! People in Nagoya are not used to seeing very many foreigners and it’s common to be stared at. It’s ok, it’s mostly out of curiosity, but it definitely took some getting used too. It can also be, at times, uncomfortable. But I just started telling myself that I’m a celebrity (obviously) and it’s made getting used to it easier
- Personal space is almost non-existent here. I was very comfortable in my bubble and hate when I have to share it, especially with strangers. Well if that’s you be prepared because there is no such thing as personal space in public in Japan, it just doesn’t exist. The nice thing is sometimes being foreign has it’s advantages and people will steer clear of you on the train because of it
- Driving. I do occasionally drive in Japan, however, John and I only have one car and he uses it most days for work. So my experience driving on the other side of the road and in this crazy Asian city, is limited. If I pick you up from the airport, don’t be a backseat driver. Trust me it will only make me more nervous and you don’t want that. You will be fine. Despite some of my family members thinking I’m a terrible driver, I’m actually a great driver, even on the other side of the road and in Japan!
- WE WILL GET LOST! I’m just going to put that out there, it’s gonna happen, put it in your brain, let it marinate, because honestly as much as I think I have a good sense of direction it’s a little more complicated in Japan. Don’t worry though, Google Maps has got John and I out of many a situation and usually it works out fine! 😉
- The food is going to be different. We’re in Japan and even when you order a burger or fried chicken, it may not be what you expect. Just remember, Japan is a country with the most Michelin Star restaurants in the world. Meaning the food is pretty darn good. Be brave! Try something new while you are here, you are in Japan after all!
Take your shoes off!!!!!! This is a BIG one and if your are not used to it can be hard to remember. Japan is very big on respect and part of that is taking your shoes off in certain places. This is a non-negotiable thing. You must take your shoes off when entering someone’s home. If there is a sunken-foyer entrance then this is a good indication to take your shoes off. This can be anywhere from temples, shrines, to restaurants. So make sure you have a pedicure or new socks before you visit!
- Tipping. This is probably the best thing ever. The concept that you get good service and are not required to tip. Not required isn’t even accurate, there is no tipping allowed in Japan. That includes, dining out, taxis, hair salons, nails…you get the point. Just no need!
- Last but not least it’s important to remember that a trip to Japan will be the trip of a lifetime. Yes, it’s different, yes you will stick out like a sore thumb, and sure there are times where you are going to feel totally uncomfortable. But look past all that and you are going to love it, probably just as much as John and I do. Just don’t take yourself too seriously and be respectful to another culture and all will be well!
Well there you have it! I’m sure there are a million more things that I could think of, but like I said keep an open mind and enjoy your time. Japan is an amazing country, full of kind people, delicious food, an interesting culture, is a total paradox, and amazingly beautiful!
And welcome to Japan!