A while back I received an e-mail from a Japanese person, telling me how much he disliked Japan. His perspective was an interesting counterpoint to my own, and I blogged about what I liked about being in Japan. Yesterday I received another e-mail from the person I'll refer to as T.
Do I hate Japan? The answer to the title is obviously a yes for me. I think Japan is not fun. This is the biggest problem. I used to live in America for 6 years. I thought it was heaven there. I wouldn’t have had a problem living there for the rest of my life. Actually I wanted that. School is not fun at all. When I lived in America, my place always had dance parties like every month. Now if we have this every month, school would be a little better. And you would be able to work hard for that day. There is no goal here to make students work harder. Another one is that kids in Japan play games too much. I think one reason to that is Japan doesn’t have a backyard big enough to play outside. And even if we have parks there usually small and full of sand not grass. I think the environment is too different. People can’t make big backyards because Japan is too crammed and there is no space to make such place. Not just that. If you want a big backyard it would cost you a lot. How do you think about it so far? Boring? That’s what I would think. Japan is a place that would be fun visiting but it’s not good to live here. The only good thing in Japan is probably the technology. (Which these days there not the best anymore.) In Japan everything is too strict. Maybe that’s another reason why Japan is not fun. We can’t get license when were sixteen. And wherever we go there’s something like a time limit set by parents. Maybe that’s not just Japan but still we don’t have much freedom as we do in America. In America I felt free. After writing this essay I realized how much I hate Japan again
Imagine that you're suddenly spending six years in a foreign country that does things very differently from your own, and you like it. Then you have to go back to where you came from, but suddenly everything seems different. You can't appreciate things in the same way that you could before living in a foreign country. I think a lot of ex-pats will recognize this feeling.
While reading the e-mail I was already preparing myself to defend Japan against whatever arguments he would offer, but I gradually realized that our situations are just too different. I think a lot of the points mentioned by T are in fact very valid. Children would have a very different childhood in the US compared to Japan. I've heard a lot of expats in Japan complain about the education in Japan not being up to modern standards. I've never had children in Japan myself so I can't really comment about the practicalities. If anyone was in such a situation, feel free to reply.
Thinking back to my own childhood, we did have a huge backyard. I did have a lot of freedom when I was young. But I would definitely not say that my education was fun. It did have its highs and its lows, but on average it was pretty boring. I got my first dose of true freedom in Japan, which is why I have a very positive image of it. As a foreigner I did not have to try to fit in because I would always be an outsider. Society did not impose high standards on me the way it did on Japanese people.
So really, the issue T has with Japan is understandable. The US and Japan are two very different cultures, and being raised in either one of them will form you as a person, in a very specific way. I think everyone who has ever spent time as an expat in a foreign country can appreciate the experience of being able to see the world from a different perspective. After seeing that life can indeed be lived in a different way, we each draw our own conclusions about how this will affect us. For some, like T and myself, it means that it's become harder to appreciate the country we were born in. What does it mean to you?