Modest Observations


Hello,this is Andrew from IMS.


Since coming to Japan, I have encountered many things that have left me impressed, awestruck, or even straight-up dumbfounded. Would I call it cultural shock? Not exactly. But I have come to realize that there exist glaring differences between the US (where I spent my meager 21 year existence) and Japan. I will highlight some of my observations.


First and foremost—the cleanliness. I cannot possibly explain in finite words how many times I have taken a stroll through a large American city (New York, Los Angeles, Miami, etc.) and noticed trash strewn about wherever one may have found it most convenient. That shaped my impression of the modern-day metropolis. However, once I arrived in Japan, I was exposed to a completely new way of life. Despite the (almost) painful lack of publically available trash cans, the streets are free of litter. This was something that I would say impressed me.


One of the reasons for this, I believe, is the selfless culture. If you consider others for just a second, you will think twice about tossing that empty water bottle on the sidewalk. This brings me to my second point: courtesy. Never in my life have I seen such mindfulness of others. There is one specific example I will never forget. I was preparing to skillfully maneuver my way through a packed crosswalk in Shinjuku when I noticed an ambulance. Sirens blaring, it was obviously on its way to an emergency. However, as people moved out of the way to let it pass through, I heard over the intercom, “失礼しまーーーす。 ありがとうございました。” To think they were apologizing for inconveniencing people on their walk back from lunch break left me in complete awe. I’m much more used to a “get out of the way” attitude. I probably interpreted this incorrectly, but as an outsider, I was floored.


There is also such rich history here, something I am not used to back home; America is less than three centuries old, after all. On a trip to Nikko, I was able to witness a smidgen of this history. Having studied the Edo Period extensively at college, I was extremely moved standing in front of Tokugawa Ieyasu’s shrine. Something I had only read about and seen in textbooks was right before my eyes. I would have loved to see more of this history during my stay in Tokyo, but I am quite, for lack of a better word, a namakemono.


What spurred my interest in learning the Japanese language and culture in the first place was, like many Americans, an interest in the pop-culture. I listen to Japanese music, play Japanese video games, read manga and watch anime. However, the extent to which these are prevalent in the everyday Tokyo life was pleasantly surprising. ゲームセンline many streets, and you cannot travel through a ward without finding an Animate. This makes me… how do I say it… extremely happy, knowing I am surrounded by people who share my interests—a rarity back home.


I would extensively comment on the food, but I have probably already written too much. With that said, I will be brief: food in Japan is love. Food in Japan is life.


If you read this whole thing, thank you (and sorry). Japan is truly an amazing place, and I can’t wait to return in the near future.