How the Japanese Celebrate New Year

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The most important day of the year for the Japanese is New Year, and with it comes certain traditions and ceremonies.

Why don’t the Japanese celebrate Lunar New Year like the rest of Asia?

Unlike the Chinese (and the rest of Asia), Japan does not celebrate the lunar new year.  Japan’s new year holiday is every January 1st in alignment with western calendars.  In fact, Chinese New Year is known as 旧正月, or “old/former new year.”

The Japanese switched to the Gregorian calendar in the Meiji era, when the entire country was modernized due to western influences.  This is the era of the last samurai, of kimonos being traded for western dresses and suits, of guns and cannons in the battlefield.  Since then, the western calendar has stuck. read more

Spending Christmas in a Japanese Buddhist Temple

ChristmasJapanCover

Spending Christmas abroad is tough business.  I don’t really know how to put it into words, but something is just missing in the air.  Maybe it’s the commercialism.  Maybe it’s the exchange of presents, the Christmas parties, or even the cheesy songs on the radio.

Probably, it’s just the plain and simple fact that no one gives a crap about Christmas in Asia.

As I often mention on here, my life in Niigata was different from the typical foreigner.  I was extremely isolated.  Due to various falling outs with other foreigners, I was all alone.  I had no one to share Christmas with. read more

You Know You’ve Turned Chinese When…

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I’ll never be ethnically Chinese.  It’s just not going to happen.

Despite this, I feel Chinese (as weird as that sounds).  I was  so accepted and integrated during my time in China, I felt like one of their own.  Sure, my proverbs sucked.  Yeah, I couldn’t read all the Chinese characters.  Still, I was invited to almost any and every outing, and many of my Chinese friends treated me like family.  I hung out with the locals like I was their neighbor, and they treated me as such.  Thanks to the kindness and passion of my friends in China, I felt like I truly discovered what it means to live and understand China. read more

Attending a Japanese Wedding

Attending a Japanese Wedding

So, it’s final.  In September I’ll be a bridesmaid in a good friend’s wedding in Brussels.  My plans for attending the wedding have been in the works for months, but finally I’ve booked all of the plane tickets and hotels, which makes it official.

After almost a year of not traveling, I’m finally going to Europe!

Yet, as I started thinking about wedding preparations I found myself at a loss…

Are French/Belgian weddings the same as American ones?  What is considered a ‘good’ wedding gift?  How do they work?  Is it ceremony and then reception, or is there some sort of legal service in between? read more

5 Ways Travel Has Changed My Personality

Changin' through Travel

Changin’ through Travel

I know.  I disappeared for a month.

I wish I could say that I did something cool, like randomly bought a one way ticket to Iceland and partied in Reykjavik for 30 days straight–but alas, my life is not that exciting.  The last month was mostly sucked up by a web design class that taught me little, but did force me to build a website (I actually constructed a website for the boyfriend that should be up soon).  I also spruced up The Ruby Ronin a bit in hopes that it will inspire and motivate me to write on a regular basis. read more

Should I Learn Chinese or Japanese?

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“Should I learn Japanese or Chinese?”

As a Japanese/Chinese interpreter and translator, it’s a question I get asked a lot.

Those that are crazy or masochistic enough to venture into the realm of Asian languages often stop and pause when it comes to choosing from the two giants of the East Asian languages: Japanese and Mandarin.

Choosing a language is important. Gaining fluency will take you hours, months, and perhaps years of your life. It’s not something to take lightly and, if used for future work purposes, is definitely worth consideration. read more

Grocery Shopping in America vs. China and Japan

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Whenever I travel abroad, the first thing I usually do is pop into the local supermarket.  While it may sound strange to pass up temples and ruins for a run to the market, the seemingly average grocery store is a gigantic window into the country itself.  What people buy in a store–and  the food that is offered in the market itself–speaks volumes about a country and its culture.

When I returned to the United States last year, it was no surprise that going to the giant sized American market was one of the big toppers on my lists of reverse culture shock.  Even after a year here, stepping into the grocery store still feels like I’m treading into foreign territory. read more

Working as a Doctor in India

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My second featured guest for the bi-weekly MyAsia Monday post is none other than my boyfriend, Richard.  After laboring through four long years of med school, he’s currently a resident doctor at a local hospital.  While he may be a doctor in title, he is actually a traveler at heart.  During his last year of med school, he volunteered to work in India and Thailand on an exchange program with his school for his first foray into the land of Asia.

I always write about the far east (and sometimes southeast) Asia.  For a change, however, I would like to write about a country in Asia that hardly gets any light on this blog: India.  My boyfriend is absolutely in love with India, and his visit there only deepened the connection.  I asked Richard if he could share his experiences in India as a doctor on the blog, and he jumped at the chance to post on here gratefully accepted 😉  read more

The Truth About Working at a Japanese Company

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The clock struck 5—it was officially time to head home and call it a day at the office.

Yet no one was leaving.

Japanese companies worry about local staff pressing legal charges for unpaid overtime in the U.S., so they order us to clock out at 5 p.m.  Of course, I wasn’t complaining.

So just like I do everyday, I shut off my computer, grabbed my purse, bowed and announced to the office:

O saki ni shitsureishimasu” (I humbly apologize for leaving early).

To which they instantaneously replied, read more

Life in Los Angeles is Killing Me

Los Angeles Sprawl

Los Angeles Sprawl

My alarm buzzed at 6:00AM, waking me out of my deep slumber. I fumbled in the darkness of the early morning to shut the alarm off and begin yet another 12+ hour day of work and commuting.

Originally, I didn’t want a car. I wanted to just get by with a bike, a ride form my boyfriend every now and then, and the trains—yet it was impossible. The distance from my boyfriend’s house to the train station was 20 minutes away by car, which is almost 90 minutes away by bike. Thus I was forced to lease a car, which costs me a ridiculous amount of money every month. An asset I honestly don’t want, but is impossible to live without in the United States. read more