The Intimacy of Names in Japan

I’ve been watching a few cheesy Japanese romance dramas (my guilty pleasure) and I noticed something bewildering: when a young Japanese couple starts dating and starts addressing each other by first name instead of last name, the dynamic of their relationship completely changes.  In one particular drama, the boyfriend told his new girlfriend that she should call him “Kotaro” instead of “Taniguchi-san.”  She blushed and said she wasn’t ready to take their relationship that far. read more

Going to Kyushu, Japan? Why Visiting Yakushima is Worth it

I originally had no plans to visit Japan in 2017….  but when we saw plane tickets from Los Angeles to Kyushu, Japan for only $600 round trip, my husband and I thought:

Dude.  We’re goin’ to Kyushu.

When I told my Japanese friend Tohko that we were going to be in Japan, she said she would meet us in Kyushu on one condition:

We go to Yakushima.

Yakushima?  Where and what is it?

It’s the greenest and wettest place in the country, receiving more rainfall than any other location in Japan.  On top of that, the island has a strong reputation for being a spiritual and mystical retreat, and rightly so–it did, after all serve as the inspiration for the animated film “Princess Mononoke.” read more

How Can Learning Japanese or Chinese Get You a Job?

According to the news, China is about to rule the world and the Japanese are poised for extinction via low birthrates.  With an ever-rising China and a Japan on the decline, one has to wonder:  Will learning Japanese actually get me a job?  And more importantly, will learning Chinese get me an even better job?

In my post “should I learn Japanese or Chinese?” I gave the cop out answer of “go with your heart.”  I still stand by this super cheesy advice.

However,  via this particular post, I received multiple emails from young college students asking for even more advice.  What kind of jobs can I get with these language skills?  What level of proficiency do I need?  And most of all: Are learning these languages just a massive waste of time? read more

A Slice of Life From Japan: The Japanese English Teacher (JTE) I Will Never Forget

Today, I found a memoir-like post hidden away in the depths of my hard drive.  I thought this little piece perfectly conveyed what it was like to teach on the JET Program, as well as introduced some  unforgettable characters all JETs are bound to meet on the journey.  It’s a long post, but if you can slog through it, it perfectly summarizes my unforgettable experience working with my Japanese English Teacher (JTE).

The Japanese Countryside

“You have to meet Uchida-sensei,” all of the staff at the school told me repeatedly.  “He’s going to be one of the English teachers you work with.  Plus, I think he’s about the same age as you.” read more

Discovering Japan through the Eyes of a Tourist

My fiancee was dying to write a post about travel, and the both of us just couldn’t get memories of our trip to Japan out of our heads (and trust me, Japan tends to do that to people), so he offered to write a great piece on Japan.  Unlike me, my fiancee has yet to live or study in Japan, so it has been fascinating to read his account of discovering Japan through the eyes of a tourist.  Enjoy!  (PS, if you enjoy my fiancee’s writing take a look at his finance blog, Millennial Lifehacker).

Mary has already written a fabulous article on Japan, but aside from the one week that we spent together there, I also wandered across part of the country with my parents while she acted as a tour guide for some other friends. Here are some things that I noted. Apologies in advance as I am not nearly as captivating a writer as Mary.

1. There are so many Chinese in Japan

Can you tell who is Chinese?

Yeah, I know, Mary made this observation already, I know, but I still could not get over it.  Seriously, everywhere you go in Japan has tons of stealth Chinese people. One particularly memorable encounter was at the hotel. After we checked in, there was a maid who came by with extra sheets and to do some supplemental cleaning. She was Chinese! I guess Chinese maids are the equivalent to Hispanic maids in southern California; they’re everywhere! Apparently they all have the same story as well. They moved to Japan after China started to open up but was still kind of poor (think most of the 1990s). They usually worked in low skill employment but stayed on even as China became wealthy because they got used to the environment and made their circle of friends.
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What a Trump Presidency Means for US-Japan-China Relations

Two Chinese girls looking out at Tokyo with a faux statue of liberty. The US-China-Japan all in one photo.

It’s only been one day and we are already starting to see the damage.  The repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  The disappearance of the Climate Change page on whitehouse.org.  Re-negotiations of NAFTA.  It’s all really happening.

Yesterday, in a truly humbling event, scores of Women’s Marches were held around the world. Women (and those who support women and diversity) stood in solidarity for equality, love, and women’s rights.  I was rooting for all of you.

Although these marches spanned the globe, they mostly represented a fight for U.S. domestic policies.  Planned Parenthood, immigration, education, healthcare–Americans turned out in record numbers to fight for these rights. read more

Teaching Christmas in the Japanese Countryside

winterinniigata

Winter at one of my schools.

Many people often ask me what the most difficult part of teaching in Japan was.  The JET Program had a mandatory, two day orientation to teach us about the long, English teaching road ahead. They rattled on and on about isolation, language barriers, and cultural clashes.

Yet they forgot the most important thing of all:

Actually instructing us on how to teach English.

winterniigatame

Never showed this face to my students, but man did I feel like this many-a-time (especially during blizzards)

The most difficult part of JET for me was standing in front of 40 middle school students and entertaining educating them for one hour.  I was a journalism and Japanese major–I knew absolutely nothing about education. read more

5 Reasons Japan is NOT technologically advanced

Japan tech savvy

On my most recent trip to Japan I once again asked myself this question:  Is Japan really technologically advanced?

Advanced robotics.  Giant mechas.  Bullet Trains.

To much of the world, Japan is seen as the world of the future.  It’s no surprise the  country that invented the Mario Brothers and the hybrid car is known worldwide as the most high-tech.

So when I moved to Japan, I was expecting to walk into the future.  I was ready to see what life would be like in a world where technology ruled. read more

Hiking Japan’s Holy Pilgrimage, Kumano Kodo

Kumanokodopost

How in God’s Name did I hear about this virtually unknown trail, the Kumano Kodo?

Well, I first stumbled upon this off-the-beaten-path pilgrimage when I worked for the Japanese government and found this photo on a pamphlet:

kumanobrochure

Something about it captivated me. Maybe it was the bizarre costume/pilgrimage outfit that is so ancient, even my knowledge from four years of Japanese language and culture classes left me in the dark. Perhaps the fact that it was one of only two UNESCO recognized pilgrimages in the world appealed to me, and I was dying to check ‘pilgrimage’ off the bucket list. read more

Cat Island, Gardens and Udon in Takamatsu, Shikoku

Visit Takamatsu Tourism

I stepped off the train platform at Takamatsu station, awash in nostalgia.  Five years ago I found myself at this very same bus and train station housed in the city’s harbor.  I was struck first by the smell of crisp and raw ocean air washing over me.  The brilliant blue sky reflected the ocean surrounding the island.  Unlike the streets of Tokyo, the people here walked at a slower pace, a smile on their face, with a peaceful calm floating over the city.

I was so grateful to return to one of Japan’s most charming small cities: Takamatsu. read more