Spending Christmas in a Japanese Buddhist Temple

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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.

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The Chinese Character of 2015

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Every year, Japanese citizens vote for a Chinese character (or kanji) to describe the events of the year and display it at the temple above.

This year’s character?

Safe.  Secure.  Stable.

When asked about the choice of character, many Japanese were quick to turn it into a negative.

“I think of 不安 (restless, worried),” said one woman.  “With the state the world is in, everything feels so uncertain.”

Others said the decision of the character 安 was a result of the recently passed security law (or the 安全保障法制), which has allowed Japan to actively participate in wars as a military power, much to the chagrin of the Japanese nationals.

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Visiting Japan? 5 Reasons You Should Go to Nagano

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Chances are, most western travelers never heard of Nagano.  Maybe it sounds slightly familiar thanks to its hosting of the 1998 winter Olympics, which actually helped put Nagano on the map.  For the most part, howeverit still remains widely unknown.

Nagano is one of Japan’s larger prefectures located in the Shinshu region directly west of Tokyo (about a one hour bullet train ride away).  It is one of the most mountainous regions in Japan and is known for its snow, great peaks and amazing forests.

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Hiroshima City: 70 Years After The Bombing

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When I lived in Japan, the most fascinating stories I heard were from none other than the grannies and grandpas.  They held no reservations and talked openly and freely about their memories, their thoughts, and their opinions. And since I was an American, they often told me stories about World War II.  They weren’t negative or hateful stories, but merely tales told from the depths of their memories.  Memories from a time long past.  A Japan that no longer existed.

“I remember listening to the radio with my family, about possible air raids from America and instructions for going to the shelters,” one of my adopted grandmothers said as she set up dinner for us, a feast of Japanese oden, tempura, miso soup and fish.  “I was so scared!”

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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?

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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.

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The Cherry Blossoms of Japan’s Snow Country, Niigata

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The harsh, cruel winter had come to a calm end. The roaring winds from the sea of Japan quieted to a whisper, and the walls of snow melted down into the nearby Shinano River, flowing along the rice fields and out into the open sea. The locals opened their windows to welcome in the fresh air of a spring long awaited, the sun a welcome sight from the months of grey skies and winter storms. In yukiguni—or snow country, as Niigata prefecture is famously known thanks to the Nobel prize winning book of the same name—winters can bring up to seven feet of snow fall.

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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,

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Save Over $10,000 a Year By Living in Tokyo

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I know, you think I must be crazy for suggesting you could save over $10,000 a year by living in Tokyo, a city famous for its supposed ‘high cost of living.’

But if there’s one big smack in the face I’ve received from reverse culture shock in the United States, it’s this:

It’s goddamn expensive to live in America!

I want to compare cost of living in America with what most people consider an expensive country: Japan.

More specifically, Tokyo.

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This scenario is based on a single individual working in Tokyo with an English teacher’s salary, which is about 30,000 USD per year and averages out to 2,500 dollars per month.

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5 Reasons Christmas is Different in Japan

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Japan has this strange tendency to take western holidays and slightly alter them.  I mean, look at Valentine’s Day–girls, not guys, give the chocolate and flowers–wha?

While China just plain doesn’t celebrate Christmas, the Japanese have, much like Valentine’s Day, adopted Christmas and celebrate it in their own special way.  Japanese Christmas traditions are so strange and bizarre, most Americans are stumped–or frankly, borderline offended at the perception and celebration of this Christian holiday in the land of the rising sun.

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