Pleasant Surprises in Japan

Hello everyone! I am Rajoo and I come from a small tropical island in Africa called Mauritius. Owing to its history, Mauritius is very ethnically diverse with people from Asian, African, and European descent, all living in peace and harmony. I am a freshman studying Economics. It has been six months since I first came to Japan. In this newsletter, I would like to share some information about what life in Japan is like – particularly, what I was surprised about.

1
Traveling to Akihabara, Tokyo

Before arriving to Japan, I tried to read online as much as I could about the lifestyle here and what to expect, but I was still very impressed by how everything is so well-timed and organized. It makes living in Japan so convenient. For example, I was pleasantly surprised to see that people keep to their left when walking up or down the stairs in Nagoya. This way, there are two lines, each moving in the opposite direction so that no one would bump into the other. Similarly, on the escalator, those who wish to stand stay on the left, keeping enough space on their right so that if someone is in a rush, they can walk up the escalator.  Isn’t that impressive how they are considerate of others? 

2
Going to morning Japanese language classes

In my opinion, the Japanese people that I have met are generally humble and helpful. One day, I was looking for a famous Japanese electronic shop but could not find it. Because I did not have mobile data to use Google Maps, I stopped a random woman on the street to ask her for directions. When she realized that I was new to the city, she decided to walk all the way (for twenty minutes) with me to the shop. Despite the language barrier, I felt that it was very easy to ask for help because I could expect that the other end will be receptive and welcoming.

Also, the streets are very clean. It is common to see people carry their empty cans or bottles throughout the whole of their journey until they see a dustbin to discard them.

3
Winter is Coming! (A Picture in Autumn)

In my first semester, I had the opportunity to visit one of Toyota’s factories for one of my classes. At Toyota Factory, I could see the real-life application of Japanese styles of management such as Kaizen, Just-in-Time and others that I learned throughout my Introductory to Management course. Also, I was fascinated to see that different car models could be rolled in a random order on the same production line to be wielded by robots equipped with sensors to detect, and perform the welding accordingly. There was no need for duplication of welding lines for different models.

Learning Japanese is one key to managing your daily life, especially in regards to paperwork. All the letters that I receive from the city office are in Japanese, filled with mysterious kanji (Chinese characters). Thankfully, the daily Japanese classes at university are up to point and designed to be practical. Learning Japanese in Japan is much easier than learning myself — I see Japanese characters written everywhere, and sometimes when I am walking on the street with my classmates fluent in Japanese, I randomly point out at a kanji character (for instance written on a bus) and ask for its meaning.

4
Lunch at the school cafeteria

In my first month, I was quickly reminded of the importance of learning Japanese when elderly Japanese persons initiated conversations a couple of times. Mostly, they began with asking me about my country and shared some good life advice. However, then came a point where I exhausted all my Japanese vocabulary and the conversation became difficult for the both of us. This acts as a constant reminder for me to learn Japanese thoroughly. Living in the university’s dormitory helps because I can always run to the dorm’s office for translation, advice, or queries about procedures.

Japanese is the first language I am learning from scratch. Although I can also speak French fluently, I had never had to actively memorize (rote-learn) vocabulary because people spoke French on a daily basis back in Mauritius, and I would learn subconsciously. Even if Japanese is very different to French, learning a new language gave me the chance to reflect on the many pedagogical aspects of the languages that I can already speak.

The only trouble I had been facing so far in Japan is that I end up with so many coins in my wallet after I do a purchase! Every month, the coins pile up in my drawer and I need to exchange them at the ATM for notes.

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