Alright. I’ll get the broken record stuff out of the way quickly this time. Excluding any extraordinary circumstances, college is the last opportunity you will have (before retirement) to travel (for an extended period of time)! Now then, I will take up the arduous task of explaining why you should want to journey to a foreign country at the expense of a university-sponsored program. I’ll say this first too (since everyone seems to fixate on boring things like money): there are only about… 2 million scholarships out there for study abroad students and most of them are giving out dollars by the thousands. So yeah, no excuses. I miss the crowds.
As I may or may not have mentioned earlier, I travel to encounter new ideas; yes, that includes having fun too, but we’ll get to that later. Since my stay in Japan was my first time outside of the States, I found an abundance of different ideas and different ways. To start with, here are some adjectives that describe Japan but not America: efficient (everything is on time 99 times out of 100), polite (I once caught a shop clerk reading a magazine instead of spending every minute of a slow day watching the door for customer and he wouldn’t stop apologizing for it), crowded (take your closest major city, double the amount of people in it, then fit it in half of the space), and expensive (cheap watermelons sell for around $100). During the first part of my stay, I inevitably began to wonder what could be learned from these differences; if either country could be improved by them. Eventually I realized the futility of such thoughts and simply enjoyed the cultural differences for what they were. But on the off chance someone will read this and actually be in a position to something about it, I’ll list a few random things of interest; they may or may not be useful.
In Japan, residents are expected to separate trash in at least 10 different categories. It took me awhile to wrap my head around it, since Americans can barely sort their recyclables.
As a person that owns a car, but dislikes driving it, trains were a welcome change in Japan. It’s nice to be able to get something done during a commute. Or sleep. Everyone conditions themselves to wake up when their stop is announced. It took me about a month.
I have never seen so much useless crap for sale than in Japan. Gifts are a big part of the culture, so consequently there is a huge market for trinkets, keepsakes and other souvenirs. I thought I was going to die in some places.
Being totally wasted in public is not a problem. Japanese society is very open towards alcohol. You can ask a policeman for directions with an open bottle in hand and he’ll send you happily on your way.
Japan has an overabundance of sweets. Candies, cookies, chocolates, pastries, etc. etc. Even back in America, my sweet tooth hasn’t recovered. (I miss melon bread.)
Everywhere I went, no matter what city or what district or what cuisine, the food was excellent. In all honesty, I never had a bad meal in Japan. Even though I was ordering from a picture menu most of the time.
That’s all for now. We’ll continue this another time.
Photo courtesy of Tyler