I can’t believe another week has already passed by which means it’s also time for another post! My week wasn’t too out of the ordinary, but I did want to take the time to reflect upon all of the interesting people I’ve met since coming to Tokyo. Although the majority of people who volunteer with Second Harvest are Japanese, I’ve met some very interesting foreign volunteers as well. This past Saturday Ian and I had the pleasure of working with a Pakistani man who had come to Tokyo 24 years before with his father who was a diplomat. We also met a drifting British journalist who had been working in the Philippines for a year, was now working in Japan, and then planned to go to China and work there after his time in Japan was up. All the stories of people who have come to Tokyo to live and work are always interesting and a little inspiring. So many of the people we’ve gotten to know have left the familiarity of their countries to learn the language and culture of the Japanese people. I’ve gotten the impression that there is an incredibly deep respect for the Japanese people and way of life among foreigners who have come to live in Japan. Some have even said that they volunteer at Second Harvest as a way to give back to the communities they have become a part of.
While I’m not living in Japan permanently, nor do I have any plans to do so in the near future, I’d say learning at least some Japanese and reading up on the social rules of Japanese society are two important things to do whether you plan to visit or live in Japan for any period of time. While these two things seem obvious, it can be isolating if you do not understand any part of your surroundings. Additionally, outside of the major tourist areas English is not as widely spoken/known. Having some Japanese under your belt can be fun as well. Speaking a little Japanese to a food recipient at Second Harvests’s Saitama location one day, the man I was helping switched over to English and revealed he had learned the language by watching old Hollywood blockbusters. We discussed Japanese society a bit and he recommended interesting places for me to visit in the Tokyo area. I think he enjoyed having someone to practice his English speaking with and share ideas on his country. I never expected to meet someone who had learned English through movies, and it gave me a little inspiration for working on my Japanese language skills as well.
While there isn’t too much for me to report on about the previous week, I have to give my weekly update on the things I did and places I went during my weekend. Ian and I got free tickets to a baseball game in Chiba, which was a lot of fun. I think I can safely say baseball has become more popular in Japan than it is in America. The fans have their own dances, cheers, and songs to root for their favorite teams, and the players themselves have their own theme songs that play when they’re going up to bat. Fans are very respectful to one another as well. It was almost like they were taking turn cheering on their teams when they were batting, and respectfully let the other side cheer on their team when it was their turn. If you have the time, going to a baseball game during a trip to Japan is definitely worth it. We also couldn’t resist the opportunity to go to Tokyo Disneyland. As Ian’s host mom has a daughter who works for Disney in Japan, we were able to get discounted tickets and go for the day. We chose to go to Disney Sea because it only exists in Japan and made the trip a bit more unique than the traditional Disney experience. We spent 12 hours pretty much covering every inch of the park. It was definitely a lot of fun, but I’d say if you only have a limited amount of time in Japan, pick something more country/culture specific to do with your day. It’s pretty amazing to see how popular Disney has become in Japan though. The love of Disney here can rival the U.S. at times!
Well, that’s about all I have to report on for the previous week. Some parting (if not a bit cliche) words of wisdom I have to share before I sign off would be to take the opportunity to talk with and get to know the people who live in the places you visit. It’s honestly amazing how similar people can be despite cultural and language differences. While this can make it easy to talk with and relate to people, it’s also amazing to learn about and appreciate other people’s unique culture and way of life.