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Small Japanese cities

 
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Seth



Joined: 05 Feb 2003
Posts: 575
Location: in exile

PostPosted: Sun Feb 09, 2003 7:03 am    Post subject: Small Japanese cities Reply with quote

I'm planning on making the jump from China to Japan come summer. I'm thinking about basing myself in a smaller Japanese city, which leaves me wondering, what is life like in a small city? Will you get a lot of staring/pointing/laughing/mocking/'hello's that is so endemic of China and Korea? I'm in a small Chinese city (almost 1 mil) at the moment and that aspect is driving me up the wall.
Which leads to some other questions, now that I think of it. Can you exchange Chinese yuan cash into yen in Japan? Is it even possible to make the jump directly from China to Japan without returning home first?
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Lucy Snow



Joined: 16 Jan 2003
Posts: 218
Location: US

PostPosted: Sun Feb 09, 2003 8:28 am    Post subject: Smaller Japanese Cities Reply with quote

My husband and I lived in a smallish city in Japan for over eight years. We never lived anywhere else in Japan, so I can't compare our experiences with living in, say, Tokyo or Osaka.

We lived in our apartment for over seven years, and every day people in our neighborhood would stare, point, or children would shout Gaijin da (There's a foreigner!). And yes, you get the children also yelling "Hello" to you on a daily basis. Or people would talk about you while standing right behind you, assuming that neither of us could understand what they were saying.

My husband, who speaks Japanese quite well, constantly encountered people who pretended they couldn't understand what he was saying. Or, after he'd make a request in Japanese, would respond, "Sorry, I don't understand English."

I should point out that we were living in one of the most conservative parts of Japan--Ibaraki-ken, whose motto during the Meiji era was "Revere the Emperor, expel the barbarians" (i.e. foreigners), so our experiences may not be typical of all smaller cities.

These annoyances aside, there are advantages to living in a smaller city. It's cheaper. It feels less crowded. It's easier to escape the urban sprawl that covers parts of Japan (we were a 5-minute bicycle ride from the countryside). It was easy to meet people, both fellow foreigners and Japanese.

I loved visiting Tokyo, but after spending a weekend there, I was always glad to get back home to humble Ibaraki-ken.
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TokyoLiz



Joined: 16 Jan 2003
Posts: 1060
Location: Tokyo, Japan

PostPosted: Sun Feb 09, 2003 7:02 pm    Post subject: Each Prefecture is Different Reply with quote

Lucy, I'm sorry you were not more warmly received in Ibaraki.

I lived in Ehime Prefecture on Shikoku Island for a year when I was on the JET Program. I lived alone in an apartment at the foot of a moutnain, 15 minutes by bicycle from the centre of the town. My neighbours were really friendly, and I knew everybody in my street.

I experienced the "Gaijin da!" phenomenon only twice in conservative south Ehime. A child pointed at me and gggled so I called her over to talk about school. She was embarassed and shy. Another time I was cycling through a fishing village when a teenage boy standing in the street stood staring at me saying he couldn't believe what he was seeing. I stopped to talk to him for a minute and he told me that he had never met a foreigner before. I explained to hm and some neighbours that I was teaching in the city and that I would be visiting their school.They were friendly enough.

The one time that my Japanese language ability was met with disbelief and sheer rudeness was in Narita Airport! I walked up to a young clerk at a donut counter, asked her where the nearest phone was, and was startled when she told me she didn't understand English. My Japanese fluency is okay, and I have acquired a slight Ehime accent. I had ample opportunity to test my Japanese language skills in Tokyo, and though people were surprised at my accent, they told me that I was perfectly understandable.

All your base are belong to us
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Lucy Snow



Joined: 16 Jan 2003
Posts: 218
Location: US

PostPosted: Sun Feb 09, 2003 10:06 pm    Post subject: Small-town Japan Reply with quote

Liz--that's why I made it a point to say I lived in a very conservative part of Japan. Many foreigners I met who had lived in other parts of the country had the same positive experiences you did.


Ibaraki did seem to have a lot of those right-wingers driving around in panel trucks. The Emperor's birthday was always fun, with those nutcases screaming over loudspeakers about how all foreigners should leave the country.

I don't want to make it sound like we were living in the Japanese equivalent of Deliverance country. Overall, it was a pretty good place to live, and generally the advantages outweighed the disadvantages.
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Lynn



Joined: 28 Jan 2003
Posts: 676
Location: in between

PostPosted: Mon Feb 10, 2003 1:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't think Ibaraki is the most conservative area in Japan at all. There are places in Kyushu and Shikoku that are much more severe. When did you live in Ibaraki? I lived in a small town in Ehime, like Liz. I was also on the Jet Program. This was in 1996-97. Even among Japanese, this town is known for its old-fashion conservative ways. I did get stared at a bit, but I didn't get the "gaijin da" because the people there were just too reserved to shout out anything like that. I think living in small town Japan can be a wonderful experience, but you really got to know the language, at least a little, or you might be very lonely. My basic Japanese improved so much after living a year in Ehime, and I made true friendships. People were very, very kind, the only down side is, they can also be very "nosey" in there "concern" f Very Happy or you.
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Amy



Joined: 22 Jan 2003
Posts: 14
Location: Munich, Germany

PostPosted: Mon Feb 10, 2003 2:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I lived in Tokyo for several years, medium sized cities like Toyohashi/Nagoya, Omiha/Saitama, Kofu/Yamanashi and Tokushima on Shikoku Island, and also smaller towns like Gotemba and Kashihara...many for only months at a time...I say pros and cons to all living situations...small towns were green, peaceful, friendly and cheap, BUT I got stared at more, frustrated by the distance to the big city more easily. If I had it all to do again, I would say medium-sized within reasonable distance to a large city would be ideal.
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David W



Joined: 17 Jan 2003
Posts: 457
Location: Japan

PostPosted: Mon Feb 10, 2003 4:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lynn wrote:
I lived in a small town in Ehime, like Liz. I was also on the Jet Program. This was in 1996-97. Even among Japanese, this town is known for its old-fashion conservative ways. I did get stared at a bit, but I didn't get the "gaijin da" because the people there were just too reserved to shout out anything like that. I think living in small town Japan can be a wonderful experience, but you really got to know the language, at least a little, or you might be very lonely. My basic Japanese improved so much after living a year in Ehime, and I made true friendships. People were very, very kind, the only down side is, they can also be very "nosey" in there "concern" f Very Happy or you.

Wow all these people who have lived in Ehime, here I was thinking I was the only foreigner here Laughing Tokyo Liz and Lynn, where were you based? I've lived in Matsuyama and Imabari and I now live in Hojo.
Hojo is only 30,000 strong so I guess qualifies as a small city. However Hojo is only 10 minutes from Matsuyama which is the biggest city on Shikoku(popn 480,000).People here are friendly but my wife is from Hojo so most people know me and know how I fit in to the scheme of things. They know what I do and they know my wife's family (my in-laws have a well known business). I think it's very important for Japanese people to have some way of relating to you, someway of placing you in their world. The world most foreigners come from is incomprehensible to a lot of rural Japanese people and this lack of knowledge can manifest itself in intense curiosity in some cases and fear in others. Some people deal with this better than others. If you have trouble with people you've never met knowing you and knowing things about you I would suggest rural Japan is not for you.
For me my present situation is ideal. I'm a mad keen mountain-biker so the fact that it only takes me 30 minutes to get to a killer mountain is great. But I've got a big city really close by for those big nights I need every now and then. Apart from my neighbour (a British girl married to a Japanese guy) I don't see many other obviously foreign people from day to day. This of course doesn't really bother me but as the culture shock comes (and it will come) it may bother some people when there isn't anybody you feel you can talk and relate to.
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TokyoLiz



Joined: 16 Jan 2003
Posts: 1060
Location: Tokyo, Japan

PostPosted: Mon Feb 10, 2003 5:47 pm    Post subject: It's a Nanyo Thing Reply with quote

David,

Yep, there are lots of Ehime foreign folk out there - I was there in 99/00 in Uwajima, home of the Demon Cow. I know a Vancouver gal who is living near Ozu now.

Ehime no Nanyo (south Ehime) is a beautiful place to live - orange blossoms scent the air in the spring, kids play taiko at the shrines in the autumn, and the traditional architecture and gardens make you feel like you've stepped backwards in time. But like you say, rural Japan can be claustrophobic - for me, I had to ride 2 hours on the train to get to Matsuyama (civilization).

I'm so glad I could experience it.

All your base are belong to us.
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Lynn



Joined: 28 Jan 2003
Posts: 676
Location: in between

PostPosted: Mon Feb 10, 2003 6:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I lived in Ozu, the "bonchi" (basin) for a year. I was the first foreigner to work for the city BOE so I was in a lot of newspapers and even on the cable tv news. I went to all the jr. high schools and all but one of the elementary schools. I agree with David, that Japanese feel more comfortable if they can make a connection with who you are. Choosing a small town over a big city is really up to the individual. The hustle and bustle of Tokyo was quite overwhelming for me. But, likewise the small town of Japan can be stressful, too. I think you can see more of the "true" Japan outsife of Tokyo. Tokyo has its own culture that even Japanese people are unfamiliar with.
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Lucy Snow



Joined: 16 Jan 2003
Posts: 218
Location: US

PostPosted: Mon Feb 10, 2003 10:11 pm    Post subject: "True" Japanese life Reply with quote

I'm curious how you put that, Lynn. Since a majority of Japanese live in urban areas, one could argue that city life is, in fact, "true Japanese life."

I was reminded of an adult student who told me that Japanese people live their lives in accordance with the growing and harvesting of rice. Since she was born and raised in Osaka, and was then living in a high-rise apartment building in Ibaraki, I wondered how her life was in tune with the rice harvest.
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David W



Joined: 17 Jan 2003
Posts: 457
Location: Japan

PostPosted: Tue Feb 11, 2003 1:17 am    Post subject: Re: "True" Japanese life Reply with quote

Lucy Snow wrote:

I was reminded of an adult student who told me that Japanese people live their lives in accordance with the growing and harvesting of rice. Since she was born and raised in Osaka, and was then living in a high-rise apartment building in Ibaraki, I wondered how her life was in tune with the rice harvest.

I think that is easily explained Lucy. Like the citizens of every other country the Japanese like to sprout a lot of what sociologists would call "myths" but what I call "b******t" about their country. I think people everywhere (not all people) tend to romanticise their country a bit, especially in the presence of foreigners.
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Lucy Snow



Joined: 16 Jan 2003
Posts: 218
Location: US

PostPosted: Tue Feb 11, 2003 8:42 am    Post subject: Cultural Myths Reply with quote

Sorta like their intestines are longer so they can't eat foreign beef, their snow is different so they can't use foreign skiis, and my personal favorite, that they are a "warm and wet" people while Westerners are "cold and dry."

Or Americans who'll tell you there is no class system in the US.
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G Cthulhu



Joined: 07 Feb 2003
Posts: 1304
Location: Way, way off course.

PostPosted: Wed Feb 12, 2003 1:25 am    Post subject: Re: Cultural Myths Reply with quote

Just to drag this back to the topic...


IME, I've been stared at and had people call things out more often in the *big* cities, not the small cities. It's one reason I despise Tokyo - aside from it being a souless, concrete cesspit full of vipers.

In Tokyo, Osaka, Kobe etc. I get stared at all the time. In my home city (280,000) here it hardly ever happens. No more so than the random staring you get in any country including your home country, anyway.
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run-jp



Joined: 27 Jan 2003
Posts: 60
Location: now rushin for kabsa 'tween prayer calls

PostPosted: Thu Feb 20, 2003 5:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I enjoyed reading about peoples rural experiences. i lived in Sapporo bout 5 years, and have to say, getting out of town was the best part. Many mountains and rivers to explore all over Japan. people made some good points about communicating who you are to Japanese. If you dont, someone will always drag to a KFC because you are gaijin. Tell them you like hot springs and theyll likely take you. Put those "bear bells" on your back pack and they make take you to the mountains. Dont expect them to think you like jogging/10Ks, unless you have a proper track suit and Frank Shorter cap.
Many japanese think you say you like Jpn-stuff just to be polite (as all Jpnese in Memphis say they LOVE country music). When and if you find Jpnese with interests like you, you may make suprisingly deep relationships.
I joined a running club where runners guide blind runners. it was a small club and i was a so-so volunteer, i thought, but after a year i was "inside" which made it hard to leave when I did. ...Of course as people mentioned, the language barrier is pretty huge. Dont expect to pick up J in a few months. Best brush up on mime skills Wink before you go drinking there or you may spend tedious evenings...or study intensively before starting into a long work shedule. Some people expect acity like Sapporo to be a mix of city sophistication and rugged outdoor people. Japan"s Seattle,youll be disappointed.
Sapporoites are probably the weakest Japanese to cold as every room has a heater and young people prefer inside to out in winter. its the 35 + crowd that skis hard and hikes Shocked still its less closed in physically than bigcities. what other posters told of mis-communication may seem to be racism, but the newcomer should now that Jpnese dont relate to any strangers very well. anyone can tell you of trying to introduce 2 of your J-friends to each other. they are awkward and stiff about this. well...those were some of my experiences.
a QUESTION? i was thinking of coming back and trying Kyushu. A Jpnese friend of mind says its the best: mild winters and mountains to beat the heat in... he is nice, but how are Kyushu people in general? All I ve seen is Beppu.
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Buck Turgidson



Joined: 29 Jan 2003
Posts: 96

PostPosted: Thu Feb 20, 2003 6:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I lived in Kitakyushu for two years. People there are friendly generally. They rarely pointed and stared at me. Only school kids would do this. People mostly left me alone. I imagine they aren't too different from Hokkaidians.

Like you, I run and hike in the mountains. You will like Kyushu. Kumamoto might be a good city for you. It is centrally located and just a hop skip and jump from Mount Aso. The summers in Kyushu were a little too hot and humid for me though. You may like it.
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