This was written in Osaka, Japan.
I remember that it was only last quarter of 2011 when I started dreaming of studying abroad. I saw this magazine filled with information on studying in any university in Southeast Asia, Australia, or US. But I never thought I would be here. Typical me — most of my plans don’t actually end up the way I want it. By mid-September, I will be relocating in Kobe where I am bound to start my scholarship in Kobe University.
Since this is my first week (and my first time ever outside of the Philippines), I can’t help but compare. Even before I came here, I already knew and have been reminded about Japanese society. That it is very structured, very organized, very systematic. Very different from my country. However, this difference makes my experiences in meeting people, riding a train or bus, walking and crossing the streets, taking the escalator, ordering food, shopping for clothes or gadgets, and using the toilet more exciting.
1) Japanese people are almost always in a hurry. And I can understand why. Here, everything has its own time and on time. The people value punctuality so much. One must know the train schedules to avoid being late for meetings or appointments. Take the right bus number to get to the right destination. Alight at the bus stop, not just anywhere it is convenient. Streets are safe for bicycle riders but the bicycle must be registered first. Or walk, walk, and walk.
2) Japanese people are relatively quieter than Filipinos. Inside the train, most of them prefer to read books or sleep. The only people talking and even laughing are Filipinos. One time, as I was having this conversation with another JDS fellow, a young Japanese who was (unfortunately) seated between us asked me to switch seats. They also prefer to have a little bit more space when they are seated, compared to the sardines-type common in jeepneys. They do have the same crowded trains during rush hours but I’ve never seen, so far, one Japanese who complained, scowled, or pushed other commuters.
3) The first time I arrived here, I was issued a resident card which I will show to the municipal’s office when I move to Kobe. I have to apply for the National Health Insurance. I need to register too if I am going to use a bicycle (I think this is to avoid theft; it is common to see parked bicycles in Japan).
4) Japanese people take disaster preparedness seriously. Me and the rest of foreign JDS fellows in Kansai region were required to visit the Kyoto City Disaster Prevention Center. This is something I think the Philippines must also set up in every region or province.
5) I CAN DRINK TAP WATER.
6) Prices in Japan are enormously higher. I have eaten a burger for ¥950 (that’s like Php475). A haircut would cost me ¥4,2oo. An umbrella is worth ¥1,000. A bottled water is ¥120-¥150. However, some stores and areas (like Den Den town in Osaka) offer goods that are cheaper or discounted, and the quality is really good.
7) A sensei once said that they have the BEST toilet in the world. I don’t know about the toilets in other developed countries, but I absolutely, undoubtedly, and unequivocally adore the washlets in Japan.
*Taken from the lecture of Watanabe Sensei, a certified clinical psychologist from JICA, on acculturation. Research suggests that acculturation begins with the honeymoon stage or period where the individual is “excited, amazed or interested” with the new environment, behaviors, or culture.