Living in Japan Series - Questions

Hi all, As I mentioned I would be willing to take any and all questions and answer them individually. I have received the following questions and will answer them each unless there is a duplicate question.

How was is growing up in Japan as an American?
Living in Japan was pretty easy at an American actually, because especially Tokyoites, the name for people who live in Tokyo are pretty accustomed to Westerners as we were called. I only remember time when I was specifically pointed as at a gaijin, which is the Japanese word for foreigner and it was used in a derogatory way towards me. I was walking with some of my friends and this older Japanese man walked by us, shook his finger in out direction and angrily said gaijin and walked on. But overall, it was great growing up in Japan as an American.

What was your biggest adjustment when moving to the US?
What was your most difficult "culture shock" or cultural transition moving back to the States?
My biggest adjustment after moving back to the U.S. was two-fold actually, because I was moving back to California to attend college and I was moving back without my family. My parents and siblings still lived in Japan, so I felt pretty lonely at times when all my friends could easily go home to see their parents on the weekends while I was only returned to my family at Christmas and summer break.  The biggest adjustment I think was realizing that not everyone would understand me after living overseas for several years. The college I attended was about 4,000 people but it wasn't very international, and I have trouble relating to some of the people in college.

Were you treated differently from the natives? 
I don't feel I was treated very differently, I didn't have very many negative experiences against me because I was Western but overall, the Japanese are very polite to everyone regardless of where they were from
What were the differences in the school you went to in Japan and the high school in the states?
I attended all four years of high school in Japan, so I don't know how the two schools were different, I don't have much of a comparison except my high school wasn't just a high school, it was K-12, and I had a very small class of 24 girls. Instead of AP courses, the school selected the International Bacceleaurate (IB), the European version of AP. Obviously with smaller schools you have fewer opportunities for things to be involved in but I still participate in team sports volleyball, softball, played in the orchestra, etc.
What was your favorite thing to do for fun??
One of my favorite things to do for fun in Japan was to pick a new train station or area of Tokyo that I had never been to, head to that station, get off and explore and see what things were in that area. I got to see different areas of Tokyo this way, the newer parts of Tokyo, the older parts, where the sumo stables are located, doing this for fun allowed me to see a variety of areas throughout Tokyo.

What made you want to move to Japan?
Well I didn't have a huge choice in the matter, my dad was in the Air Force at the time and in order for him to get a promotion, he would need to find his own job within the military. So first he applied to a similar position in Moscow, he didn't get it and then he received the news he was accepted for the position at the US Embassy in Tokyo so on to Japan we went! First though, we moved to Monterey, CA for 16 months so he would learn Japanese, one requirement of his study was to know the language. After the 16 months then we moved to Japan!

What's your favorite memory from living there?
My favorite memory, wow that is a hard one because there are so many great memories I have living there.  One of the best memories was being introduced to Starbucks strange I know, but it has totally reshaped my family and how we drink coffee now. Before we moved there, my parents didn't drink coffee at all, I think we didn't even own a coffee maker. We moved to Japan, and within the first few weeks, someone at church, a boy, asked me to go to Starbucks for a caramel frappuccino and I kid you not, I asked what is that?! Yes I did I ask that! Anyways from there, my parents drink lattes on a regular basis, my brother is a frappuccino fan, and my sister drinks drip coffee now. At the station nearest to our home, I remember how much my brother screamed when he found out we would have a Starbucks at that station. We were walking on the major street and he screamed so loudly out of delight, that some ladies walking nearby got so scared! Some of my other favorite memories was traveling with my family to different parts of Japan, down to Hiroshima, you know were the bomb was dropped by us to end WWII. I remember walking around Hiroshima and obviously my family sticks out like a sore thumb against the Japanese, and I was floored because I kept thinking how do these people not hate us right now? That is because the Japanese has replaced the disaster of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings with peace, they promote peace so that no other country in the world has to experience what their country did. They have been able to turn a horrific event into a positive them and idea they are constantly promoting. Additionally, the Japanese people are very resilient and I believe that is why they are able to bounce back so quickly after a huge event whether it be an earthquake like the one last year, or the bombings in WWII.

What did you miss the most about the US?
The thing I missed the most was uh.... geesh I can't really remember. We didn't visit the U.S. very frequently during my four years of high school, we would visit other Asian countries instead of coming back to the U.S. So not a ton of things I missed, I guess I figure because I didn't miss it really wasn't all that important to me to begin with in the first place. Either that I was able to find it in Japan so I didn't miss it. We had plenty of movies to rent that were American movies with Japanese subtitles. Because my dad was in the Air Force, we did go to the military bases about once a month to stock up on major grocery items so we still have American foods at least the staples. Other than that my mom shopped for groceries at the local stores. I can't say there was too much that I missed honestly...

What shocked you the most? (like what was the biggest difference between living in the US and living in Japan)

Do you speak Japanese?
Unfortunately I don't speak much Japanese anymore because I haven't visited the country in over 6 years. And the saying is true when you don't use it you loose it, yup that is my case here :-(

What do you miss the most from Japan?
I miss the ability to pop on a train and let it take you anywhere the train goes. I miss not having to rely on a car to get me to all my destinations. I miss the yummy food, the ability to just walk, take a train or bus and get to where you want to go :-)

Did you're family visit Tokyo Disney at all
Oh yes I definitely went to Tokyo Disneyland when we were there, never as a family but always with friends. It was a quick two train ride away and then we were at Tokyo Disneyland and we always had so much fun there! We loved the caramel popcorn the most, I always bought the honey candies, and the best rides there were Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain and Splash Mountain! My parents when we first lived in Japan, in the early 1980s, they visited Tokyo Disneyland shortly after it opened. I was just a little bun in my mother's oven at the time so does that count as one of my trips to Tokyo Disneyland?
A recent addition to Tokyo Disneyland, is another park called Disney Sea, which is tons of fun too!

How did you communicate while living there? 
Are you fluent in Japanese or do most people there know English?
Communication was actually pretty easy but initially it was a struggle. Since my dad knew how to speak and read Japanese, he would teach us some phrases, we listened to language tapes prior to moving over there, and then once we got there it became easier to pick up some new words. But a lot of Tokyo has English written all over, so reading was pretty easy. While the Japanese can be shy, if you ask them they will try and converse with you in English if you are having problems because English is learned in school. The areas that was most difficult was being out in more rural Japan, where English wasn't as common, and some Japanese people out there haven't seen a lot of foreigners in their life. I really tried to learn Japanese and communicate in their language, I think that is one of the most polite actions you can do in another country, learn their language and their customs. Don't think they will automatically speak English or accept them to cater to you. You are living in their country, be respectful, and learn more about them, their culture and their language!

I just want to say a HUGE thank you to everyone who read the series this week and for commenting on my post and sending me the above questions.
It has been a privilege to help you learn more about another country and their culture.
Finally I'll leave you with some photos I found of our house that is up on a rental property sight right now. Anyone wanna go rent the house I lived in?

Our house

Looking out to the living room from the dining room and yes we had a fireplace

Our kitchen, now that I see it again my poor mom having to cook in the small space and I remember the cupboards were extremely high, another sign this house was Western built because


Karen said...

Such a great experience! Thanks for sharing all about it!

Camylla Leonardi said...

GREAT post!! I love that you did these series of posts about Japan. I have learned a lot!!

Anonymous said...

thanks so much for sharing this series! i have been looking forward to each new post throughout the week! have a great weekend!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing! Your post is really interesting. I have a friend that lives in japan and does mission work and teaches others there about god. I think that japan and there culture is so unique!

Alexis @bloomedinjune said...

i definitely loved reading about your experiences this week :) i can really tell you loved living in Japan!

kira said...

That sounds like a wonderful experience!

Simply LKJ said...

It sounds like it was a wonderful opportunity for you to spend that time overseas. Our youngest is in's funny, most don't have a clue what it is. And, she plays volleyball.

Sincerely, Kylee said...

I loved this series. Thanks for enlightening me on so many different things about Japan and their culture. I would love to travel there. The train system sounds like the most fun. You made it sound like such a freeing experience to just go and experience.

Meggan of Lila Grace said...

Great post Meg!! I loved hearing the answers to these questions! Have a great Labor Day girl! xo

Kellie Collis said...

Sounds amazing! It must have been lovely staying there. Enjoy the gorgeous weekend, Kellie xx

Kathleen said...

Wow! What an amazing experience. Again Meg, thank you so much for sharing this with all of us. And thank you for answering my question! :) Hope your labor day weekend is amazing! :)

Mrs. Pancakes said...

We would all be lucky to be immersed in such a beautiful culture. You seem like a better person having had this experience:-)

Sundresses and Smiles said...

I love it Meg! The Japanese sound like such kind, welcoming people! Thanks for sharing this part of your life with us!

BeckyJo606 said...

I'm so glad you did this series! I loved reading about your life in Japan. Thanks for sharing!

Ashley from Sloanbook said...

Oh cool! I didn't know you lived there! I visited Tokyo, Roppongi, Kitasenju, Japan for two weeks a few summers ago! My dad served a mission for our church in Tokyo, Japan- that is why we visited! We also went to Tokyo Disney and it was so fun! :)


REBrown said...

Such a cute little house! Thanks so much for sharing this series - it was really neat!

Jenna said...

Thanks for sharing so much of this experience, Meg! I have truly enjoyed reading all about Japan!! :)

And oh my gosh. You are a very brave and independent person to be able to begin college in California with your family so far away! I can't even imagine!