Suicide due to Overwork

A lot of people know that Japan is in the top five countries with the highest suicide rates. Suicide is a sad thing, but it occurs daily in Japan. Whether the person is male or female, young or old, rich or poor, just a few of these suicides will ever be covered by the mass media. But on December 25, 2015, there was a suicide so unique that it ‘shook Japan’s earth.’ A suicide that was so sad that it stirred the hearts of the Japanese. This suicide victim was a young lady named Matsuri Takahashi. 

(As a side note: back in November 2018, I had promised you that I would write a blog about my research paper. I spent many months writing it. I passed my research paper, I have graduated, and I am already back in my home country. I will quote some parts of my research paper here. You can read my Research Paper here)

The first time I heard about her story, I was still in the Netherlands. I was already accepted by APU, and I was in the process of preparing myself for my departure to Japan. Her story had reached the other side of the world. It was translated and discussed on the internet, and I was intrigued by it. The topic, suicide, has always been of interest to me, and I always been fascinated by its concept. I always try to understand how someone can reach such a point in life to choose not to be amongst us anymore. 

As a Muslim, it is difficult to grasp the concept of suicide, as we believe that God has given us the most precious gift ever, which is to be, to exist, and to be alive. Therefore, making an end to one’s life, which was given to us, is tough to understand. When I read about Matsuri Takahashi’s story, I wondered if I shouldn’t look into the case and write my thesis on this. In the initial stage, my topic was to investigate the cultural differences between the Dutch and Japanese culture, but my curiosity was too big to leave this case uninvestigated. 

The story

“Matsuri Takahashi was born in 1991. She was born in Hiroshima Prefecture, but she grew up in Shizuoka Prefecture. Matsuri Takahashi entered Tokyo University (from here on referred to as Tōdai) as a scholarship student exempted from tuition fees. As reported by Tōdai Shimbun (May 16, 2017), the Tōdai newspaper, many students that join the Tokyo University come from wealthy families. Matsuri Takahashi, however, was not from a wealthy family. She was economically disadvantaged, but it did not stop her from trying to get into Tōdai. She was encouraged by her teachers from her high school (Midoraka High School in Shizuoka
Prefecture).

In April 2015, right after Matsuri Takahashi graduated from Tokyo University, she started her job at Dentsu Inc. As reported by Japan Today (October 24, 2016), when entering Dentsu Inc. as a new employee, they undergo training of, approximately six months. Here, Matsuri Takahashi quickly became one of the top trainees as she earned her respect within the company. However, after finishing the training, reality hit her hard. She became a regular employee, and the expectations of her superiors were high, the working days were long, and there was much stress on the work floor.

The cause of the stress was due to the understaffing of the Internet Advertising department, where she was a member of, Dentsu Inc. was embarrassed with some scandals at that time and, and as a result, they had to reorganise at the expense of their employees. For Matsuri Takashi, this meant much overwork. She clocked 105 hours of overwork (regular hours + 105 hours).

In order to deal with stress, she needed a platform to vent her anger and frustrations. This was Twitter. She would use Twitter to express her anger and frustrations about the company and the long overwork hours. Here she was detailed, honest, and vocal about the way the company would treat workers here. She expressed issues such as power harassment, bullying, overwork, and sexual harassment.

But on 25th of December, 2015, Yukimi Takahashi, the mother of Matsuri Takahashi, received an email from Matsuri Takahashi (Japan Today, 2016). In that email, Matsuri Takahashi wrote:

Work is unbearable. Life is unbearable. Thank you for everything.

Her mother read the email, and she understood its meaning. She immediately ran to the
phone and called Matsuri. Matsuri picked up the phone, and her mother told her that death was not the answer. The mother pleaded to her daughter to leave the company. Matsuri Takahashi replied: ‘Okay, mother.’ Unfortunately, this plea was not enough to dissuade her from killing herself” (Ennahachi, 2019). 

Matsuri Takahashi passed away at the age of 24

My research

Obviously, my research is quite lengthy (Edit: my research paper can be found here; The Death That Shook Japan’s Earth: A Case Study of Matsuri Takahashi(高橋まつり)) , so I will try to condense it for you. My research question was: “What would be the role of SNS in making Matsuri Takahashi’s case unique enough to lead to the first White Paper in 2016?” In other words, I was curious about how her case was unique and why. Because her death did not only stir the hearts of the Japanese, but it even affected politics.

In Japan, death due to overwork has a name. It is called Karōshi (過労死)But in my research, I found that this term was not very applicable to Matsuri’s case. Karōshi is a medical term used since the 80s when in the economic boom in Japan, a lot of salarymen in their 40s started to die at work. They had spent so much time at work without any rest they would die of heart attacks or a stroke. But this is called a ‘Sudden Death.’ In Matsuri’s case, she chose not to live anymore. This is something called Karōjisatsu (過労自殺), or suicide due to overwork. 

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Disclosing information on Twitter

Matsuri Takahashi tweeted about her pain and suffering on a daily base. She would describe her issues about her superiors, the long working hours, and about her break-up with her boyfriend. It is not a common thing for a Japanese person to openly talk about the bad things about the company, but she did. In her tweets, she would describe the sexual harassments, the lack of sleep, spending all her time at work, and more. These tweets (in Japanese) can still be found online. The way she wrote the tweets was interesting. Unconsciously, she wrote it in a diary manner. When I went through every single tweet, Matsuri Takahashi gave an insight into her life. Sadly though, the tweets only became relevant after she died. If she did not die, her tweets would have, probably, meant nothing.

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“Isn’t it funny? I am finally going home” 4 AM Japan local time. (The time indicated here is Dutch local time)

But her death, her tweets, the way she wrote, and the content was the big factor that gave power to her story. Furthermore, if Matsuri Takahashi had written her pain in a physical diary, there would probably not received the same attention by the media and by the Japanese people. But because it is online, the Japanese people can read the tweets any time of the day, and even share it with others. The Japanese people were able to sympathise with her story and read her pain first hand.

There is a certain power in disclosing information about oneself. She disclosed her opinions, her pain, her life, her emotions, and it was all true because she would have never known that her tweets would be found by anyone except for her friends. She had no agenda, except for venting on a platform as a last resort.

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“I want to die is all I can think of and even if I overcome that what is there for me, end of the day?”

Gender

What if Matsuri Takahashi was a young male, and ‘he’ would have done all the things above, would ‘he’ receive the same traction by the people and the media?” I asked this question to myself, to my supervisor, and my peers, and we all came to the same conclusion: No, it would have never been picked up. There is something in Japan that I would call a ‘Samurai culture.’ It is expected of the men to die while carrying out their duty. Samurais would protect a town, and they would “live by the sword and die by the sword.” Japanese women could never be a Samurai, and therefore, they would never die on duty. But in our century, the Japanese women have to work too, and they have to carry the hardships of work with them too just like the men. When a woman dies on duty, it receives the attention of the media as this should not have happened.

In other words, being a young lady, committing suicide due to overwork, played a big role in the uniqueness of her case. I believe that her age played an important role too. If she would have been 50 years old, I do not believe it would receive the same attention either. She was merely 24, at the start of her life. Furthermore, she graduated from the most prestigious university in Japan: Tokyo University.

Because she was a young lady, the sexual harassment tweets were very troublesome to read. Women in Japan are quite marginalised on the work floor. Yes, I agree it is changing, but change by Japanese standards is very, very, very slow. Yes, Japanese women are working more, but it is nothing compared to the West. As a Japanese lady, you either go full into the work life, and never marry and have no children, or marry and have children, and stay at home. Matsuri Takahashi worked hard every day, but was not rewarded for her devotion, but rather scolded on why she wasn’t dressed ‘pretty.’ In my opinion, she was gorgeous, but these comments by her superiors were just power and sexual harassments.

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“My boss told me I lack femininity and I thought it was a joke – But he seems to be pushing it too far. Unfortunately, I wish I could tell him that despite his skin bald head, he too lacks masculinity. This sucks and is very depressing.” 5 days before her suicide

How it affected me

Her case was unique due to all the factors mentioned above. Her suicide was very unfortunate and saddened me a lot. In one of her tweets, she would write that she would finally go home at 4 AM. When I read through all her tweets and learning more about the dark side of Japan, I decided that I wanted to start a life in Europe, and not in Japan.

It was my biggest dream to come to Japan and perhaps start a life there. Japan is an amazing and beautiful place. The people, the landscape, the culture, and the language, the food, and whatnot is incredible. It was a privilege to have studied there. But there is one huge factor that I would never be able to cope, which is their work life. 

You see, work in Japan is not a torture, it is an absolute hell. I am saying all of this from a Dutch perspective. In Holland, we have, I believe, the best work-life balance in the world. We work from eight to five or nine to six, and we work five days a week. We have, on average, 25 days of paid leaves (+ national holidays), and we can relax and enjoy our lives. 

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Source: http://fortune.com/2017/02/24/japan-karoshi-death-by-overwork/

In Japan, however, it is a norm to work on a minimum of ten hours a day. Even if you have finished your work by six, you have to remain at the office until your manager leaves. But your manager awaits his manager to leave, so in the end, you will be spending four to six hours waiting for your boss. Leaving at six will be a huge insult to your colleagues and manager. If one does leave at six, the company will think you are not devoted enough. You will receive a huge backlash, such as bullying. 

I was living and studying in Beppu, which is in the Kyushu prefecture. Beppu is one and a half hours away from Tokyo, by plane. So, we were quite in the countryside. But even there I noticed that rush hour was at 10 PM. The train station was crowded with the Japanese people. People were finally going home. The sad thing is it was not just the working people who were finally going home, but also the children. Yes, the children too.

In Japan, the children will go to school from eight till three. But after school, they will go to the baseball club, tutoring school, piano class, or whatever. I noticed that children cannot be children as much they can be here in the West. Kids fall asleep in class, working people fall asleep during work, in the metro, train, and etc, because they lack time to relax. Their time is dictated by society. 

With my observations and my research into overwork culture in Japan, I decided that it would be better to come back home. Many of my friends from developing countries see Japan as a great opportunity to level up their lives, and I respect them a lot. Coming from countries such as Bangladesh or Indonesia, life in Japan is much better. I learned a lot from my stay in Japan, and I learned to appreciate the things I have in the West. But the work life in Japan is not for me. If I would ever become a multi-millionaire, I would love to live in Japan as Japan is still a fantastic country, which I would recommend anyone to visit at least once.

Source: https://dilbert.com/strip/1993-11-02

As always, thank you for reading! 

 

Masha’Allah

 

References

Ennahachi, Z. (2019). The Death That Shook Japan’s Earth: A Case Study of Matsuri Takahashi (高橋 まつり) (Master Graduate Research Paper). Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University, Beppu, Japan.

Japan Today. (2016, October 24). Dentsu’s ‘power harassment hell.’ Retrieved from
http://www.japantoday.com

Nippon.com. (2016, November 3). Japan’s First “Karōshi” White Paper. Retrieved from
http://www.nippon.com.

Todai Shimbun. (2017, May 16). Tokyo University on Matsuri Takahashi about death due
to overwork. Retrieved from http://www.todaishimbun.org.

The Culture Trap

You have spent most of your life in a country with people from your culture. You speak the same language, you love and eat the same food, celebrate the same happy moments, go to the same school, go to the same work, go to the same supermarkets. One day you decide to study in the land of the rising sun. Different culture, different customs, different language. What an exciting time! You meet people from all around the globe at APU. You will even meet people from countries you never heard before….., but you decided to hang out with the people from your country, speak the same language, and eat the same food. Nani?!

I remember well the first month I arrived in Japan, and my mom asked me if I had met some Moroccans or Dutchies. I replied to my mom: “Mom, if I wanted to meet Moroccans or Dutchies, I would have stayed home.” Of course, this is merely my opinion, but I do believe that the purpose of going abroad is to broaden your horizon. For this, you will meet people from other cultures from all over the globe. Only then one can say you have been abroad.

Unfortunately, I have observed an interesting behaviour at my university. It is not an uncommon behaviour per se, and I can understand why it happens, but it goes against my so-called ‘international beliefs.’ Why would one go abroad only to meet the same people one left in the first place? 

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The things I have observed at the university is, especially a common behaviour I see among undergraduates, students stick with people from their own culture. The most prominent cultural groups are Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, and Indonesian. There are many more cultures, but these are the largest ones. What I see is that they tend to stay together during breaks, walk together going from classroom to classroom, have lunch together. I can safely assume they are also staying together inside the classroom. And this kind of saddens me.

There is a big opportunity to learn from other cultures. I have spent much time with people from many cultures, and I learned much about their countries, their customs, their cuisine, and their history. I spent most of my time with people from Vietnam, Tajikistan, Indonesia, and Japan. They are all great people, and I will miss them all when I return to Holland.

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Because I was open to their culture, they taught me a lot. I tasted their food, learned about their customs, about their history, about their country. When I was still in Europe I would learn a lot about Western countries, but not so much about Asia. I am very grateful that I have been given an opportunity to study in Japan, and meet all these fascinating people.

Truth to be told, there are not many Westerners or North-Africans at APU. There are a few Dutchies, and there were some Moroccans. I did hang out with them once in a long time, but not on a regular basis. They are not bad people, but I prefer to hang out with other cultures. I did not travel 10000KM to meet my people again. It might sound pessimistic, but I see problems of hanging with people from the same culture for too long.

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Language

Dutch and Moroccan-Arabic are my mother tongue. I do not put this attest as these are the first languages I grew up with. If I keep speaking these two languages, which are burned in my mind, so to speak, I will be neglecting my other languages. I want to improve my Japanese and keep my English up-to-date. English because it is the most critical language in the world for intercultural communication, and Japanese because I want to be able to communicate with the locals. 

In my observation, I noticed that some students have barely improved their English because they kept hanging out with people from their culture. I sometimes have difficulties understanding some students even though they have been here for three to four years. Verbal communication is somewhat okay, but their writing skills are a mess. This caused a lot of miss-communication. It doesn’t need to be top-notch, but at least to a level to have ‘oke’ communications. 

Tolerance

Learning about other cultures increases your better understanding of their life. Humanity fears what we do not understand. If one is not open to different cultures, one will remain fearful of the other. I sincerely believe that xenophobia can be fought by education and tolerance. The challenge is to take the first step and open your arms for their culture. It all starts with you. You are not required to be an expert in intercultural communication, but with you will get a long way with tolerance. Accept to be accepted. 

Experience

In our contemporary world, everything will be globalised. Your fellow students from other cultures will be your colleagues one day. Learning about their culture now will make your life much more comfortable in the future. As you are still young and still a student you will make many mistakes with people from other cultures, and so will they with your cultural background. Learning from these mistakes will prepare you for your future job. Your supervisors will see you as an asset as you have the experience on how to work with people from many cultures.

In my opinion, there are only benefits from intercultural understanding. Of course, I am aware of my generalisation. You will be dealing with an individual from a specific culture, this does not mean they will act exactly like all the others from that particular culture. Even though the individual is unique, the person still carries some cultural aspects of his/her home country. And you can prepare yourself by hanging out with as many people from other cultures as you can. 

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Cultural Week

APU has an excellent event which I believe is trying to bridge the cultural threshold. At APU we have something that is called ‘Culture Week.’ It is a week full events by a specific country which is prepared by the students (mostly undergraduates). In this week, there will be dances every day at the fountain, there will dishes from that culture at the cafeteria, there will be a stand where you can dress their cultural clothes and make pictures, and on Friday evening there is a grand show at the Millennium Hall (everything is held on campus). We have Indonesian Week, Korean Week, Thai Week, Chinese Week, Japanese Week, Vietnamese Week, Philippine Week, Taiwan Week, Sri Lankan Week, Nepali Week, African Week, and lastly Oceania Week. Unfortunately, Western countries are not represented this due to the lack of people from the West at APU.

All these weeks are mostly represented by the students from that culture, and their friends from other cultures also participate and help them. In that regard, APU did a great thing to introduce these events and let students become creative and share their culture with others. However, I noticed that its purpose has been lost throughout the years. These weeks have become a competition. Some healthy competition is always good, of course, one wants to do his best to show off about one’s culture. However, this has gone overdrive. The students have found ways to contact big companies in their home country to sponsor these events. 

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Indonesian Week is by far the biggest week at APU. Indonesian students practice every day, three months prior to this single week. In 2017, the students were sponsored by Indonesia Air (!), with the sponsored money they were able to make a grand show out of proportions. In all other weeks you are not required to get a ticket to get into the Millennium hall, but for Indonesia Week tickets are sold and the line to get in is long. Sharing the culture with people from other cultures is no longer the objective. It has become more than a competition; it leans towards nationalistic behaviour. 

And let’s not forget about their study performances. Many professors complain a lot about these weeks because they can see that the student’s performance drop as all their focus goes on the culture weeks. The students do not get any study points from the culture weeks. It is all voluntarily, but as it is one’s culture that is on the line, the APU students try their utmost best to try to outperform the others. I hope APU doesn’t kill off the Culture Weeks, but it needs to return back to its roots namely: Sharing and experiencing cultural differences and similarities with others. 

As I said at the start of this blog, I do understand the behaviour of hanging out with people from the same culture. It is comfortable, it is easy to communicate, you understand each other, you do not need to explain about the inside jokes and etc. But I believe this comfort zone does not have a place on an international level. When you learn more about other cultures, you are not only learning about their customs, but you are also increasing your knowledge and awareness about the world around you. Broaden your horizon, because one day you will Shape Your World.

cultural difference dogs
Source: https://www.pinterest.com/silvialily/

 

Masha’Allah

Harmonious Gift-Giving

Gifts here, gifts there, gifts everywhere. Valentine’s day and Asian New Year have just recently passed, and there is a big chance you have been receiving gifts from your Japanese friends. You are grateful for all these gifts, but you probably have no clue why you keep getting gifts, and you probably not sure what to do from there on out. After receiving so many gifts, you probably feel guilty for not giving something back. Don’t worry; you are not the only one who feels like that.

“Happy whatever-day, I have a small gift for you.” Oh boy, not again… Usually, I would be happy receiving a gift from someone. Where I come from, I will receive a gift for my birthday, Christmas, Eid-al-Fitr, for my graduation, for helping someone who required help, and so on. Most of the time, these gifts feel like an accomplishment for doing something that needs to be rewarded (except for Christmas). One would throw a party first where you provide lots of food, cake, and drinks, and people would come over to celebrate your birthday and gift you a nice birthday present. Without a birthday party, you will probably not receive many birthday gifts.

However, in Japan, gift-giving for accomplishments is also embedded in the culture, but it goes much deeper than that. In Japan, one gives a gift not just to celebrate something but also to keep balance and harmony. Balance means the equality between two parties, and harmony is the relationship between the two parties. In Japan, giving a gift is to preserve the relationship between one and another. It means something along the line: “I would like to remain close to you, and therefore I give you this gift so we can extend our relationship,” simply put.

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Omiyage (お土産)
You better memorize the word ‘omiyage.’ You will hear this word a lot. The word ‘omiyage’ can be loosely translated to ‘souvenir’ or ‘gift.’ Omiyage is BIG business in Japan. There are omiyage shops everywhere. In places where you probably will get lost, you might find an omiyage shop that sells different kinds of omiyage. As Japanese people love to travel, they will always buy the local omiyage to bring home.

Most of the time, the omiyage shows the name of the city or place, and this can prove you were there. This doesn’t come by surprise as the kanji omiyage 土産 exists of two parts. 土 means local and 産 means product. These omiyage are then shared with friends, colleagues, and family members that are close to them. This social behaviour reveals that the Japanese let their friends, colleagues, and family members know that they had not forgotten about them even when they were travelling.

The majority of omiyage, which I have seen so far, is in the form of cookies and sweets. The cookies and sweets represent the local taste that cannot be found somewhere else most of the time. This makes gift-giving a unique thing to do. It is to bring the local taste closer to the people that are dear to them. The packaging is as important as the content. The gift must be stylish and/or cute. The more stylish and/or cute, the more it shows you have put effort into selecting the person’s gift. If the gift is not wrapped in beautifully, do not even think about sharing your ‘gift’ as it insults the receiver. The omiyage is an extension of you, and thus it represents you and your intentions. Though, if the gift cannot be gift wrapped because of its form, then alternatively, you can offer your omiyage in a nice omiyage-bag.

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Harmonious pressure
“The gift-giving thing is great! It shows how much the person cares about you. How can this be bad?” I would not necessarily call it bad. The harmonious gift-giving is, in my view, a beautiful thing as it keeps the relationship steady. Though, the moment you receive an omiyage, you become part of the harmonious gift-giving system. The gift-giver has revealed that he/she is grateful for your help and/or cherishes you being a colleague and/or friend. This concept is also known as ‘on‘ (恩) (Meek, 1999). ‘On‘ is quite tricky to translate into English, but it can come close to the words indebtedness and gratefulness.

In Japan, as the person feels indebted/grateful, it is now his moral obligation or also known as ‘giri‘ (義理), to return this favour to you. In order to express his gratitude, the person will give you an omiyage. In the gift giver’s mind, the favour has been returned, and harmony has been preserved. However, the gift receiver feels obligated to return this favour as he now feels indebted. The gift receiver wants to return this favour because he feels that the act before was not worth receiving an omiyage for as he feels that it was just part of the ‘giri’ to help in the first place.

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Source: https://cdn.tatcha.com

The harmonious gift-giving system is only viable if one can afford it. You see, when one receives a gift, it is necessary to figure out the price of the gift. The gift-giver will not tell you as it is a gift. To keep balance and harmony amongst yourself, you do not want to give an omiyage that is cheaper or more expensive than the one the gift-giver gave you. That will disturb the balance in your relationship (Star Wars pun intended).

You might feel burdened because you will need to do a bit of an investigation to figure out the price of the omiyage you have received and buy an omiyage of the same price for the gift giver. Of course, this omiyage should be something else than the one you had received, but the price should remain the same. But imagine that the person bought you an expensive gift and you cannot afford to return it. As this gift-giving is deeply rooted in the Japanese culture, you will receive many omiyage from many people, which you will need to return in a different form.

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My Japanese language teacher from the Netherlands told us that women would keep a list of which present they had received, the gift’s price, and from who they had received it. If one needs to return the favour, it is imperative to administrate the gifts. She told us that the gift-giving culture was very stressful as some families could not always afford it, which brings tensions to the relationship. The gift-giving culture is not always about the actual item or the packaging. Of course, this should be very nice and neat, but it is about the act. These families that cannot afford to return the favour would re-use the omiyage they had received, re-wrap it, and gift it to other people.

As for me, I have felt this pressure myself as well. I felt burdened with receiving gifts. I kept receiving gifts, but I had nothing to return. I had to buy something that represents me. Luckily a store in Oita called Kaldi is selling all kinds of food from all over the globe. Fortunately, they also sell ‘stroopwafels’ (Dutch waffles with caramel inside). I would then share the stroopwafels with the people who gave me an omiyage before. I did this to keep harmony with my peers.

You might think you have found a hack to avoid this harmonious gift-giving by not accepting the gift in the first place. 🙂 guess again. That is even a bigger insult. You have to accept it, and you are immediately inside the gift-giving loop. If you plan to come to Japan or already are, start stacking lots of omiyage from your home country. I heard from my friends that they would bring a big suitcase filled with their home country’s omiyage. Believe me when I say you will need it, and it will never be enough ;).

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Masha’Allah

References

Meek, C.M. (1999). Ganbatte: Understanding the Japanese Employee.

Japanese food is life, Japanese food is love.

I had heard and read many stories about Japanese cuisine before I came to Japan. If someone I knew had visited Japan and asked them about the food, their eyes go wide open. And their smile is from ear to ear, and a tsunami of details about all the food they have tried and how incredibly delicious it was. I have to admit, I have become such a person now :p.

The food is indeed amazing, and the Japanese are magicians when it comes to food. They will make something straightforward into something beautiful. There is also no lack of food whatsoever. Food is a massive industry in Japan. In 2015, Japan’s food industry was valued at $261 billion (USDA Foreign Agricultural Service, 2016). Rightfully so, as food is everywhere in Japan. In the darkest and weirdest alleys, you will find a place to eat. So in this blog post, I will share with you my personal top 5 Japanese food:

5: Chicken curry
I was stunned when I learned that the Japanese LOVE curry with rice. When you think of Japanese cuisine, you probably thinking about the classic/stereotypical food sushi. But the Japanese are fond of curry. The first time I went to a supermarket, I saw a section all dedicated to curry. I cannot name half of them, but there were all sorts of curries such as beef, chicken, pork, fish, and vegetable from what I could see. The Japanese use rice as their main dish; they love to add curry to their rice. The curry is very easy to prepare. They come in an aluminum sealed package. All you need to do is either put the aluminum package in a pan with water and boil it for a few minutes or put it in a bowl and microwave it for 6 minutes. Within minutes you have a great dish. There are big curry chains in Japan fully dedicated to curry rice. One of the biggest is Curry House CoCo Ichibanya. They have all curry versions, and if you love spicy food, they can make it extremely spicy for you. Even though I am very used to spicy food, I could barely handle level 5. A friend of mine took number 8, and he was crying and sweating like a pig the entire lunch. You are warned :p.

For me, I love the (halal) chicken curry that is provided by the shop at my school campus. The chicken curry is creamy, smells fantastic, and I love the chicken because it is heavily spiced. The chicken curry is already in a small plastic bowl with rice, and I only need to microwave it. Since my stay here in Japan, I have tried several curries as in my country, curry is not a real common thing to eat. But this spicy chicken curry rice really takes the cake :).

Chicken curry

4: Okonomiyaki
The first time I tried okonomiyaki was by accident. A friend of mine thought the restaurant was making udon soup, but it turned out to be okonomiyaki. Okonomiyaki is a batter of flour, eggs, shredded cabbage, green onion, octopus, and other vegetables. Though there is no one standard. Okonomiyaki is derived from 2 words ‘okonomi,’ which means ‘whatever you like’ and ‘yaki’ means ‘grilled.’ You sit on the table, and you can ask the waiter to bring you the okonomiyaki, and you grill it yourself. The table where you sit has a hot grill. The experience is excellent. You are your own cook, and you can make funny ‘pancakes’ of your favourite ingredients.
If this is your first time, you can ask the restaurant to make the okonomiyaki on your behalf. So what about the taste? Mamma mia… it is delicious and healthy. Your body will be overjoyed for all the vitamins it gets. Your tongue will be overjoyed as well as the balance in the taste is excellent. The grilled flavour of the batter gives it an extra edge. The interesting part is that you can add the things you love. I always add squid, octopus, and cheese. Oishi!

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3: Ramen
If you have watched the anime show Naruto you know that Naruto could not start his day without eating ramen. Naruto would go crazy about ramen every time he walked past the shop. If you lost Naruto, you would find him at the Ichiraku Ramen shop. This show amazed me and made me curious about ramen. The first time I tried ramen was, funny enough, in Amsterdam at the Sapporo Ramen Sora. Fortunately, for me, the ramen was cooked in a miso base. For your information, the vast majority of ramen has a broth made without pork. When my friend introduced me to this ramen, I remember the first bite quite clearly. IT WAS AMAZING. The ramen was unbelievably good. The number of vegetables, the (miso) broth, and the spices had a perfect balance. No wonder Naruto would go crazy with the thought of eating Ramen.
Unfortunately, Japan is not very on the hype when it comes to providing food for vegetarians. The vast majority of food has either pork, beef, or chicken. We Muslims cannot eat pork, but we can also not eat beef and chicken that is not prepared the Islamic way. This is called ‘Halal,’ or perhaps you are more familiar with the Hebrew term ‘Kosher.’ Luckily, there is one restaurant that provides ramen prepared with soy milk and fish stock instead of pork in Beppu. As such, Muslims can also eat ramen at Ittoryu. The ramen is fantastic. There is an egg, noodles, seaweed, and various vegetables in the big bowl of ramen. But the magical power of ramen is the broth. You do not go for the noodles, but for the robust, tasty soup. Even if you would, you cannot leave a single drop in the bowl as you want to drink all of it.
Tip: For my Muslim brothers and sisters; download the app Halal Navi. This app will show you the places that have halal food available to you in Japan :). For Android users. For IOS users.

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2: Sushi
A bit of a cliché, I know. But I cannot deny my true feelings towards this. I just love sushi. The quality of sushi you will get in Japan really differs from what I had in Europe. I can tell in the way the fish is prepared and the taste of rice. The texture is amazing. Not only that, but the experience of eating sushi in the restaurant is also fun. Some of the restaurants have these sushi treadmills where you can pick your sushi that waggle around. Though the sushi is all random, so you have to wait until your favourite sushi comes. The Japanese found a solution to that. Each table has a tablet where you can select your favourite sushi. When you finished picking your sushi, the sushi will then come on a train directly to your table. The sound the tablet makes and the sound the train makes are hilarious!

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1: Takoyaki
Just give me a second… I need to align myself. I am not sure where to start… This is the best thing since sliced bread. For those who do not know what takoyaki is, it is a small ball made out of flour batter inside with a piece of octopus, minced ginger, dried shrimp, and small chopped onions. The batter is grilled on a ball-shaped grill, which intensifies the taste. It is quite similar to the Dutch ‘poffertjes,’ but the Dutch ‘poffertjes’ are sweet and have nothing inside. Takoyaki after it is grilled, the chef cook would then put some mayonnaise, bonito flakes, and green aonori seaweed on the takoyaki.
The first time I tasted takoyaki, a friend of mine introduced it to me during Animecon in The Hague. The takoyaki was just prepared, and I tried to take a bite, but the takoyaki is hotter than two volcanoes. The inside of the takoyaki is like magma. So be very careful when you take your first bite. But when the takoyaki lands on your tongue, sweet lord have mercy on my soul, the taste is heavenly. I am addicted to the taste. Whenever I see takoyaki, I cannot resist the urge, and I have to buy it. Takoyaki can be found almost anywhere. This dish is making me broke. It is relatively cheap, though, but I keep buying it. Takoyaki costs around ¥500 for 8 takoyaki balls. It is worth it! When you have the chance to eat takoyaki, please do. You cannot miss this opportunity.

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I hope this blog has triggered your appetite to try some new Japanese food other than just sushi. Japanese cuisine is very diverse, and there is much to discover. Take your tongue on a voyage of incredible taste :D.

As a bonus for my readers, below, you will find all kinds of Japanese delicacy that my friends and I had stumbled upon on Nagasaki. There was a big festival going on in October. The food came in different colours and forms. Enjoy!

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Masha’Allah

References:

Otsuka, M. Approved by Nelson. R. (2016). Japan HRI Food Service Sector Report 2016. USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (2016). Retrieved from: https://gain.fas.usda.gover

I had heard and read many stories about Japanese cuisine before I came to Japan. If someone I knew had visited Japan and asked them about the food, their eyes go wide open. And their smile is from ear to ear, and a tsunami of details about all the food they have tried and how incredibly delicious it was. I have to admit, I have become such a person now :p.

The food is indeed amazing, and the Japanese are magicians when it comes to food. They will make something very simple into something beautiful. There is also no lack of food whatsoever. Food is a massive industry in Japan. In 2015, the food industry in Japan was valued at $261 billion (USDA Foreign Agricultural Service, 2016). Rightfully so, as food is everywhere in Japan. In the darkest and weirdest alleys, you will find a place to eat. So in this blog post, I will share with you my personal top 5 Japanese food:

5: Chicken curry
I was stunned when I learned that the Japanese LOVE curry with rice. When you think of Japanese cuisine, you probably thinking about the classic/stereotypical food sushi. But the Japanese are fond of curry. The first time I went to a supermarket, I saw a section all dedicated to curry. I cannot name half of them, but from what I could see, there were all sorts of curries such as beef, chicken, pork, fish, and vegetable. The Japanese use rice as their main dish, they love to add curry to their rice. The curry is very easy to prepare. They come in an aluminum sealed package. All you need to do is either put the aluminum package in a pan with water and boil it for a few minutes or put it in a bowl and microwave it for 6 minutes. Within minutes you have a great dish. There are big curry chains in Japan fully dedicated to curry rice. One of the biggest is Curry House CoCo Ichibanya. They have all curry versions, and if you love spicy food, they can make it extremely spicy for you. Even though I am very used to spicy food, I could barely handle level 5. A friend of mine took number 8, and he was crying and sweating like a pig the entire lunch. You are warned :p.

For me, I love the (halal) chicken curry that is provided by the shop at my school campus. The chicken curry is creamy, smells fantastic, and I love the chicken because it is heavily spiced. The chicken curry is already in a small plastic bowl with rice, and I only need to microwave it. Since my stay here in Japan, I have tried several curries as in my country, curry is not a real common thing to eat. But this spicy chicken curry rice really takes the cake :).

Chicken curry

4: Okonomiyaki
The first time I tried okonomiyaki was by accident. A friend of mine thought the restaurant was making udon soup, but it turned out to be okonomiyaki. Okonomiyaki is a batter of flour, eggs, shredded cabbage, green onion, octopus, and other vegetables. Though there is no one standard. Okonomiyaki is derived from 2 words ‘okonomi,’ which means ‘whatever you like’ and ‘yaki’ means ‘grilled.’ You sit on the table, and you can ask the waiter to bring you the okonomiyaki, and you grill it yourself. The table where you sit has a hot grill. The experience is excellent. You are your own cook, and you can make funny ‘pancakes’ of your favourite ingredients.
If this is your first time, you can ask the restaurant to make the okonomiyaki on your behalf. So what about the taste? Mamma mia… it is delicious and healthy. Your body will be overjoyed for all the vitamins it gets. Your tongue will be overjoyed as well as the balance in the taste is great. The grilled taste of the batter gives it an extra edge. The interesting part is that you can add the things you love. I always add squid, octopus, and cheese. Oishi!

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3: Ramen
If you have watched the anime show Naruto you know that Naruto could not start his day without eating ramen. Naruto would go crazy about ramen every time he walked past the shop. If you lost Naruto, you would find him at the Ichiraku Ramen shop. This show amazed me and made me curious about ramen. The first time I tried ramen was, funny enough, in Amsterdam at the Sapporo Ramen Sora. Fortunately, for me, the ramen was cooked in a miso base. For your information, the vast majority of ramen has a broth made without pork. When my friend introduced me to this ramen, I remember the first bite quite clearly. IT WAS AMAZING. The ramen was unbelievably good. The number of vegetables, the (miso) broth, and the spices had a perfect balance. No wonder Naruto would go crazy with the thought of eating Ramen.
Unfortunately, Japan is not very on the hype when it comes to providing food for vegetarians. The vast majority of food has either pork, beef, or chicken. We Muslims cannot eat pork, but we can also not eat beef and chicken that is not prepared the Islamic way. This is called ‘Halal,’ or perhaps you are more familiar with the Hebrew term ‘Kosher.’ Luckily, in Beppu, there is one restaurant that provides ramen prepared with soy milk and fish stock instead of pork. As such, Muslims can also eat ramen at Ittoryu. The ramen is amazing. In the big bowl of ramen, there is an egg, noodles, seaweed, and various vegetables. But the magical power of ramen is the broth. You do not go for the noodles, but for the robust, tasty soup. Even if you would, you cannot leave a single drop in the bowl as you want to drink all of it.
Tip: For my Muslim brothers and sisters; download the app Halal Navi. This app will show you the places that have halal food available to you in Japan :). For Android users. For IOS users.

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2: Sushi
A bit of a cliché, I know. But I cannot deny my true feelings towards this. I just love sushi. The quality of sushi you will get in Japan really differs from what I had in Europe. I can tell in the way the fish is prepared and the taste of rice. The texture is amazing. Not only that, but the experience of eating sushi in the restaurant is also fun. Some of the restaurants have these sushi treadmills where you can pick your sushi that waggle around. Though the sushi is all random, so you have to wait until your favourite sushi comes. The Japanese found a solution to that. Each table has a tablet where you can select your favourite sushi. When you finished picking your sushi, the sushi will then come on a train directly to your table. The sound the tablet makes and the sound the train makes are hilarious!

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1: Takoyaki
Just give me a second……. I need to align myself. I am not sure where to start…. This is the best thing since sliced bread. For those who do not know what takoyaki is, it is a small ball made out of flour batter inside with a piece of octopus, minced ginger, dried shrimp, and small chopped onions. The batter is grilled on a ball-shaped grill, which intensifies the taste. It is quite similar to the Dutch ‘poffertjes,’ but the Dutch ‘poffertjes’ are sweet and have nothing inside. Takoyaki, after it is grilled, the chef cook would then put some mayonnaise, bonito flakes, and green aonori seaweed on the takoyaki.
The first time I tasted takoyaki, a friend of mine introduced it to me during Animecon in The Hague. The takoyaki was just prepared, and I tried to take a bite, but the takoyaki is hotter than two volcanoes. The inside of the takoyaki is like magma. So be very careful when you take your first bite. But when the takoyaki lands on your tongue, sweet lord have mercy on my soul, the taste is heavenly. I am addicted to the taste. Whenever I see takoyaki, I cannot resist the urge, and I have to buy it. Takoyaki can be found almost anywhere. This dish is making me broke. It is quite cheap, though, but I keep buying it. Takoyaki costs around ¥500 for 8 takoyaki balls. It is worth it! When you have the chance to eat takoyaki, please do. You cannot miss this opportunity.

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I hope this blog has triggered your appetite to try some new Japanese food other than just sushi. Japanese cuisine is very diverse, and there is much to discover. Take your tongue on a voyage of incredible taste :D.

As a bonus for my readers, below you will find all kinds of Japanese delicacy that my friends and I had stumbled upon on a trip to Nagasaki. There was a big festival going on in October. The food came in different colours and forms. Enjoy!

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Masha’Allah

References:

Otsuka, M. Approved by Nelson. R. (2016). Japan HRI Food Service Sector Report 2016. USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (2016). Retrieved from: https://gain.fas.usda.gov

Japan’s Stranger Things

Japan is a beautiful and great place to live. The culture, the people, the food, the landscape, and the language give you a great Japan experience. All of it is in one word, ‘Amazing.’ But as in every culture, there is some weird stuff that boggles the mind and will leave you with a great question mark above your head. Looking for work in Japan is not as easy as one would have thought…

Such a question mark happened to me quite recently that actually has a more underlying issue covering the entire country. 

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Alright, storytime: In October, there was a post on a Facebook group (Minishare, a Craigslist for APU students in Beppu) that invited all international students to join a seminar that was organized by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI). This seminar was to inform foreign students about finding a job in the Kyushu island. For those who do not know, Kyushu is the southern island of Japan. I thought: “Great! This is nice, as I would love to work in Japan, mind, and look at this seminar. The Facebook post stated the following: ※The seminar will be conducted mainly in simple Japanese and there will be English interpretation in some parts.” Of course, I was worried about this as I am not that proficient in the Japanese language. Still, I had some hope regarding that some things would have some explanation in English.

I went to the seminar, guess what….. It was all in Japanese. Yes, there was a lady that would “translate” maybe 5% of the entire seminar. Still, her translation was extremely lacking, and adding the word ‘like’ 4 times in a sentence does not really convey the message. If you think I am lying, please have a look at their recent Youtube video uploaded to “attract” internationals: How you should not attract internationals

Fortunately, I had an employee of the METI who spoke English sitting next to me to translate the presentation to me. The presentation went to fast for him to be able to translate everything accurately. I was sitting in a group of 2 Egyptians and 1 Palestinian. During the break, I told the METI employee my frustrations about this whole fiasco. I would love to work in Japan, but everything is in Japanese. The employee said to me that they were targeting international students that had have been living for a long time in Japan and were able to converse in the Japanese language on a high level. In this context, it means undergraduate students that have studied for 4 years in Japan, whereas the 3 students from the Arab country and me were all Master’s students. We have a mere 2 years to study in Japan, which will definitely not be enough to get to N2 JLPT level (Starting from N5 up to N1).

I told him that Japan is not ready for the international world. The working environment is not foreign-friendly. About 60% of the APU undergraduate students, who found a job in Japan, would leave Japan in the first year as they cannot cope with the Japanese work ethos. APU is pumping undergraduate students to work in Japan, and it flaunts their results on their website about how many students found a job in Japan. However, it fails to report, explicitly, how many not only left the job but also left the country.

This whole seminar made no sense to me. Imagine yourself holding a seminar to attract international students to your country/region for work. Would you do it in your native language? Of course not! I cannot imagine the international student’s look if I would conduct an entire seminar in Dutch.

The situation is quite sad as Japan is reluctant to change anytime to internationalize. Of all countries in the world, Japan needs to internationalize due to its decline in population. As reported by the Japan Times (2017, July 5), Japan’s population has been declining for 8 years. The number of births in Japan was 981,202, and deaths were 1,309,515, a decline of 328,313 people. Japan is in dire need of a solution for its decline. This decline puts a lot of stress on the economic situation of Japan.

As described by Forbes (2017, July 10), Japan has a debt-to-GDP ratio of 234%(!). Greece, with a deb-to-GDP ratio of 176%, is a joke compared to Japan. My (Japanese) teacher asked me: “To whom does Japan owe all this debt?” To which I answered: “To foreign countries.” Which she replied: ”No, to the Japanese citizens.” This surprised me a lot as Japan has been spending its people’s money. Clearly, Japan is in an economic ****hole.

The course name was Society and Culture. Here we discussed the current social issues of Japan regarding the economic issues and population decline. For this, we used a book Critical Issues in Contemporary Japan by Jeff Kingston. One of the chapters goes deep into the social issue, and it suggested two solutions to the economic issue. One of the solutions was to increase women in the labour force. Women are highly discriminated in Japan regarding work. It is hard for a Japanese woman to go up the promotion ladder as the Japanese society expects that a woman will eventually marry and have kids and remain at home. As such, it is hard for women to keep up their working life. The Japan Times (2016, April 8) did report that there is an increase of women in the labour force. 43% of Japanese women are working nowadays, coming from 36% three decades ago.

That is indeed great news, but remember we are talking about Japan, where long working hours are not alien. With long, I mean loooooonnnggggg (12+ working hours). Furthermore, childcare is lacking. There are long queues for day-cares as many families want to drop their child at a day-care before going to work. If that wasn’t enough, as reported by JapanInfo (2017, Jan 17), women want to earn less than ¥1 million because earning more than that, the government will tax the women heavily, and pension money will be deducted. This is because the men are the biggest breadwinners and stay working the entire day, also known as Salarymen.

I agree that increasing women in the workplace and giving them the same career opportunity is required. But will this be enough to lift the economy up? If women do work, they do not have the time to rear a child. Working long hours is the norm. I admit it is changing, but not fast enough!

In my opinion, option 2 is the best, namely open the borders for international workers. This is because many highly motivated, skilled, and talented people would love to be part of Japanese society. When talking about international workers, people immediately think of uneducated people and do dirty jobs. The criminality rate will increase. No, this is, of course, bullocks. There are educated people out there who love to work in Japan, but the environment is not ready.

Hurdles

It is a norm to prepare to find a job in your last year as an undergraduate in Japan. Meaning, at the start of your 4th year, you start looking for a job. If you are looking for a job at the end of your 4th year, you are too late. Japanese employers want the jobseekers to spend an entire year looking for a job because the process takes a whole year… There are 6 hurdles you will need to partake before you are accepted for a job. The 6 hurdles are: 1) an entry (probably your application), 2) job fair seminar, 3) resume entry sheet, 4) paper test and a web test (aptitude test and math test), 5) job interview (group interview, group discussions, personal interview. All in that order), 6) getting a job offer. All of this and maybe, just maybe, you will get the job. Just keep in mind, you do this with at least 20 companies because the job interviews are killing. This also means you are required to do lots of traveling in order to participate in the interviews.

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I told the METI employee why I would want to go through so much trouble to find a single job in Japan while I could just send my CV and application letter to a company in, for example, Germany, go for a (Skype) interview, and get accepted all within one month?! Before you even apply, you will need to have a JLPT N2 level. A JLPT N2 level tests your ability to read, listen, and write in Japanese (grammar and spelling), but it does not cover speaking. If you do not have JLPT N2, do not even think about looking for a job in Japan. When you finally achieved the JLPT N2, you are only half-way. Getting to the N2 level takes 3 to 5 years. The hurdles are amazing.

When you have read this, I probably have demotivated you to find a job in Japan. I am not saying it is impossible. If you have managed to jump over all the mentioned hurdles above, you will find a job in Japan. I want you to be realistic about your idea of finding a job in Japan. I have not given up, as I would still love to find a job in Japan and be a beautiful society. But as the Japanese say: You have to ‘Ganbatte‘ a lot and overcome Japan’s stranger things.

Masha’Allah

References:

Forbes, (2017, July 10), Japan Has Entered The Next Phase: Unlimited Money Printing

JapanInfo, (2017, January 17), Why Are Many Women in Japan Stay-At-Home Wives? Here Are 6 Reasons

The Japan Times, (2016, April 8), Still a struggle for working women

The Japan Times (2017, July 5), Japan’s population falls for eighth straight year but number of foreign residents rises

 

 

Kill Them With Kindness

You are on the streets, and an old Japanese lady is sitting on a bench, enjoying the weather down the road. As you are approaching, she looks at you with a smile and says, “Konnichiwa,” with a short nod. You smile back, and you reply with “Konnichiwa,” and you do a short nod. A few minutes later, you see some small children hop around, and as you pass them by, they look at you, and they all say “Konnichiwa,” and they all do a short nod. You smile back, and you reply with “Konnichiwa,” too, along with a short nod. The smile remains on your face the rest of your day thinking: “Thank god, I love Japan.”

One kind word will warm for three months of winter (一つの優しい言葉は、冬の三カ月を温める)” is a Japanese proverb often used to remind people that being kind to each other will keep the relationship strong and will help you through tough times. Keep everyone as your friend, and they might help you in the future when you need them the most. It also means that it only requires a single word to make a person happy. One word that will remain in the receiver’s heart. I, personally, love this. Being kind to people not because I would like something in return, but they will be kind back. You could maybe translate it to simply ‘Karma.’ This form of kindness in Japan can be felt everywhere and anytime. 

Of course, I can only share my experiences here in Beppu, as this is called the ”countryside” of Japan. Oita prefecture is located on the Kyushu island (all the way in the south), and far away from the big industrial areas. It might be the case that the people in the south are a bit kinder than individuals that live in the metropolitan area. Though I did meet Japanese people in the Netherlands, and I noticed their friendliness, and came from different cities. And my four-day visit to Tokyo was not sufficient enough to assess their level of kindness. Still, even then, I could notice the kindness of the people. 

Here in Beppu, the locals are quite kind to the international students. I have read some stories of people being harassed by, for example, a drunk person that would cuss and shout to the foreigner for being a foreigner. At moment of writing, I have been in Japan for six months. I have NEVER been discriminated against by the locals. The contrary, in fact: I have been showered with kindness, so to speak.

Wherever I go, there is always someone who would greet me. This has a quite positive effect on me. Over time I found myself doing the same thing. I would greet strangers on the street, and they will always greet me back. If not by words but at least by a short nod. Receiving and giving greetings from random people brightens your day. In my home, country barely anyone would greet you on the streets. Only if you knew each other, you would greet the person. Whether you are in a small town in the countryside or in a big city, no greetings. 

Unseen Kindness

One day I was travelling with a friend of mine from Oita back to Beppu by train. In the train compartment, there was something very peculiar that caught my eye. The train guard walked passed us and walked towards the door that led to the next train compartment. This door is a sliding door. Before the train conductor opened the door, he turned towards us, made a deep bow, and turned back to the sliding door. He opened the door, then walked through the door, turned again, made a deep bow (towards us), and then closed the door. Between the two train compartments, there are two doors. When he reached the second door, he did the same thing, bowing, opening, going through the door, closing the door, and bowing again. 

The reason why I found this so intriguing is that nobody in the entire compartment paid any attention to him but me. He could have walked through the door without bowing, and no one would have noticed. This leads me to the second level of kindness, which is respect. This form of bowing is an act of kindness and respect. The train guard respects us and greets his travellers even though no one paid any attention to it.

It is not just the act of greeting that makes the Japanese so unique. When you are in a store, you find yourself in a narrow space with another Japanese person deciding what to pick. When the person notices you, he will immediately back up and do a short bow, which indicates that you can pass him. The person will say “sumimasen,” meaning my apologies (for standing in your way). Where I am from, you will need to ask the person to let you pass, and this person pretends he didn’t see you. Probably thinking: “You can walk around.” The Japanese are harmonious people, and it can be felt everywhere. They will always put themselves on the second spot. The other person still always be favoured before themselves. 

Kill Them With Kindness

The reason why the title of this post is called “Kill them with Kindness” is because I noticed something intriguing regarding the behaviour of my fellow international students. At APU, we have people from all over the globe. All with different views on the world, life, philosophy, and whatnot. But yet the kindness of the Japanese has a contagious effect. Everyone that I know has adopted the Japanese cultural behaviour and made it their own. We greet, bow, thank, nod, apologise, smile to strangers in some specific situations we probably would have never done in our home countries. 

Kanji reads ‘Wa’ which means harmony

Imagine yourself in your home country’s capital, and you have forgotten your laptop on a bench in the metro station. Would your laptop still be there one hour from now? The answer would most likely be “No.” In Japan, you do not need to worry. Your laptop will still be at its location and, yes, even in a big city. The Japanese will not steal your laptop. As such, the kindness and respect of the Japanese changed the international students too. When an international student finds an iPhone 7 lying somewhere, the student will take photos of the mobile phone and post it on the “Lost and Found” Facebook page to return the phone to its rightful owner. I would see the most expensive item posted on the Facebook group by international students to return the items to their owners. The students could just take the expensive items and make it their own, but instead, the Japanese’s kindness makes them honest and caring too. “Don’t do unto others what you do not want others to do unto you” ~Confucius. If you one day lose your item, you would be grateful to the person who brings it back. 

I could keep writing about all the details of the Japanese’s kindness, but then I would be writing a book instead of a blog :P. Japanese culture is truly a unique culture where people care for each other and are kind to each other. It feels like being a part of a big family, even as an international student.

Competitive culture

Are the Japanese 24/7 kind to every single person all the time“. No, of course not. Let’s be realistic. They are just like you and me also mere human beings made out of flesh and blood. The Japanese also feel frustration, hunger, tiredness, and stress. You could meet someone who had a bad day and would ventilate all his anger on you just because you were there at the wrong place at the wrong time. Furthermore, I know that the Japanese are very competitive,. When it comes to work and money, they can become as vicious as any other salesman worldwide.

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This blog post is based on my experiences as an APU student in Japan. I am aware of the many stories about working in Japan, and it is hardships. Whatever country you visit, there will always be some people that would give you a hard time. However, the ones that do give you their love and kindness will outweigh the bad ones by large. Just remember to return your love and kindness to them. Personally, I think that Japan is not only called ‘The Land of The Rising Sun’ because of its geographical location but because the Japanese are the ones who will brighten your day.

 

Masha’Allah