Though Japan and The United States are equally first world countries, they diverge continually in respect to modern conveniences, and even more so when it comes to cultural norms and everyday modes of operation. As I have been back in California for 2 months now, I have had many opportunities to answer the now infamous question, “How was Japan?” I’ve given many different replies, mostly indicating that the trip was good/fun, but that the language barrier was quite difficult, only going into detail with closer friends and family. In reality, I loved Japan—I’m going back in 2 months—but for reasons most wouldn’t guess, reasons specific to the things that I enjoy. I didn’t see much of the tourist venues while in Japan, and therefore didn’t see many foreigners at all; I was able to live subtly (hopefully) as one of the crowd. I tried to see as much of the “real” Japan as was possible. Though I miss many of the conveniences that I came to love, (that I listed in previous posts), there has not been much in the way of reverse culture shock since returning to America. Reverting to American customs and complete English has been relatively smooth, though I sometimes move to the left on walkways by accident. I often tell stories about the peculiarities of Japan, the underground and second story restaurants, the phenomenal department and electronics stores, the transportation systems… They’re things that I miss, but things that I can of course live without.
Since being back, the thing I noticed mostly since being back has been the sheer amount of space that is wasted in California, and perhaps America as a whole. Though we have space, and therefore an allowance for spreading out, it’s continually amazing how much Japan has been able to cram in to the island land that the country occupies.
I miss vending machines and bookstores being everywhere. Being able to find my favorite pens at any bunboguya I happened to pass by. Their indian food. Perhaps, because of my short stay, I wasn’t immersed until the point of complete habit. I have taken up life in California just as I left it, glad to have my car again, able to drive anywhere, even though everything seems so far apart now. Going back to Japan in March should return me to the habits I garnered while living there—My initial trip to Japan taught me how to adapt, how to travel on my own during periods of high stress, how to cross the country on my own. How to be an adult. Today (the 20th of January), I turn 20, and I feel like an adult only because of the travels and complete self-reliance that I have had a chance to experience thanks to study abroad. Hopefully, this next trip will be more comfortable, and I will have the courage to practice and study more Japanese. Ganbarimasu. I’ll do my best.