Thursday, April 12, 2012

Clash of Cultures

I was nineteen when I left the country for the very first time. I think it never occurred to me how different the culture would be in a country other than your own. I figured I knew enough about Japan so that I would not feel completely alienated. But I came to realize that the food or the TV will not make you realize the difference in cultures, essentially it is the people that will make you realize that you live in a separate world.

I was in Shinagawa, Tokyo a full day before it hit me. We were staying at a hotel that was about a minute's walk away from a street entrance to the trains. We followed a cement walkway that led from the hotel, past small tourist aimed shops to a main street with restaurants. It was probably a combination sensory overload and jet lag, but the trip as a whole takes on the feel of a dream. We had a native of Japan as our guide, and I felt like most of the time I just floated after her like a ghost trying to absorb everything I saw but unable to commit anything to actual memory. I did not need to struggle to find my destinations or locate a good place to eat. So I feel like I never really paid attention I just experienced things. But somewhere amid my feelings of awe and sleepy fascination I woke up and realized I was far from home.

We happened upon a little McDonald's, and maybe this added to the overall image, but the setting and the surroundings of the restaurant were far from recognizable. And as a mass of people moved towards me in a commuter's rush I felt completely isolated. All the people in my vision were Japanese, no faces like mine were present. They were all uniformly dressed in black. Black suits, black jackets, black purses and skirts. I searched their faces for a hint of some familiar emotion that I could name and latch onto, so I could feel less insignificant, but all I saw was a general disinterest.

A Google maps screen grab. All my photos are gone due to my hard drive crashing.

 The people we met on our trip ranged from overtly friendly and outgoing, to curious and downright rude, to impassive and polite. I do not think I overcame my new frame of mind that I was different and that it would be hard for me to immediately fit in there. But I guess that is were some of my interest comes from with regards to Japan.

The crosswalk leading to the station


  1. It seems a bit unfortunate that you couldn't shake the jet-lag. I always think to myself that I'd schedule a day to rest up before exploring. But i probably wouldn't because I'd be too excited to get out and explore :)

  2. My friend also went to Japan and he was studying abroad, and he said the same thing about the people as you did. I feel like people would say the same the first time they come to american because they most likely would go to a big city that would be crowded. New York City for example seems like the same because people there are all different some nice, some rude, and some just doing their own thing not paying attention to anyone else.


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