Gaijin Stories

These short stories are a collection of my experiences while living in Tokyo. I hope people wishing to learn more about Japan and gaijin in japan wishing to compare experiences will find them interesting. I also hope some Japanese people will find a gaijin's perspective interesting reading as well.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

The Way ( 3 )

From my experience, most foreigners stay in Japan less than 2 years. English teachers want to get back and work in their chosen field, and company workers want to get back to their family and work near home. Amongst English teachers, more than half quit their first job and try a different company so there are a lot of welcome parties and “bye-bye” parties for English teachers in Japan.
On one occasion, I remember standing around the office waiting to head out to an izakaya. A group of us (gaijin) were standing, some half sitting against desks, talking and joking. 3 Japanese were on the other side of the room. They too were engaged in casual conversation, but were standing like soldiers ready to march. The most experienced of the three was the most relaxed and doing most of the talking.
I stopped going to Sunday school when I was 7 years old but since living in Japan, I would describe my upbringing as Christian. I was told to be good and to do the right thing. Morality and fairness were emphasized. As long as what I did was considered good, I could do everything MY OWN WAY.
In contrast, Japanese emphasize “the way”. If you look at English books about Japan, many will refer to “the way”, for example “The Way of the Warrior” or “The way of Flower Arranging”. Doing things the way they are supposed to be done helps harmony which is very important in Japan. When faced with a choice of doing things “the way” or not doing things the “right” way, Japanese people want to be a person who follows “the way”. This means rules about trivial things will be followed. Senior workers in companies are more important than new employees. Standing up straight is better than resting your bottom on desks. Passing and receiving things with two hands shows an individuals effort and ability to follow “the way of passing and receiving”.
During my two years of attending aikido classes, I developed new ideas about Japanese martial arts. I can see I learnt `the way` to do things. Martial arts teaches the way to work hard to improve, use strength to avoid conflict, and to take control of one’s own life.
The two groups grew larger. I was amazed that we were shared so many similar human qualities yet I could notice so many things which were different just by looking at the two waiting groups of people. Eventually, we all started to mix and form one larger group. We headed to an Izakaya and stayed mixed for the rest of the night. Despite all our differences, we ate, drank and all had a great evening.

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