Prepping for Japan

Published on March 6 2016
Posted by: Kyle
Segment: days
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While we're not in Japan just yet, knowing how to cope with the Japanese culture will be a big advantage for us (and help reduce the "Culture Shock" that everyone keeps talking about - we hope). To do this, Keat and I have adjusted our lifestyles a bit.

What We Can Do


1) Using a Genkan


First, we are taking our shoes off in the house. Not only does it make it easier to clean, it also makes it easier to find our shoes. In many Japanese houses/apartments/etc, they have a sectioned (and sometimes lowered) area to take off and store their shoes. We don't have that, but the little section at the front door is close enough.

2) Hang-Drying clothes


As Americans, we have the stereotypical washer and dryer. However, in Japan, dryers are few and far between (stereotypically). So we are hang-drying our laundry instead of using the dryer. It may take a bit more time to do, but it's not hard.

(And surprisingly, it only reduces the electricity usage by a fraction)

3) Hand-washing dishes


Just like the laundry, we are hand washing and drying our dishes. Although we have a dishwasher (that is 80% effecient), we do wash the dishes day-to-day. Yes, it does take some more effort than just shoving the dish in a large water box and letting it run, so it does get a bit annoying at times, but it is something that we (will) do in Japan.

4) Adding Rice to Meals


Rice isn't strange to us. However, in the American diet, rice isn't common, but with the many Japanese and Korean dishes that we have made, rice is just a staple. And who doesn't like a bowl of fresh, hot white rice?

5) Limiting our Cooking Space


Not many places in Japan have large cooking spaces. Most apartments that we've seen online have anywhere from 1-3 cooking eyes, so we are reducing our own cooking space to 1-2 eyes, so we can get an idea of how little space we will actually have (and reducing the amount of dishes we are using).

6) Adding Manners


Some of the oddest things we have seen are manners of the Japanese versus American. First off, the phrase "itadakimasu" (thanks for the meal) is said before eating, like a blessing - just not religious. After a meal, you say "gochisosamadeshita" (thanks for cooking the meal).

You also have a large amount of bowing, which is as common as a hand-shake in America. Also, the level of bow determines how much respect you are presenting (for example, the lower the bow, the more respect). I'm just waiting for the countless bowing contest when two people are literally bent in half....

One of the hardest things that we will have to adjust to is the lack of sarcasam. While sarcasam is easy to us, it doesn't translate well in Japanese, and sarcasam in the Japanese language doesn't have the same effect as it does here. (There are also a number of nuiances, like making a phrase negative, then adding a question to invoke an invite - yeah....)

7) Using Chopsticks


Any American eating at a Chinese restaurant has at one time experienced chopsticks. While these aren't completely foreign to us, learning to eat with them (properly) is a bit of a challenge. Forks, spoons, and knives are common, but chopsticks are the number one winners of eating utensils (and by eating with the break-apart chopsticks, it makes for less to clean because you just throw them away).

Rice, meat, veggies, etc - all should be eaten with chopsticks, unless the situation requires otherwise.

What we Can't Do


Taking a bit of a difference stance, let's talk about a few things that we can't do or can't adjust to...just yet.

1) Timezones


Japan is 14 hours ahead of us, so trying to schedule something (or plan something) on Japan time is a little awkward. 12PM here is 2AM there. 8AM is 10PM there. So the scheduling is very odd, especially if we still need to coordinate things on Eastern time here. (Although I wouldn't mind sleeping until 4PM, which is 6AM over there)

2) Using Public Transportation (ie: Trains)


We're in a remote part of NC, and public transportation (especially trains) don't reach this far. The closest thing we have is Asheville's bus system (which only travels Asheville, which is 30 minutes away from us), and the nearest train is 2 hours away - by car.

While in America, we are a car culture. Cars are everywhere, which is a good thing and a bad thing. Cars allow us to drive anywhere at any time. Go to Walmart at 3AM? Sure.

However, in Japan, the primary transportation method is by Train, and while I'm ecstatic about the idea of riding a train on a daily basis, understanding the transit routes, timetables of trains, and the stations needed will be a challenge. It was nice back in 2008 because Sensei lead the way, but when we go over there, it's just us.

That also means that if we need to be somewhere at 8AM, we can't just leave the driveway X minutes/hours before hand. In Japan, we'll need to make sure we have the funds to get the ticket, make sure we get the right train at the right time, take the route to the appropriate station, switch trains, and continue our journey until we're there. Different? Yes. Hard? Maybe, but doable.

3) Using a small(er) space


As our current house is just about 900 sq. ft, Japanese spaces are signifiantly smaller - about 300-500 sq. ft. While we have the large space, we can reduce the amount of primary space that we use, but we don't have the option (or capability) to partition off sections of the house and dedicate them as unused. We are getting rid of a lot of stuff, but downsizing everything and cutting the house (literally) in half is almost impossible.


Are there more things that we can do? Sure, but this is our top list of things that we can and can't do. If we left something off that you think would be a great idea, leave us a note in the comments!