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becoming japanese
Village Old Timer
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Hi,

I have a question for those westerners who have moved to Japan and have found their home.

I had a recent discussion with one of you who has said that they are completely comfortable in Tokyo and have no desire to ever move back to the US. While I love going to visit Japan, I miss the open spaces of my back yard.

I wonder what philosophical changes one has to undergo to move from a western mind to the Japanese mind.

Thanks for any input.

Marty

Posted on: 2008/10/15 11:10
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Re: becoming japanese
Village Old Timer
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Hi Marty,

You said

Quote:
I wonder what philosophical changes one has to undergo to move from a western mind to the Japanese mind.


It took me five years to get comfortable with Tokyo life. I don't "move" from a western to a Japanese mind. I think I move with Japanese minds (and they with mine) when my philosophy happens to coincide with theirs.

Your statement above seems to essentialize the Japanese, that they have a unique way of thinking, and perpetuates the idea (a common enough one in Japan) that there are universal "western" culture and values. I'm going to go a little tribal here. You and I share some values by virtue of being raised in post-colonial English speaking countries, but you and I have different ways of talking, perceiving and behaving that are culturally determined.

There is a lot to examine here, and I'm doing that in my academic studies (I've started grad studies in education here in Tokyo) and my work situation. I'm looking now at how decisions in education, namely curriculum design in high schools, are influenced by cultural considerations, coming from both foreign and Japanese teachers and administrators. This area is a tiny window into where culture and philosophy coincide and diverge.

Back to studying - budo, education and culture, sometimes all at the same time

edited for grammar error, damn!

Posted on: 2008/10/15 20:03
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Re: becoming japanese
Active Kutakian
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Quote:
mrdunsky wrote:

I had a recent discussion with one of you who has said that they are completely comfortable in Tokyo and have no desire to ever move back to the US. While I love going to visit Japan, I miss the open spaces of my back yard.


Sounds like you have found joy in the Japanese people and yet are more comfortable with the less crowded spaces. That's an awesome realization that many miss; we can enjoy friends of widely different cultures but not have to become just like them.

The folks I've met over the years have helped shape who I am to the point that I want to bring my internalization of them to the present place. How would you feel about bringing some of the positives of the Japanese culture to wherever you are? Maybe a tea ceremony with the kids, or just pleasent tea with a lonely neighbor?

Leam

Posted on: 2008/10/15 20:22
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Leam Hall
Ne'er do well, Red Hat engineer for hire, and all around nice guy...
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Re: becoming japanese
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Leam,I have found this true also, I have been fortunate to have contact with people from many different backgrounds and most recently those involved in the Bujinkan and martial arts. I have benefited from this contact and enjoyed immensely the relationships that come from these times. In most cases I would NOT want to begin living in their culture and that is certainly true of Japan. I and we all are products of our own cultures and so are predisposed to what we have been formed by. This is true no matter what "culture" you come from. It also means, or at least should mean, that you can thoroughly appreciate another's culture without wanting to live in it. This is again true for me referring to the Japanese culture, I appreciate much within it but do not want to live it in. Like ALL cultures, Japanese, Western, etc, there is much to admire and also things to oppose as not acceptable, in my opinion.

Posted on: 2008/10/15 23:28
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Ed Martin aka Papa-san
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Re: becoming japanese
Village Old Timer
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Marty,

Oops, not post-colonial for you. Somehow, I had the impression your were Australian until I looked at your profile.

Posted on: 2008/10/16 7:41
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Re: becoming japanese
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Living overseas for an extended period will change you and you have to understand that you may not like some of the changes that can occur. To see the kind of changes that can occur, simply look at those who have already made the move and decide for yourself whether you are likely to end up like those people.

For what it is worth, Japanese society exerts a tremendous amount of pressure on those living within it. You will not be able to avoid this pressure. Ignoring it (or thinking that you are ignoring it) is a delusion. This pressure will shape you and depending on the strength of your moral and ethical identity, will steer you away from what is meaningful in life or it will remind you of what is meaningful in life. This all begs the question, of course, as to whether you even know the value of your own moral and ethical background. I would say that most people don't.

Being in Japan allows you to get away with many quirks that would not be accepted back home. I have noticed that many people living here develop a kind of abrasive, 'snatch-like' personality. In their home countries, I have no doubts that these people would not get away with being so rude but here in Japan, you will be allowed to fester in whatever personality weaknesses you allow to persist. As many people do not really work on their moral characteristics, you will find a great many living in a kind of fantasy-land whilst in Japan.

A strong self-identity, rooted in the strengths of your moral and ethical background, is a must if you are to not lose your way whilst living in Japan.

Posted on: 2008/10/22 11:58
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Re: becoming japanese
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Quote:

abc wrote:
Living overseas for an extended period will change you and you have to understand that you may not like some of the changes that can occur. To see the kind of changes that can occur, simply look at those who have already made the move and decide for yourself whether you are likely to end up like those people.


_MSC_CLICK_TO_OPEN_IMAGE

Posted on: 2008/10/22 12:49
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Re: becoming japanese
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Although the keyword “Japan” may cause many painful emotions to surface in a WW2 veteran, foreigners normally associate the word with their current knowledge and experience in relation to the country. Due to cultural conditioning in their native lands, many will come to Japan seeking the Japan that they have created in their inner worlds. Because of this friction, many will take refuse and enter a cheesy little bubble full of other gaijin who pat each other on the back and think of themselves as gaijin elitists when in reality they are suffering immensely.

No matter how long these types live in Japan, their knowledge of the culture will always remain limited to Roppongi, The Hub (a bar chain designed for gaijin losers who feel the need to nurse pints while feeling sorry for themselves), and/or the martial arts. Dojos “welcome” foreigners because 99% of the Japanese are not interested in budo. I PROMISE you that if there was a future budo boom in Japan, segregation would raise its ugly head. This is simply because Japanese do not feel comfortable with foreigners around. They have enough trouble getting along with each other.

I know…I know. Some of you are out there saying, “But Yumiko was sooooooo nice to me…” Foreigners who get sucked (pun intended) into deals like that are simply victims of their own “free lunch” syndrome. Due to ignorance of the culture, they ASSume that “friendly” Japanese are just that. In reality, they are looking at us as aliens who can do tricks. One of these tricks is something called the ability to speak English, something which they would like to be able to do as well. Take the English away, and you will find out just how the Japanese feel about you.

Within the Japanese society, an individual doesn’t determine their own existence...others do it for them. Does that sound like an attractive deal? Is it in line with your dreams of wielding Paul Chen Katanas around like Sho Kosugi inside Osaka castle? I think not.

Gordon "Gordy" Steinberg

Posted on: 2008/10/22 13:37
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Re: becoming japanese
村長 :: Sonchou
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Dear Gordon,

The tone of your post makes me wonder if you are one of those WWII veterans with painful memories.

Are you living in Japan (the original poster aimed the thread at those who are)? If so, why? (since you make it sound so bad). If not, have you ever, and for how long?

A little bit of background on your own personal experience could shed some light on your post original post.

Best wishes,

Shawn
(entering 14th year in Japan)

Posted on: 2008/10/22 13:54
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Re: becoming japanese
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I'm not sure if I can share the same venom of Mr. Steinberg's previous post but after living here for 7 years, I do have to admit to the general truth of what he posted.

Let me first start by saying that Japan is an incredible experience and really, only a fool would not be able to learn something of value from living here.

Someone once told me that it takes about 2-3 years to 'de-Japanise' once you return to your home country. Most sojourns overseas leave a more permanently positive impression so why not Japan?

If you wish to live here be aware that as a non-Japanese, you will be outside of the system that is in operation here. After all, everyone fills a role here. I guess you could say that of any society but in Japan it is quite clearly visible. Being outside the system will give you a certain amount of freedom but like any golden chalice, there will be poison. The poison is to not consider important enough, the reasons for a lack of an official role for non-Japanese.

How is it then that many non-Japanese survive for so long here in Japan when everything is stacked against them? Well, all I can say is that without a purpose you are not surviving. Many people have lost sight of their purpose and just ride out the days. Others stick to their purpose and are able to let slide the pressures stacked against them.

As a human being, you have the chance to be responsible for enlargening your capacities. You also have the right to limit yourself to the common denominator. How low you choose that common denominator is an important decision.

Good luck.

Posted on: 2008/10/22 15:28
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