Happy New Year – 1 Year Living in Japan

Akemashite Omedeto Gozaimasu.  I would like to wish everyone a happy and prosperous new year, 2009.  Pictured is a kadomatsu, which is a traditional New Year’s arrangement of greenery made primarily of three bamboo shoots set a varying heights representing heaven, humanity and earth.

New Year Plant

Exactly a year ago, my family and I arrived in Tokyo – we were actually traveling on New Year’s Day last year.  Earlier I had written about my reflections on working in Japan after 1 year.  So again, time for some reflection as we have now lived Japan for one year.  I had posted my initial impressions in this blog earlier late last year so it is a good time for an update.

I have lived in the suburbs my entire life, urban life in one of the world’s largest and most crowded cities was the biggest difference.  We drove everywhere in Toronto, and now with no cars (yay, no car insurance), we walk and take the subway and trains.  You experience and see more on foot compared to driving or riding in a car.

There is crime in Tokyo and Japan, but it is safer here compared to Canada and the US.  You see lots of police on the streets, but they don’t seem to have much to do except give directions or direct traffic.  My 12 year old son (who by the way has grown a lot this past year and is taller than his mother now) walks to school and takes the subway by himself.

Yes, Tokyo is very crowded, but unlike Hong Kong, which is also very crowded as we experienced during our recent visit this Christmas (trip report in a future blog post soon), you don’t feel too uncomfortable as Japanese people are very respectful of each other.  Long lineups seem to move faster, probably because people are very orderly and patient.  Although reminders are found in the Tokyo subway manner posters, I found Japanese people to be generally very well mannered – speak in low tones, no talking on mobile phones in public, no eating in public, umbrella manners, bowing and greeting (being greeted many times when entering and exiting stores, restaurants), etc.

As with my experience at work, communication is a challenge living in Tokyo.  Although most subway and road signage have English also, it is surprising for a major cosmopolitan city like Tokyo that people do not know English.  We are all trying to learn Japanese, but I am failing miserably.

Finally, a summary of other items, many I have previously blogged about:

Overall, we have all enjoyed living in Tokyo for the past year and are looking forward to more new and exciting adventures.  We plan to see other regions of Japan as well as a visit to other Asian countries.

Note:  These are my own personal observations only.  Other foreigners or locals living in Tokyo may have completely different experiences.  This is fine as we are all unique and have different backgrounds.

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4 thoughts on “Happy New Year – 1 Year Living in Japan

  1. Congratulations on one year in Tokyo! Have you decided to immigrate here like me? 😉

    Is the internet faster here than in other countries? (I’ve never used internet anywhere but here).

    At you “umbrella manners” link, your post is about umbrella covers. America and Canada don’t use them?

    Do you know that Japan has actual umbrella manners?
    When you pass someone on the street as you’re walking with your umbrella, you tilt your umbrella the other direction so you don’t risk hitting them with it.
    And if you take a wet umbrella onto the train without one of the plastic umbrella covers, you’re meant to dry it with your hand-towel (so that, if it brushes against someone on the train, they don’t get wet.)

  2. I haven’t looked at many blogs but yours is the best Tokyo blog and the closest to reality that can ever exist I believe 🙂

    One correction though – you can survive perfectly without any japanese knowledge there I felt. All you need is a little respect and a smile when you ask someone for help. right?

    May Tokyo be a perfect home to you for as long as you wish. Keep writing – its lovely to get back in touch with Tokyo through you and yes, if possible – write a lil more 😉

  3. @tokyo5, thank you for your comments.

    > Have you decided to immigrate here like me? 😉

    As you know, I am on a 2 year international work assignment with my company. We are keeping our options open for now and will decide (as a family) at the end of my work assignment.

    > Is the internet faster here than in other countries? (I’ve never used internet anywhere but here).

    Yes, it certainly is faster than Canada. Of course, the fastest speed you will get is limited to the slowest leg of your connection. For example, surfing sites hosted in Canada and the US is relatively slow, while those hosted in Japan are very fast.

    > Do you know that Japan has actual umbrella manners?

    No, Canada and the US don’t have these umbrella stands and most people bring their wet umbrellas indoor, uncovered. You won’t see people leaving their umbrellas outside like in Japan – for one thing, it will probably get stolen.

  4. @Prasoon, thank you for visiting my blog and for taking the time to leave a comment also – much appreciated.

    > I haven’t looked at many blogs but yours is the best Tokyo blog and the closest to reality that can ever exist I believe 🙂

    Wow, thank you.

    > One correction though – you can survive perfectly without any japanese knowledge there I felt. All you need is a little respect and a smile when you ask someone for help. right?

    Yes, you are right. It is a challenge, but not impossible of course. We have lived here for a year without really knowing the language and have made more than the best of it.

    Rather than only focusing on language, I think it is important to understand, experience and embrace Japan’s wonderful and unique culture. I would have the same advice for any country you visit or live in (hmm, I should have put in this in my blog post).

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