Jasmine: Zooming Japan
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Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Japan, etc.
Hi, I’m Jasmine. Originally I’m from Germany, but in February 2008 I moved to Japan. I’ve always been interested in Japan ever since I started karate in the 80s. Moving to Japan was just a question of time, really. Anybody who’s interested can read the full story here.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I’ve been writing about my daily life in a journal long before I moved to Japan. However, after visiting all 47 Japanese prefectures and over 100 Japanese castles, there was just too much material for my personal journal. So, I decided to start Zooming Japan that went online in November 2011, almost 4 years after I had come to Japan. At that point, I had explored some great sightseeing spots off the beaten tracks that almost nobody seemed to know about. Or have you ever heard of Rabbit Island?
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
About Daily Life in Japan As a Foreigner:
- The Shocking Truth About Dating in Japan as a Foreigner
- No Wonder Men Are Only After Japanese Women
- Sad And Surprising Facts About Foreigners Born in Japan
- The Secret Revealed: How To Be Treated Like A Superstar in Japan.
About Living and Traveling in Japan:
- When’s The Best Time To Travel To Japan?
- Is It Safe To Travel To Japan?
- How Safe Is Your Apartment From Cockroaches in Japan?
Tell us about the ways your new life in Japan differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
As far as I can remember, I didn’t have a “culture shock”. I knew a lot about Japan already and I’d also been to Japan as a tourist before. So, there certainly was no shock! There are many tiny things that are different from my home country. I write about those in my blog series “A German Alien in Japan”. If you’re open-minded, it’s not so difficult to adapt. However, one thing that I still struggle with is the bad insulation of Japanese houses, so in winter it’s freezing cold and in summer super hot inside. And I do have issues with Japanese doctors and hospitals sometimes. The real problems start once you’ve been here for a few years. Even if YOU call Japan your home, you’ll always be an outsider. If you’re not Asian, you’ll always stick out, attract attention and there’s a lot of staring involved. For me, that’s still the hardest part.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Japan? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
In my opinion, it’s impossible to prepare yourself 100%. But I already went to Japan as a tourist before, I had studied the language to some degree, knew about the cultural differences and originally I only wanted to stay for one year anyways. I don’t even know how it turned into 6 years and counting!
I think I was well prepared and I don’t regret any of my decisions. I just wish it was possible to prepare your body for the Japanese germs! Especially if you work as a teacher with little children, expect to get sick many, many times at first.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
There are many, so it’s hard to pick one. This one wasn’t funny for me when it happened, but it makes a hilarious story now: Japan has a lot of freaky insects and other pests but only in Okinawa can you find the deadly Habu snake. As Okinawa consists of hundreds of small islands, it’s hard to tell where you could run into it. Not all the islands have that snake. When I visited Yonaguni Island, I went all alone to the highest spot because I wanted a nice view over the island. While I was all alone up there, I suddenly saw a snake next to me, moving slowly in the grass. I know you should stand still, but I ran for my life. Later, locals told me that all I need to do is to check the snake’s head carefully in order to confirm if it’s the deadly Habu. Do you really think, I would stand still and get close just to check if the snake could kill me???!!! The locals laughed and told me that there are no Habu snakes on Yonaguni Island.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Japan?
- Come for a short visit first: I’ve seen so many people who came to Japan because they had a certain image of it in their mind and then were disappointed with the reality. They couldn’t enjoy their life in Japan and left eventually.
- Learn the language: If you plan to live in Japan, you need to learn the language! Or do you want to spend the rest of your life depending on other people? I’ve met foreigners who couldn’t even tell me how they got their credit card, because their Japanese girlfriend did it all for them.
- Be open-minded, adapt, but don’t lose yourself: There are a lot of people here who play the “dumb foreigner card” to break rules and get away with it. DON’T DO IT! You don’t have to agree with everything as you should stay true to yourself. But always be polite and respect Japanese culture.
How is the expat community in Japan? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
Japan is a very homogenous country with only 1% foreigners living here. I’ve always lived in the Japanese countryside with almost no other foreigners around. I know that there are a lot of foreigners in Osaka or Tokyo, for example. I suppose it’s easier to connect to like-minded people in bigger cities.
How would you summarize your expat life in Japan in a single, catchy sentence?
The cutest, weirdest and most photo-worthy country in the world that aroused my travel fever.