Lee: The Japan Saga
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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.
My name is Lee Dunlap, and I’m from Blairsville, Pennsylvania, United States. I only recently moved to Japan, arriving here in Koriyama, Fukushima prefecture, in mid-January.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
My weak point is my inability to accept change, be it immediate or gradual. As a child, I was even referred to by my family as “Reluctant Robbie” (my first name is Robin). Additionally, I work slower than others, something quite frustrating for timed tests and important decisions. This blog is a chance for me to not only try my hand at writing – despite my blog’s current quality – but also an opportunity to organize the pent-up information subconsciously absorbed during my travels and interactions and record it for myself and anyone else who might be interested. Also, I enjoy plants and making up new words.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
It’s hard to say. I immediately regret everything I write, so it’s a wonder this blog even still exists.
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?
Japan – or at least the part I’m familiar with – is incredibly inviting and warm. Being that Koriyama does not exactly have many foreigners, incredulous strangers spontaneously starting a conversation and gawking passersby can be a bit bewildering/alarming. I’ve had to remind myself many times that they are simply interested, with no mal intent.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Japan? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
I would’ve brought more winter clothes, but I can’t honestly say why I didn’t think to bring them in the first place. Although it could’ve been jet lag and timing concerns at the time, knowing how the Shinkansen, or bullet train, worked and how to navigate Tokyo station on my arrival might’ve helped (I boarded and rode three wrong trains – an adventure!). Aside from that, getting to know your new home and company is part of the experience. Just be aware that Japanese apartment walls, at least here, are quite thin (think winter season), whereas company contracts shouldn’t be (think detailed, clear, and signed by both parties).
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
I used a Japanese toilet incorrectly, but I don’t care to really go into that.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Japan?
- Be open
- Be patient (a bit hypocritical on my part)
- Take every opportunity that comes your way.
- Also, and especially, do as the Japanese do and enjoy the beauty of this country’s nature to the fullest.
How is the expat community in Japan? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
I’m lucky to have a kind and outgoing group of co-workers. As a teacher, I have many fantastic students. All around, good times.
How would you summarize your expat life in Japan in a single, catchy sentence?