T Nation

Living in Japan

So, I’m doing the JET program starting this August: I’ll be living in the city of Iwaki in Fukushima prefecture for about a year.

Now, while I’ve taken four years of Japanese in school, I’ve never lived in Japan before, so I don’t have the vocabulary for things like banking and bills … so that’s a little intimidating.

More importantly, I really want to keep training hard and eating right in Japan. I’ve already started scoping out gyms online, and I plan to bring some “toys” with me as a back up plan (gymnastics rings, stuff to make sand bags, etc.)

I’m also wondering what I’m going to do about food: I eat a lot … and I eat a lot of meat and vegetables, which is definitely going to be expensive.

Anyway, I know there are some guys on this forum who live in, or have lived in Japan. Any advice about Japan in general, or training and eating in Japan? Insightful and/or funny anecdotes are also welcome.

Thanks.

Well as far as eating goes there is a good cookbook out. 101 ways to wok your dog…

I hear the poodle there tastes like chicken…

Hey, smart move to post here about your plans. I?m sure there are a lot of guys like me out in the internets. Hopefully, someone who is already in Fukushima ken will post and become a local friend there before you even fly out there.

Lived in Japan for 12 years. It is a small country. Everything is small. The people are small. They eat small portions and they think small, naturally, out of necessity, as there is no SPACE and there are too many people. I smashed my head everywhere, entering and exiting homes and trains. It sucked for my Dad and I. We became coneheads from all the damn scar tissue. I fucking hated the smallness and constrictive nature of things, which is why I am in the US now where things are bigger, more open minded (allegedly), more bashful, direct and adult women here generally don?t look and act prepubescent. Maybe it is your thing, but I never liked burikkos.

Japan is going to be expensive, but to continue your bodybuilding progress is not impossible.

For lodging, the JET programs traditionally placeed assistant English teachers like you in a homestay program. Your host family will feed you and help you with just about everything. The family will feed what they usually eat, but anything beyond that, you should pay for and prepare yourself, even if they offer to and bend over backwards to accomodate your extra-human needs. You are socially doomed if you fall in the trap of their cultural ?kindness? and end up expecting things that they do for you. You being a gaijin, gotta be especially aware of ?hon ne to tate mae.? This phrase alone explains in entirety the nation of Japan from history, culture to foreign policy. Haha.

Food in large bulk can be purchased by joining the local grocery coop that will deliver food to your home address.

There are some hardcore gyms in Japan. A city like Iwaki will offer you a lot of choices. When you see a relatively big guy, chat him up. Also, joining a martial arts group could help you build quick connections, intelligence about hardcore/pansy gyms, and more importantly friends. It is smart you are taking toys with. Supplements are expensive in Japan, so take some with you or have it shipped from here. I wouldn?t buy any there, unless things have changed for the better since I?ve been there last: mid 90s. If you like, it would a quick flight to Thailand for you to get gear and pig out on good cheap food.

Overall, there will be limitations compared to what you are used to and take for granted, but adaptation and having a sense of humor over things is the trait of a world traveler, which you will naturally develop along the way.

I just landed in Osaka last night. I will be here for two weeks. I love it here. The food is, in general, is of a higher quality than the food in the USA. I don’t know why this is but there are lots of little things like the milk, butter and eggs which are richer tasting.

The meat is damn good, Kobe-beef is generally regarded as the best in the world. The orange juice sucks but it’s a small price to pay for all of the other good stuff.

As far as training, I dunno, I’m sure you can do it but I am vacationing and staying with my in-laws so this is a two week break from training.

Anyway, the chicks are hot and the sex is easy and abundant. The food isn’t overpriced and it’s great. Overall, I envy you man!

[quote]Irish Muscle wrote:
eating alot of their traditional dishes will make you small. they use soy in their food and thats a bad thing.

also the sex is easy, does that mean the chicks are easy or you are bangin prostitutes?

please be more specific as i am bored and too nosy for my own good.
[/quote]

Unless you are a total asshole, which you might be for all I know, a guy like you (i.e. not morbidly obese or hideously deformed) wouldn’t have to result to prostitutes to get laid regularly here.

But like the other guy said, everything here is expensive, it’s not like southeast Asia.

[quote]beebuddy wrote:
I just landed in Osaka last night. I will be here for two weeks.

Anyway, the chicks are hot and the sex is easy and abundant. The food isn’t overpriced and it’s great. Overall, I envy you man![/quote]

how do you know all this if you arrived last night?

[quote]AdamC wrote:
how do you know all this if you arrived last night?
[/quote]

Well AdamC, I know all of this the same way that I know that many toilets here shoot a stream of warm water straight at your asshole before blow-drying it… It’s not my first trip.

It’s mostly considered common knowledge though.

I think it makes a difference where you live in Japan. Tokyo or Osaka you can pretty much get your hands on anything you want and there are plenty of places to train. Out in the country side is very different, folks ar older and there is much less a selection of goods. Rent should be much cheaper though.

One thing that doesn’t change much wherever you go is the mentality. As a poster mentioned tatemae and hon-e, which is basically what one says to the outside world and what one really thinks. Foreigners aren’t really expected to know/do this. Also working in Japan with Japanese people can be tough.

Even though this is a generalization explaining a mistake no matter how legitimate your explanation is is seen as making an excuse. If something went wrong an apology is expected followed by the proper degree of hansei(regret), even if you think you really didn’t have much to do with what went wrong. Afterwards an explanation can be given. This just seems important to Japanese people. They won’t react with indignation if you don’t do the above, they won’t look angry. Though they are. I learned these things the hard way. I was raised in the states and worked there first before working in Japan so I really felt the difference.

I don’t look Japanese since I am a half-breed which helps alot since for some reason by my looks alone they don’t expect me to follow the “rules” all the time. Even though I am a Japanese citizen with a Japanese name.
It took me a few years to get used to things and to stop comparing Japan to the states, it really isn’t helpful and will just stress you out.

I see guys who refuse to adapt, refuse to accept Japan for how it is cursing at receptionists for minutes on end because they are following “Japanese” protocol. You don’t want to be that guy.

otoko is right about taking responsibility and apologizing.

if there is going to be one word you can pronouce perfectly, make it suimasen and figuratively fall on it, even if it is not your sword to fall on. why? think about the traditional and cultural roots of harakiri. strange, but it explains a lot.

[quote]otoko wrote:

Even though this is a generalization explaining a mistake no matter how legitimate your explanation is is seen as making an excuse. If something went wrong an apology is expected followed by the proper degree of hansei(regret), even if you think you really didn’t have much to do with what went wrong. Afterwards an explanation can be given. This just seems important to Japanese people. They won’t react with indignation if you don’t do the above, they won’t look angry. Though they are. I learned these things the hard way. I was raised in the states and worked there first before working in Japan so I really felt the difference.
[/quote]

Wow, this little gem really explains a lot. Thanks for taking the time to post it.

I’ve always been amazed at how important apologies seem to be among the Japanese and Chinese. It’s also notable how lightly we take them in the west. I see Americans as suffering much less indignation when put into a position that requires an apology.

[quote]beebuddy wrote:
otoko wrote:

Even though this is a generalization explaining a mistake no matter how legitimate your explanation is is seen as making an excuse. If something went wrong an apology is expected followed by the proper degree of hansei(regret), even if you think you really didn’t have much to do with what went wrong. Afterwards an explanation can be given. This just seems important to Japanese people. They won’t react with indignation if you don’t do the above, they won’t look angry. Though they are. I learned these things the hard way. I was raised in the states and worked there first before working in Japan so I really felt the difference.

Wow, this little gem really explains a lot. Thanks for taking the time to post it.

I’ve always been amazed at how important apologies seem to be among the Japanese and Chinese. It’s also notable how lightly we take them in the west. I see Americans as suffering much less indignation when put into a position that requires an apology. [/quote]

Yeah, the good thing is that the Japanese are generally very understanding of foreigners and don’t take much offence. The down side is that they are also too polite to point out what you did wrong. Fascinating place though. I worked in a law firm in Tokyo for 3 months and had a blast.

[quote]gotaknife wrote:

Yeah, the good thing is that the Japanese are generally very understanding of foreigners and don’t take much offence. The down side is that they are also too polite to point out what you did wrong. Fascinating place though. I worked in a law firm in Tokyo for 3 months and had a blast.[/quote]

Yes this is very true.
They won’t point it out to you directly. It might go through several layers of people then it will get to you in a round about way. This lessens the impact and saves some face(yours).

While it can be tough to just apologize and express regret when you feel you have a legitimate explanation, the upside is that when/if you do mess up huge an apology would suffice. Depending on the situation this can be a good thing.

[quote]beebuddy wrote:

Wow, this little gem really explains a lot. Thanks for taking the time to post it.

I’ve always been amazed at how important apologies seem to be among the Japanese and Chinese. It’s also notable how lightly we take them in the west. I see Americans as suffering much less indignation when put into a position that requires an apology. [/quote]

No problem.
Actually this situation was played out on the national stage. A German elevator manufacturer, Schindler, had one of its elevators malfunction resulting in the death of a teenager. The facts of the case were that Schindler was not responsible for the maintainence.

Contract stipulated that a third party take care of maintainence after x amount of years after direct maintenance form Schindler.
Schindler did not apologize immediately. They had reasons for this. One was that they had to communicate to their head office. The second was that in the cae of a suit was brought upon them an apology could be used against them. That in essence they would be admitting to that they were liable.

Now I do think Schindler did have some good points and their thought process was logical. It didn’t matter to the Japanese population or media which just pounced on them for not apologizing immediately. Apologizing immediately is seen as being truly regretful. being liable and taking responsibilty are seen as two different things.

Schindler is “responsible”, it is their name and they manufactured the elevator. They aren’t liable because it was a third party’s fault. Lawyers and judges commented that an apology would not be taken to be an admission of liability in court.

Anyway Schindler’s image is tarnished in Japan because of this incident.

Yes I heard about this. The Germans are hyper-logical people IMO and the Japanese language itself is sort of lacking in this quality. If the incident had taken place in the USA or Europe I believe it would have looked like an admission of liability to refer to the incident as anything more than “regrettable.”

Interesting stuff. Again, thanks for posting, I plan on moving to Kobe in the next three years and this is has been an informative and useful read.

Thanks to everybody who’s posted so far.

This has been pretty interesting and helpful.

Anybody else out there with something to say?

Again, I really appreciate this… Thanks.

[quote]matt_OD wrote:
Thanks to everybody who’s posted so far.

This has been pretty interesting and helpful.

Anybody else out there with something to say?

Again, I really appreciate this… Thanks.[/quote]

Yup.

I’m of two minds about Japan itself. I go through periods of being absolutely enthralled with the country, the beauty, the relative peace, the kindness of its people, the celebrity status I am afforded; other days I am appalled and disgusted at the ugliness, noise, the arrogance and ignorance of the people, and the subvert and occasionally overt racism which I encounter.

I think it will really depend upon your expectations and mindstate whether you love it or hate it, and that is usually the way it goes. Japan is so far removed from the West, still, that there are usually very few ‘between’ opinions. Unless you count mine, which would could be considered bipolar, I guess.

If you intend to speak the language, this is one of the few countries I have ever visited where you will have to be basically perfect before people will consider communicating with you in Japanese (or, if they do, it will be extremely condescending, though they don’t realize it comes off this way).

No matter how bad their English, and I have have encountered some bad, bad, bad English communication that should have just taken place in Japanese. I managed, after, I would say, 3 1/2 years, to overcome this extremely annoying obstacle, and now my Japanese is at a level, finally, where I can just overpower most people when talking to them so that they won’t feel comfortable replying in English.

This sounds rude, but if you won’t do it it’ll get done to you, and it is incredibly hard to ‘practice’ your Japanese if you don’t adopt this hardass attitude.

Though my Japanese speaking, reading and writing is excellent now (5 years here and counting), I still encounter situations all the time where I will make a full statement to someone in perfect Japanese, and they will, smiling, turn to my wife and respond as if I am not even there.

This, probably more than any other thing, used to drive me absolutely batshit. I would check and make sure I hadn’t said anything wrong, my pronunciation was great. No, many Japanese just can’t imagine that a gaijin is capable of speaking ‘their’ language.

Finding a gym outside of a big city is a bitch, btw, and so is finding a good variety of ‘Western style’ bodybuilding food, but I’ll save it for another post, this is gettin long

[quote]shawninjapan wrote:
matt_OD wrote:
Thanks to everybody who’s posted so far.

This has been pretty interesting and helpful.

Anybody else out there with something to say?

Again, I really appreciate this… Thanks.

Yup.

I’m of two minds about Japan itself. I go through periods of being absolutely enthralled with the country, the beauty, the relative peace, the kindness of its people, the celebrity status I am afforded; other days I am appalled and disgusted at the ugliness, noise, the arrogance and ignorance of the people, and the subvert and occasionally overt racism which I encounter.

I think it will really depend upon your expectations and mindstate whether you love it or hate it, and that is usually the way it goes. Japan is so far removed from the West, still, that there are usually very few ‘between’ opinions. Unless you count mine, which would could be considered bipolar, I guess.

If you intend to speak the language, this is one of the few countries I have ever visited where you will have to be basically perfect before people will consider communicating with you in Japanese (or, if they do, it will be extremely condescending, though they don’t realize it comes off this way).

No matter how bad their English, and I have have encountered some bad, bad, bad English communication that should have just taken place in Japanese. I managed, after, I would say, 3 1/2 years, to overcome this extremely annoying obstacle, and now my Japanese is at a level, finally, where I can just overpower most people when talking to them so that they won’t feel comfortable replying in English.

This sounds rude, but if you won’t do it it’ll get done to you, and it is incredibly hard to ‘practice’ your Japanese if you don’t adopt this hardass attitude.

Though my Japanese speaking, reading and writing is excellent now (5 years here and counting), I still encounter situations all the time where I will make a full statement to someone in perfect Japanese, and they will, smiling, turn to my wife and respond as if I am not even there.

This, probably more than any other thing, used to drive me absolutely batshit. I would check and make sure I hadn’t said anything wrong, my pronunciation was great. No, many Japanese just can’t imagine that a gaijin is capable of speaking ‘their’ language.

Finding a gym outside of a big city is a bitch, btw, and so is finding a good variety of ‘Western style’ bodybuilding food, but I’ll save it for another post, this is gettin long

[/quote]

Do you own a school out there? And out of curiosity are you Australian?

[quote]AdamC wrote:

Do you own a school out there? And out of curiosity are you Australian?

[/quote]

I do own a school. I’m a Texas good ole boy, though, not Australian. Why do you ask?

That’s pretty cool. I have several aunts uncles and cousins in the Osaka area. My daughter lives with her mom somewhere near Nagasaki. I’ve never been there personally but my grandmother, has been talking of me flying back with her for a visit.

[quote]unforgiven2 wrote:
That’s pretty cool. I have several aunts uncles and cousins in the Osaka area. My daughter lives with her mom somewhere near Nagasaki. I’ve never been there personally but my grandmother, has been talking of me flying back with her for a visit. [/quote]

It’s differnet! But fun too.