10 years in Japan
I never imagined I would live in Japan. I wasn’t interested in manga, anime, or anything typical of most foreigners coming to Japan. My father visited Japan when I was ten years old. This is the first memory related to Japan. I remember that he brought back kimonos and carps for our garden pond. When I entered high school, I could speak Japanese, but I thought Spanish was more convenient, so I decided to study Spanish. (I wish I chose Japanese!) As a freshman at the university, I joined an organization that runs a camp program for children at US military bases around the world, and was assigned to US military Yokosuka base.
I came to Japan at the age of 18 and stayed for 3 months. It was my first trip abroad. It was rainy season in Japan, so everything was green and lush when I arrived. It’s quite different from summer drought like California. I spent my free time exploring and discovering what Japan could offer. The Japanese people impressed me most. I felt welcomed and safe everywhere I went.
That first summer in Japan was full of travel, memories of new places, new food, and adventures to new people.
11 years in Japan
As a native speaker of Chinese Mandarin and Cantonese, I was able to feel an affinity with Japanese culture, such as the animation, TV dramas, J-pop music, and even traditional novels.
Although the names in Chinese and Japanese are different, both use Chinese characters, which are called “Kanji” in Japanese. Some Japanese original Kanji phrases are very artistic and romantic. It is difficult for us to find such a short word in other languages to describe the same situation or feeling, even Chinese.
For example, “Hanafubuki (花吹雪)” is a word for the scene of thousands of (cherry blossom) petals flying in the air like a snowstorm. Another example, “Semishigure (蝉時雨)”, means the cicada chirps like the sound of a rain shower, a seasonal word used in summer.
Japanese has inherited some ancient Chinese characters but they developed in their own way over time. In recent years, the Japanese language has introduced many new words from the western world.
Living in Japan, it is interesting to discover how the language has developed from China and Japan, and Eastern and Western countries around the world.
20 years in Japan
I came to Japan with my family when I was a young child. At first it was quite difficult to adapt to a new culture and language, thanks to the kindness of everyone I could overcome the difficulties and find friends and a new home in Japan.
I like to try different types of food, and Japan is a good place for that as there are a lot of specialties and regional favorites so you can often find special menu items or sweets etc. unique to the area.
My favorite one is “tai-yaki”, the Japanese fish shaped cake with sweet beans inside. You can find some variants, such as custard or chocolate instead of beans for example, but to me the best one is the beans “anko” in Japanese!
I like living in Japan, enjoying the seasons and the different atmosphere that comes with every season… which is totally different from Singapore where it’s hot all the time! Now, after living here for about 20 years, I really feel like it’s my home!
10 years in Japan
The first time I came to Japan, I can clearly remember my first impression getting off the plane: the heat and humidity of hot summer in the early morning.
I love foreign languages and music, and to me the Japanese language sounds just like a sweet melody. It was the first reason I wanted to learn the language, then came with it music (J-rock, Visual-kei) and an interest in Japanese dramas. Music and TV helped me a lot when learning to understand the culture and the language.
My first stay in Japan, was in Ibaraki prefecture, which I now consider as my “hometown” in Japan. It is considered the countryside here, but compared to my life as a French countryside girl, Ibaraki wasn’t really that remote and still isn’t, in my eyes.
Nowadays, I enjoy discovering different parts of Japan as it is a country with a lot of local culture (as well as food, architecture, etc…) everywhere you go.