3 stages of Japan-ism

If you are in a foreign country, you may discover three stages of adaption.

Well, it’s been a long time since I have keyed in some words into this text box to let the world know how I fare.
A couple of weeks ago, I heard of three basic stages through which you move after arriving in Japan – stages which are probably not limited to visitors of Japan:

  1. honeymoon
  2. criticism
  3. integration

Depending on the length of your stay, you will either get to know all but presumably most visitors end up in stage 1.

First stage – honeymoon.
Everything is nice, cozy, cool, exciting and feels like La-La-Land. You take a step out of your hotel and the flow picks you up until the waves drop you at your final destination. What a hustle and bustle. This impression is intensified if anything was sorted out, planned and paid somebody by somebody else for you. Honeymooners will finally leave Japan and spread an illusion among their family and acquaintances.
But somehow and if you still hang on to your dream, you’ll manage to look behind the curtain, especially if you work in a Japanese or at least naturalized foreign company. Then you enter …

Second Stage – the critical phase.
It will happen to you if you need to organize anything on your own and it starts with simple things like hiring a flat.
“No flats for foreigners? Am I that dirty? …. Why need I to pay anything in advance and why would you like to add your (incredibly high) transfer fees?”
You will ask yourself whether you’ve posed an unanswerable question or your peer wants to avoid a complex answer.
You start hating that people swerve into your way although there is usually a crowd walking behind them.
Are the Japanese colleagues sincerely interested and try to build a relationship? You miss any concise and clear statement which clearly tells you where you are and where you ought to go. And is the soft response you got just a soft response or a hidden critique?
Frustrated by the barriers of speaking and learning the language, one sits under this glass dome of words that drip off so nicely and cannot be bridged by the lingua franca.
You get sick of getting wrenched by rules and laws which actually nobody really enforces for the sake of peace. And why the heck is anything so tremendously pricey such as 2 Euros for 100 grams of Haribo gummybears?
Foreign guests leaving Japan in this stage do not have so much good to tell, i.e. the opposite stories of what is usually heard by honeymooners.
And they should leave since they risk to become “meiwaku”, a human being troubling others and disturbing the harmonious and peaceful relations.
But after this stage and for a very few after an unpredictable long time starts the …

Third Stage – the integration.
Usually, the first generation of immigrants do not have any problems to settle in and adapt quite well to their environment despite their sometimes zealous attitude which puts a wrinkle into a native’s face. The trouble comes not with but for their descendants  as it’s up to them to make a meaning of and in their surrounding and establish new values. The second generation, the “I can have more than one identity” generation, strives hard until the third generation dares to define a new identity idea and and self-esteem of a cross-cultural being.

That is a general statement not specifically aimed in Japan since I belong to the second generation of “immigrants” to Germany.

The odd thing about Japan and its migrants is that most of them never settle in. They can speak the language and adopt to the customs but this gradual process won’t even earn them a citizenship. Just look at the many Koreans living here for decades, denied from suffrage and so on.

In reflection of my text here, I’d say that I’ve skipped stage 1 or that it’s at least covered by a much more prominent stage 2.
But between these two opposites of stage 1 and 2 lies a philosophical challenge.

First, one should remind oneself to keep a cultural distance in order to save oneself from becoming annoyed by too much adoption. Second, having mixed feelings about Japan is absolutely okay as long as one can still learn about oneself which is one of the rare and most valuable experiences in life besides all the positive Japanese traits.

Any host likes to see the back of its guests after some time as well as any guest needs its familiar surrounding. And as this world has become an open place no one should worry about the two impacts of Uchi-Soto (“We and them”) or how hard it is to overcome the (sometimes even genetic) dependency.


2 Responses to “3 stages of Japan-ism”

  1. 1 Michael July 13, 2010 at 6:06 am


    Am afraid that you’re still in phase 1 (“exhilarated” means different things for different people… 😉 ). You’ll get _really_ frustrated a lot later…. 🙂

    (This is _not_ a Japan-specific opinion of mine, rather personal experience.)

    • 2 t4roam July 14, 2010 at 8:30 pm

      Hi Michael,
      so feel free to add your comments and insights into stage 1 and 2.
      Looking forward to your reply, t4roam.

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