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I want you to imagine you've just opened your very own restaurant,
and you're thinking of ways to make it more visually appealing to passers-by.
Perhaps by having a nice display of flowers,
or a quirky neon sign.
Or even just a mascot sat out the front, with a warm friendly expression
--from your nightmares.
I was stumbling around Tokyo the other day in search of some much-needed coffee,
when I came across a noodle restaurant
with a questionable visual display out the front.
Now, I assume the owners had asked themselves that very question -
"What can we do to make our restaurant more visually appealing?"
"How can we improve its appearance?"
And presumably, the answer to that question had been,
"Let's put a dozen human centipede figurines out the front of the restaurant!!"
(*dramatic sfx*)
That's right, because nothing says "enjoy your noodles" quite like figurines
re-enacting an incredibly unpleasant scene out of a sh*tty horror movie.
Quite literally, a shi*tty horror movie.
But I see all the time in everyday life in Japan that
confuse me, but no longer surprise me,
because having lived here for four years now,
I'm starting to find it difficult to know if something would be considered to be strange or odd
if it was outside Japan.
For example, just yesterday,
I walked past an upmarket clothing boutique called 'Ropé Picnic'
Which, to me, sounds like some sort of suicide pact you'd undertake with a friend
which starts with a pleasant countryside picnic of sandwiches and biscuits,
before ending with a brutal hanging.
It's one of those phrases that you look at and go,
"well, there's technically nothing wrong with 'Ropé Picnic' -
it's not ungrammatical or misspelt -
it just sounds a bit awkward".
In the same way that Japan's most popular energy sports drink is called 'Pocari Sweat',
downing a bottle of fluid with the word 'sweat' on the side
probably wouldn't go down too well in most countries.
But in Japan, it doesn't seem to be a problem.
Then there's this box of chocolate stick biscuits I bought the other day, called
'Sukky'.
It is called 'Pocky' normally,
but this is the 'romantic' gift version of Pocky
sold around Valentine's Day.
If you don't already know, Valentine's Day in Japan, on February 14th,
is a day when girls give guys presents,
and then a month later on March 14th, guys give gifts to girls
on a day known as 'White Day'
- a name which probably wouldn't go down too well in the West.
But it says here beneath the word 'Sukky' in big gold letters,
"anata ga suki desu", which means "I like you",
and there can be no doubt there's no faster way to a guy's affections
than by giving them some... some 'Sukky'.
When you first come to Japan though,
it's really easy to spot things that are maybe a bit strange or unusual.
After all, the early success of this channel
was built off of me just finding unusual things in everyday life
and then talking about them, whilst slumped in a chair with a greasy face.
But today I want to look at some ways living in Japan has changed me over the last four years,
and some of the cultural aspects that might have rubbed off on my personality.
And saying as this video is technically the 100th video on this channel,
it seems like the perfect milestone at which to do that,
so, let's dive into point number two.
Baahh.
I ate them all.
Typical, eh?
Now I won't be able to take them on the Ropé Picnic.
Since living in Japan, there's no doubt I've become more mindful in everyday life.
In Japanese culture, there are many fixed expressions relating to showing appreciation and gratitude,
thanks to its roots in Buddhism.
And it's impossible for it to not be engrained in you in some way after just a few months of being here.
For example, the most popular of these expressions that you'll here in everyday life is
'otsukare', or 'otsukaresama deshita'
which have no direct translation into the English language, but none the less mean
'Thank you for your hard work' or 'You must be tired'.
When I was working as an English teacher at school I would probably hear it a hundred times a day
just from colleagues in the staff room or people passing me in the corridor.
And it's a nice feeling when everyone's saying it to each other at the end of a long day
because there's a sense that everybody has played their part -
everyone's played their role in society in some way.
Another example, of course, is when it comes to eating -
there's two key ritualised expressions that you use every time.
Just before you start eating your meal, you put your hand together and say:
'itadakimasu' to show thanks for receiving the food,
and then after eating the food you'd say
'gochisousama deshita', which means 'It was a feast'.
And nice, short, simple expressions like these help you to appreciate the sacrifices
that have been made to get the food onto the plate in front of you.
And it really does make you a lot more mindful over a period of months and years.
Compare this to the UK, where by the time most people in Japan
have put their hands together and said 'itadakimasu',
the plate of food in the UK has already long gone.
And instead of hearing a phrase like 'gochisousama deshita',
in the UK you're more likely to hear "Oi! Where's the TV remote?"
"I want to watch Top Gear!"
"Oh wait. No I don't."
There's also a great deal of appreciation shown to physical inanimate objects as well.
For example, business cards in most countries are merely just a bit of paper with some ink on,
but in Japan, being handed a business card is like being handed the Cup of Christ,
as business cards are seen as a physical extension of the person themselves.
So when you're being handed a business card, you hold it meticulously, you study it for a few moments,
and you never put it away until the person is out of sight and the meeting is over.
But this level of care people show to physical objects and possessions
is also the reason why going to second-hand goods shops in Japan is so much fun.
You can easily get hold of second-hand items like a SNES that's almost three decades old,
but still looks brand new.
If I contrast that again to nine years ago when my Xbox 360 broke,
after showing the red ring of death,
I still quite clearly remember running it over three times in my Vaxhall Vectra.
Such was my frustration.
Bastard had the last laugh though -
it punctured my tire and cost me another £70!
Since then I've never bought another Xbox.
I also find I'm more considerate towards others as well, since moving here.
Japan has a collectivist culture where the emphasis is on the group rather than the individual,
and one way this manifests itself is the awareness you get of the people around you at all times.
I'm a lot more thoughtful now of how my behaviour affects the people around me,
like when I'm being noisy, for example, in public.
And it's a well known fact that talking on trains in Japan is looked down upon, and often forbidden.
I didn't truly appreciate how good this rule is until I went back to the UK over Christmas,
and I was on a train going to London, and somebody sat in the chair behind me,
and for forty minutes they were regaling their
f*cking life story
incredibly loudly down the phone.
At one point I almost turned around and told her what happened to my Xbox,
but then I remembered it's normal to be loud and annoying in the UK,
often to the detriment of the people around you.
So in summary, living here has generally made me more mindful and appreciative in everyday life
and more considerate towards other people.
And those are some of the best things that have come from living in Japan.
Well, that and the ability to easily acquire a games console from the 90s
that still looks like it was built yesterday.
That, is just really cool. You know.
Heh heh.
But God forbid, if it should break.
(*dramatic sfx*)
In a few moments, my hair will magically get longer
- that's not because I'm a wizard, or anything (probably) -
but because I've filmed the next few scenes earlier this morning,
so, I'm not sure which I prefer,
pre-haircut, post-haircut - dunno, what do you think?
Anyway, without further ado, let's go back in time to this morning.
People often ask if living in Japan has affected the way I communicate or my language, the way I speak,
and it definitely has changed.
Because I've been dealing with students and colleagues and locals all day, every day
who weren't that great at English
I had to change my accent and stop using lots of colloquial British expressions.
But it has really affected the way I use idioms. For example, if I say to someone:
"Oh I'll eat that squid..."
"when pigs fly!"
Or, "the ball is in your court, Takeshi,"
then the odds are the listener won't know what the hell I'm talking about.
And that's particularly the case for sarcasm.
If a colleague said to me, "Oh, Chris-san, do you want to part in the annual North Japan marathon?"
and I said, "Oh, you know what Mr Saito,"
"I'd rather slam my fingers in the door,"
then my sanity would be brought into question - he'd wonder what the hell I'm talking about.
Do I really want to slam my fingers in the door? Am I mental?
Is it a British custom?
So many difficult questions would be raised that it's just easier for me to go,
"Oh no, I'm ehh, not going to do the marathon."
British humour in particular which relies heavily on irony or subtlety
is going to cause a great deal of uncertainty,
and your remarks will probably come off potentially as offensive,
so it's best avoided.
One spectacular example of where my humour backfired
was in a class that I was running with the Japanese teacher of English,
and the subject of the class was on future careers,
and we're trying to get the students to talk about what they wanted to become when they became an adult.
And as an example, the teacher asked me, in front of the class:
"Chris-sensei, what did you want to become when you were a child?"
And I said: "Well, when I was a child, I wanted to be a pirate."
Which I did.
I mean, who wouldn't want to live a life of swashbuckling adventure?
But obviously there was a bit of light-hearted humour thrown in there as well,
but, she turned to me in front of the class in shock and surprise, and said,
"But Chris-sensei, why would you want to be a pirate?"
"Why would you want to kill and rape people?"
(*sudden dramatic sfx*)
"Ehhh..."
"Ohh, heh heh..."
"Because..."
And I just stand there awkwardly in front of thirty-five 16 year-olds
and justify why I wanted to be a pirate,
and my interpretation of what I thought a pirate was -
an image that surprisingly didn't involve rape or mass murder
Two years ago during Christmas, I went back to the UK for a holiday
and on the holiday I took my good friend Natsuki with me
to show him around London for the first time.
And while we were passing through a train station in London,
Natsuki's train ticket got stuck in the machine - it wouldn't work.
The gate wouldn't open.
Which was strange because it was exactly the same as mine.
So we went and asked one of the train station staff what was wrong with the ticket,
and they put it straight into another machine, and the doors opened without any problems.
And so we asked the staff: "What was wrong with the ticket? Why didn't it work?"
And the guy looked at me, shrugged his shoulders, and just said,
"Well, it's England innit mate."
And I thought,
"Yeah, that's fair enough."
"That's a legitimate excuse."
And Natsuki was incredibly confused because that's something that doesn't really happen in Japan.
It wouldn't cut it as an excuse.
In the UK, things just don't work sometimes, and we can let it go.
When you use a vending machine in Japan, you're doing it to buy a snack or a drink,
whereas in the UK, using a vending machine is like going f*cking gambling -
you never quite know if you're going to win or not.
And certainly after a few years of having everything just work, effortlessly, without a problem,
you come to expect it to always be the case.
Particularly when it comes to food, because you find wherever you go to eat food in Japan,
it's always going to be pretty good.
Take ready meals, or microwave food from the convenience store:
As a student in the UK, I used to eat a ridiculous amount of microwave food
because, although it looked like diabetes and tasted like disappointment,
I had no choice - it was cheap, it was quick to prepare,
and above all, I was f*cking lazy.
But ready meals in Japan are not only often cheaper than in the UK,
but also frighteningly edible.
For ¥480 you can get something that looks and tastes like a real meal.
I mean, it's even nicely presented!
What is this microwave witchcraft?!
There is a reason behind all of this though,
and ehh, yes - hi. It's me from the future again. Good to see you.
Japan is classed as a 'high uncertainty avoidance culture',
which means situations that present uncertainty cause a great deal of stress and anxiety,
at least a lot more than they would to a culture on the opposite end of the spectrum.
But after living here I find I carry a lot more assumptions -
I expect things to work all the time, I expect food to always be really good quality,
and I expect there to be less spontaneity in general daily life events as well.
Which isn't necessarily a good thing,
as I do find I have far less random fun encounters in Japan than I do back home.
People are far less likely to talk to you if you're just sitting there, idly, in a coffee shop.
But those are some of the ways living in Japan has changed me though.
There are lots more ways, of course, but those are the main ones.
Has living in Japan made me a nicer person?
No. Probably not.
Has living in Japan made me a better person?
Uhh, no. Probably, not... again.
But has living in Japan been one of the best decisions that I've ever made?
Yes, absolutely. After all this time,
there's not been a single day that I've regretted that decision.
And I do stuff that I regret all the time.
In the same way I've never regretted doing YouTube.
Given that we're 100 videos in, I would just like to take the time to say,
thank you, to all of you who have followed this channel over the years, though.
I really don't say thank you enough.
Whether you're someone who tunes into every video, or leaves a nice comment or likes the video,
or whether you're one of the awesome people who supports this channel through Patreon,
and keeps it alive, and keeps it going -
I'm very grateful to all of you, I really am.
Just sometimes it's difficult to get that across,
given the personality I choose to present these videos.
I can't believe there's 100 videos. And it's strange to think,
you could pretty much chart my entire existence in Japan over that 4-year period by watching them.
That said, we've still barely scratched the surface.
We've still got so much to see, do, and learn.
But for now, guys, a huge thanks for watching the video, as always.
I'm off now to celebrate my new haircut by watching Muppets Treasure Island
and enjoying some Sukky.
Seriously though, Sukky?
Who... who thinks this sh*t up?
Ohh, god.