What I Like About Japan

by Kevin R Burns
(Kanagawa, Japan)

What I Like About Japan

It was a conversation with my good friend Mike that got me writing this article:

"When are you going back to Canada?"--Mike asked suddenly on the way to Starbucks in Tokyo.

"Uh? Probably never. I doubt I could do as well there as I'm doing here now,
and I really don't want to start all over again."

"Okay. Do you like living here?"

"Yes overall, but like many foreigners I have a love-hate relationship with Japan.
Don't you?"

"No I don't."


"No. So you like living here overall, then why is your magazine so negative?"

"Well, I guess when I write, it's usually something in the news that pisses me off, and gets me going. I have to write about it. Like this recent Mad Cow thing. I was so angry and upset with how the Japanese authorities were handling it."

"But aren't there good things going on in Japan too?"


"But you don't write about them. You call your magazine Japan Living, if you are only going to write about the negativethings maybe you should change the name to 'What's Wrong With Japan,' or start writing
some positive articles about this country."

"Mmmmh, I guess you're right."

There are so many things I like about this country. There is a lot of beauty here: the mountains,
the cherry and plum blossoms, the women. The green of the rice fields in the late summer.
A Yumi Matsutoya song anytime. The temples. Sumo. Okonomiyaki!

I find the women gorgeous--long black hair shining in the sun. Wow! What a sight.
Yuki Uchida and her big brown eyes. They are beautiful in a very clean, toothpaste commercial kind of way.
Their hair is clean and shiny. They smell nice if they smell at all. There is a feminity to them that is enticing.

The eyes; they come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some of the women almost look like caucasian brunettes with big brown eyes, and others have the almond eyes.
Some have very thin eyes and I think these are beautiful too, although the Japanese don't for some reason. The eye colour seems to range from brown to almost black.

I even like the Japanese "blondes." I used to think they looked silly but some of them do indeed look like real blondes--they tend to have larger eyes, and because of this can pass for being caucasian.

Most of the women used to be very slim, and many still are, but now there are many young women who are very curvaceous. Japanese as a group, have become some of
the most beautiful people in the world.

Japan has given me a lot: my wife, my career teaching English. Boy is life unfair. If I had been born in
a poor African country my life would have been very different.

Really why do any of the foreigners ever complain while here? We really do have it good. We can make $30/hour for speaking and teaching our native tongue. And a certain amount of respect goes with the position too. We are called, "Sensei."

My Japanese wife has given me three great kids. They are so beautiful and bilingual. They teach
me something almost everyday, as does my wife. Marrying someone from a different ethnic and racial background helps to open one's eyes to many things. Some day the majority of marriages will be interracial and interethnic I predict.

Japanese people have reminded me of the importance of being polite (except when they drive and tailgate me), and that the act of giving good service is very important, and should be appreciated.

Few Japanese ever show that they do not enjoy their job.
It is a very rare thing. I admire that. When I go to the supermarket, I don't want to know if the clerk is having

a good or bad day, or if she or he enjoys the job, I want them to smile politely and take my change.

It is in stark contrast to the service you get in North America sometimes. I immediately know if they like their job or not, and if they have had a fight with their better half that day, but I don't want to know quite frankly.

I admire the cleanliness of the people. They are perhaps the cleanest group of people on the globe. They bathe regularly, and they groom. They look smart in their suits or their uniforms. They are well dressed. I like the fact that enjoying an onsen is a Japanese tradition. I like it that everyone takes off their shoes in the house and in many places.

It really does keep things cleaner and allows the floors and carpets to last longer.

Although shy, if you can give them an excuse to talk to you they will. I joked with my friend Mike that if you
want to meet beautiful, bikini clad babes you take a baby to the beach. I was enjoying my time at Enoshima with
my son, when several bodacious, "Bay Watchesque," Japanese women came to talk with my son and I.

I had to concentrate very hard, to only look at their faces. The recent tragedy in New York and Washington, has given many Japanese the excuse to talk with me. They assume I am American and tell me how terrible and tragic the 9/11 attack was. I appreciate their warmth and their concern. They are a very kind people.

At our local sports festival, one of the seniors hands me a beer, and after the tug of war, they all thank me for my time and effort. It is tough to ever fit in here ,and probably you never will be able too; except with your Japanese family, if you end up marrying a Japanese.

However, they do treat you like an honored guest and I'd rather be treated like that, than in many other ways. It takes a while to break down the barriers, but once you do, you can have some very good friends here, while recognizing that the style of friendship is different.

One study suggested, if an American man reveals
80% of himself to his friends, a Japanese man will reveal only 60%. You can feel somewhat empty if the friendship
is a Japanese style one, but you can appreciate it for what it is, and you can meet your foreign friends for a meaty, Western style political debate if you so desire.

This country is pretty safe. Although for women, the threat of sexual assault on crowded trains casts a shadow,
I do know many women here who don't seem to have a problem this way. My wife just punches anyone who touches
her butt!

Overall, it is a pretty safe place to raise your children and live your life.

Australian actress and author of the book,
"Theatresports Down Under,"Lyn Pierse, once commented while walking through crowded Shinjuku train station,

"I don't know how you can live here."

I think my response at the time was,

"It does get better." And it does.

Japan is not Shinjuku Station, yet many visitors to Japan spend most of their time touring her cities and seem to
think they know Japan; they don't.

Just like Kings Cross - thankfully is not Australia, neither is Shinjuku Station, Japan.

For beauty and peace of mind, you need to tour the Japanese countryside.

There you will see some of the real beauty that has been waiting for you all along.

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