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Having fun in Japan... the foreigner way

By Sara Motomura-Broida

Its been two years since I’ve been home to Japan, and this trip has been unlike any time before… this is the first time I have spent so long traveling with a “foreigner”- my husband Jonathan.  I am seeing things from a completely new perspective this year.  Things that used to be normal to me, no longer seem regular through my new lenses.

First of all, Japanese regional dialects have become far more interesting to me this year, more so than I ever expected.  As a child, I learned to speak both Yamagata-ben (-ben refers to dialects) and standardized Japanese (some people call it Tokyo-ben) - my father was from Kanagawa prefecture and my family did not speak Yamagata-ben at home.  However, my sister, brother-in-law, and their two kids speak mostly in Yamagata-ben.  Initially, Jonathan had tremendous difficulty understanding them (though it got a little easier with time).  In Kochi, Kyoto and Osaka, we have heard a number of different dialects.  Here are some dialects we’ve come across in our travels:

  • Kochi (where Tosa is located): Putting “cyu” at the end of the verb in each sentence instead of “-teiru.” For instance, Kochi people would say “sono hanashi shiccyu” (I know that story) instead of “sono hanashi shitteiru” in standardized Japanese.
  • Kyoto: “Ookini” is commonly used in Kyoto in place of “arigatou” (thanks). Also “dosu” often replaces “desu” (the verb for “it is”). However, these are pretty commonly known, so I will give one more example… “Gyosan” is used to commonly used to express “Takusan” (meaning “a lot”). 
  • Osaka: “Na-” commonly replaces “ne” (“isn’t it?”) in Osaka. Also, “Cyauwa” is used in place of “Chigaimasu” (“its different/wrong”). These are just a couple of the things I leaned from Kosuke-san’s daughter (she’s 2 years old). 

Japanese bathrooms are also very different from the US. For one thing, they are pretty much clean everywhere you go. Jonathan mentioned that he has seen only ONE public bathroom that was dirty since he’s been here. Yes, I know this is weird comment to make on a blog, but it shows how much Japanese people care about cleanliness and customer service (or as least that’s what I believe). I think Japan owes the company TOTO so much:

After that, convenience stores might be the thing I missed the most while living in the US.  As pathetic it may sounds, once you’re used to having them around, its really difficult to live without them – they really are convenient.  My personal favorite is Lawson, followed by 7 Eleven (you would be amazed how different 7 eleven is here compared to the US).

We are your loyal customers, Lawson!!:

Also, I’m a firm believer that everyone should try Japanese melon (Melon-pan) from a convenience store- make sure to pick one that does not look wet or moist, because the crusty top is the tastiest part. (WARNING: You may end up being addicted to melon bread and convenience stores, just like Jon and me)

My favorite melon bread is the chocolate chip one (I know it has a ridiculous amount of calories, but I still want to eat it every day) :

On to cell phones… Japanese cell phones are way ahead of the U.S. – I would say 10 years, easily.   I remember having 3G and video on my phone when I was just 15 (not that super high-tech cell phones are necessary for teenagers, but…).  Ah…  I love Japan!

One of this things I missed the most about Japan was the sky.  When I was visiting California, I thought that California had the best sky in the world – no clouds… just clear blue all the way through.  After two years, I really began to miss the Japanese sky.  The color changes constantly, and the sky is always filled with the coolest looking clouds.  The rain kind of sucks when we have to go out, but having such a beautiful and expressive sky is worth it… you really can get a sense for the Japanese seasons.

Jonathan Broida
Jonathan Broida


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