Good morning! I hope you are off to a great start in the new semester at USF! The semester over here has started and the work is beginning to pile up. I have been very busy with my studies and have not been doing much traveling over these past two weeks. However, that does not mean that I don’t have anything to talk about for this blog. Actually, it is quite the contrary. Today I want to write about something that I have come to realize during my study abroad experience and talking with my foreign friends who are able to speak Japanese fluently.
First off, today I volunteered for a Kansai Gaidai event to talk with high school students who are in their search for perspective colleges. My job was to talk about Kansai Gaidai, my home country and any other things that came up in conversation. I had an absolutely amazing time along with some of the other foreign exchange students. After the event, I talked with a foreigner that works in the Kansai Gaidai CIE (Center for international Education) office. I was interested in how he got his position and if he had any advise for me about how to go about finding an opportunity to work in Japan. During our conversation, we began to talk about the Japanese peoples’ behaviors and outlooks on various topics. I then brought up a scenario that I have witnessed and experienced more times than I can count. The topic at hand concerns riding the public buses and trains. I never really paid much attention to it when I first came here but now I realize how a foreigner will not be able to “fit” into the Japanese society. When I ride in a bus or a train and they are extremely crowded, 95% of the time the seat next to me will be unoccupied. Even if I am reading a Japanese novel, nobody will take the seat next to me. However, if there is a empty seat next to a Japanese person, they will sit next to them without hesitation. Or in other circumstances, all of the seats will become filled and more people will board the train. All of those people who are standing won’t take the open seat next to me. As the train proceeds along to the next stations, if a seat opens up next to a Japanese person, those passengers who are standing will take it. I understand very well that Japan is a very homogeneous society but I find it almost unbelievable that this happens on a frequent basis. I still remember near the end of last semester when I asked an elder woman if she would like to sit down and she said was fine with a smile. The moment a Japanese person got off the train, she sat in their seat. To be honest, I was a little baffled but from all of my previous experiences of riding crowded trains and buses, I should have expected none of the less.
After I told my story to the foreigner who has been working at Kansai Gaidai for almost 4 years, he said he knew the feeling all to well. In his case, he speaks fluent Japanese and still experiences being the one who is always slightly out of the group. He told me about his life back home in Spain and compared to to living in Japan, telling me the good and bad. The main points he stressed were mainly aimed towards being excluded as the “foreigner”.
I am planning on adding more to this blog soon because there are more things that I would like to talk about. It is currently 12 am here. I am going to call it a night and go to bed.