Hello out there in the electronic universe! I'll start this with part of a letter from an Australian e-mail pal:
This is a very good question, and one that I'm always being asked by everybody. The short, simple, and honest answer, is that I came because I wanted to, but that's not really answering the question, so let me just say that it was a right brain decision. I followed my heart, and here I am. Which brings me to the part about "I don't think I would like to live anywhere else" in the letter above.
I was twenty-four when I came to Japan, and I didn't have to worry about anyone other than myself, so it really wasn't a hard choice to make, as I knew I wanted to come. It's been quite an adventure actually, but I've gotten to the point where I long to escape the dirty air and water of Tokyo, and to be able to relax, which, for me anyway, is almost impossible to do in this city. So, descriptions of a quiet life just outside the big city are very appealing to me these days.
Now, in answer to LL-4, in which someone from Australia and another person from the UK talked about the image of America as a dangerous country:
In Japan there are popular (weekday) half news, half gossip type shows in the morning that they call "morning shows" from about ten to twelve, watched mostly by people who don't work or go to school. On Saturday, there's a nighttime news show that spends about ten minutes to go over the big stories from the week's "morning shows", and they have a "top ten" deal where they start with number ten and count down to number one, showing the stories that got the most air time. It never fails. The worse the story, the more air time. Sad state of affairs, this.
From a Japanese e-mail pal:
"I'd like to try writing a letter in English. Because I hope that my English ability becomes more progressive.
Most Japanese are not friendly to foreigners. And we usually refuse foreigners in Japan or abroad. I think the lack of foreign languages is one of the reasons for our behavior. If we could use foreign languages (especially English) fluently, we might be more friendly to foreigners. Although we have a habit that we don't like strangers. I think we (I mean Japanese and foreigners) should learn each other's languages."
There's a lot to be said for this idea. I noticed that when I began speaking Japanese, suddenly a lot of things that didn't make any sense before seemed perfectly natural, in Japanese. And even now, when people (for example) ask me "How do you say natsukashii in English?", often I have to stop and think, because the same expression doesn't really exist in English, or vice versa. (Actually, I've been asked about natsukashii so much, I don't have to think much to answer this particular question. It's used when you, say, hear an old song that you liked a lot, but haven't heard for a long time, or when you meet a friend you haven't seen in a long time. In Japanese, you just say "Natsukashii", but in English it would become a sentence like "I haven't heard this song in a long time. I liked this song when I was in high school.")
And on the topic of whether Japanese are friendly or not compared to people from other countries:
I had to laugh about the line:
I'm the same way. Once I get going, I just talk and talk and talk. (From all the e-mail I send out, you can probably imagine!)
And in answer to my question about whether Americans are perceived as being friendly or not, and also how dangerous America seems:
And to jump the topic, about curry in Japan:
Indeed! I don't think it's strange any more, but when I first came, curry wasn't quite what I imagined Japanese food to be!! Now that I've been eating it two or three times a month for twelve years, I definitely think it's Japanese food!
And one more letter, from a university student in Australia:
"Is America safe?
Well as you said, that all depends. Nothing is ever cut and dry. I have visited America twice, and I'm sure it's similar to Australia - only one difference. America has a population about 20 times bigger. So there is a lot more of the best of the best and the worst of the worst. America is a land of great contrasts. Because of this and the capitalistic style of government, you have a very large divide between the rich and the poor. Wherever there is poverty you will have violent crime. Because of circumstances, lack of education and a lack of value on life in general. As in any country, there are areas where it is not safe to walk at night, but at the same time there are many areas with a strong sense of community. America has basically been a very dominant force in the world because of its strong economy and large military force. So of course it is the focus of a lot of media attention. Everyone loves to bag America. And sure a lot of the policies, especially regarding third world countries such as in South America are bad. But basically I'm glad they're in control and not, for instance, the Muslims. Otherwise I as a female would never have received an education, and would still be considered property. Still the world now is starting to divide into blocks (e.g., the EEC, NATO, ASEAN), and because of this perhaps, we will not need one country in control, but instead may be able to strike a balance with each other with each block playing off against the others.
Is America safe? Well nowhere in the world is completely safe. Crime and violence was not thought up by Americans, and will probably always exist. All we can strive for is to better educate the people and reduce the population. Perhaps if we all stopped worrying about which country is better and just worked together to conquer problems affecting all of us (e.g., the environment, education, technology and research), our energies would be better spent.
Is America viewed as a gun-toting country?
Different countries have different laws regarding guns. America is very relaxed about this, but no matter what legislation is enacted, you will always have guns easily available on the black market. America has a high population and a big divide between rich and poor - which is worsened as a high proportion of the poor are of black or Latino descent. This combined with a clause in the constitution preserving the right to bear arms is probably a recipe asking for disaster. Still I'm a big believer in reducing legislation and instead educating the people and reducing the population.
Is America viewed as friendly?
Maybe overseas in Asian cultures but not so much in Australia. Australians are extremely friendly and tend to find Americans arrogant. I go to Bond Uni and we have a high US population of students but I find most of them tend to stick to themselves."
Well, that's "Letter-Letter VII".
What I want to ask here, at the end though, is this. If you could live in any country, would you stay in the one you're in now? Personally, I'd like to have homes in two different countries. Just staying in Tokyo is wearing me out.
So! I hope to hear from you about things.