Friday, February 6, 2015

Those Cold, Emotionless Japanese

There is a common misconception that the Japanese (and probably other East Asians) are cold, stoic and, basically, void of all emotions. It doesn't help that this stereotype is maintained by  period movies that portray the Japanese as either samurai warriors or geisha. 

And Avril Lavigne...

I was told prior to my arrival that no matter how well I spoke Japanese, I would be excluded from the "in crowd" because I am foreign. Therefore, to my benefit or detriment, I could never truly be part of Japanese society. 

I hadn't really given this concept a second thought until recently. 

I returned from my winter trip on a Wednesday, which meant that I worked at my Thursday/Friday school the following day. As I walked into the school's kitchen to serve myself some water, I was cornered by the librarian, the copy room/tea lady, and an assistant teacher, who were all excited to hear about my trip. I told them I saw the most beautiful places, but I also described what had transpired over the trip. I only remember that my eyes watered and my voice cracked when I said, 「本当にとても大変だったさー」or "Honestly, it was very difficult." The moment this happened, the librarian literally ran to grab some tissues and chocolates while my other coworkers cried with me

Later in the day, the 5th grade homeroom teacher called me into a spare room to talk to me about what happened. He told me of his experience and how he focused on himself, passed the teaching examination, and met his current wife. He advised me to focus on myself and said, "You're smart and beautiful; you'll be just fine." 

I was surprised and deeply touched by their support. Where are these cold, emotionless Japanese people I was warned about? Answer: Not here.


  1. I'm happy to see you're more active these past two weeks.

    Having finished reading what you had to share these past two years
    I'm now waiting on your weekly-ish updates.

    Until I hear back from JET in April that's one way I keep myself busy.Reading other ALT blogs.

    I like your writing and how you try to make each entry interesting ; thoughts in parenthesis, using bold and italic , many images ,playing with font size, the occasional Japanese and so on.

    It feels more like reading a conversation and it makes your personality come through.

    1. Thank you! That means a lot! I remember how I felt waiting for JET...torture! You're awaiting your placement, no? If you make it over to Nipponia, I totally recommend you make a blog! It's a little bit of work, but it definitely helps with keeping in touch with family and friends. With the 14-hour difference, there isn't enough time to skype or facetime with everyone, so it's a great way to let people know I'm not MIA.

      I'll try to keep up with the weekly-ish updates. :) Good Luck with JET!

    2. Close, waiting to see if I get a placement at all.

      Blogging seems like a good idea, it probably makes for a good journal and might be fun to reread to recall events you might have forgotten over the months and hopefully years.


  2. Hey! This post makes me feel better about moving to Okinawa this April! I would love to meet you or at least find out where you get your hair done :-)

    1. Okinawa is great! Are you coming to teach, as a military dependent or something other? There is this great website,, that has reviews on pretty much everything. I use this website and word of mouth a lot!

    2. So glad to hear you like living there! I am coming as a military dependent. I am interested in teaching English or working on base depending on the availability of positions. Okinawa Hai definitely seems to have a lot of great reviews especially on food. Thanks for the tip!

  3. Japanese people can be pretty inscrutable, which can come across as cold or emotionless sometimes. But as you pointed out, that's definitely not the case. Some of the people I met over there are definitely among the warmest I've known. =)