The joy of the little things
Updated: Aug 25, 2022
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
When I migrated to Japan in 2017 it was actually my first time ever leaving the shores of Jamaica. Despite it being my first occasion travelling overseas it was a simple and easy decision to make. Prior to migrating I had never actually given too much thought to the significance of some everyday activities such as visiting friends, chit-chatting with neighbours, pinning out my laundry nor bothering to check the weather forecast for the day.
However, within days of my arrival in Japan I quickly realized the significance of those activities. Pretty quickly I realized the stark difference between how Japanese folks relate to each other versus how the folk in Jamaica do the same.
In Jamaica we sometimes take for granted the visit of a friend, a family member, a neighbour or even a work colleague. These random visits, often quite frequent, are embedded in the fabric of our culture. As such, we at times neglect to show our greatest appreciation for them. Unless we are may ill or hosting a special event, we don’t always seem to recognize how invaluable a gesture it is for someone to take time out to pay us a visit.
In contrast, life in Japan can be a lonely and isolating experience or a foreigner. The truth is that Japan has a rich cultural heritage with many festivals and celebrations taking place throughout the year. Additionally, there are many historical and scenic sites to visit where one can experience the Japanese art and culture. So, if you are adventurous there are many avenues to explore.
Despite all of that the Japanese are fairly conservative. Some are also shy or may feel intimidated about interacting with foreigners. Perhaps the main reason for this has to them feeling overwhelmed when have to speak English or other foreign languages. What does that mean? Hold no high expectation that your Japanese neighbour will come knocking on your apartment door to say hi or welcome to the neighbourhood. In fact in many places such actions are generally viewed with suspicion. Were you to knock on your neighbour’s door in an attempt to make friends, you may rather be viewed as a nuisance rather than a friendly neighbour. Despite this being a polite, peaceful, and well-ordered society I find it generally lacking where socializing is concerned.
In Jamaica I am accustomed to seeing my neighbours engaged a friendly banter in the mornings or afternoons especially in the rural and sub-urban communities. In Japan this is something that I seldom notice. In most places I have been to this kind of interaction is missing. Except for going to the park, going out as a family, going to school or work, or attending a sporting event etc. the Japanese spend their most of their time indoors. In other words neighbours living on the same apartment complex do not really interact with each other and are in reality strangers living close to each other.
Doing laundry here is another thing all together. It was a real headache for me the very first time I washed some clothes. I was shocked to find out I had nowhere to hang them out to dry. Well actually I did have somewhere, but it was hardly close to what I expected. Back home I had more than line and outdoor space for my clothes to dry. I could always wash at the end of one or two weeks and would have enough line to accommodate my laundry. What they have here are some minuscule balconies. You have to then purchase some one and a half meter metal rods on which your clothes are hung. Of course you can opt to purchase some line cord and do your own set up in the space provided. Then of course you still need some clothes hangers for the clothes so you can have as much on the line as possible. What I sometimes do when I wash is to hang my clothes in stages. After some are dry I hang the rest. At other times I wash midweek so I have a smaller load whenever I wash.
The weather here is another strange phenomenon, particularly during the first few days of winter. In a matter of minutes the temperature may suddenly drop from a high of 16°C to a low of 5°C even on a sunny day. At other times a sunny afternoon may suddenly morph into cloudy and damp squib. As a precaution it’s important never to travel with a coat. The reverse is also true as at times the temperature moves up from a low of 6°C to a high of 18°C in a matter of minutes. The best way to survive is to check the weather forecast so you can see the hourly temperature projection throughout the day.
Despite the differences I have had to adjust to while living here I have found some little things that have made my experience here quite enriching. What has worked so far for me is that I try to connect with my friends and family back home as often as I can. I also do my best to stay connected with what’s happening in Jamaica by reading the newspapers, listening to the radio stations online and cook my authentic Jamaican dishes as often as I can.
Also, whenever I happen to find things at the supermarket that I wouldn’t usually find here I ensure to purchase a large quantity so in case I return at a later date and it’s sold out then I still have a little remaining at home. Then perhaps the most important thing to do is develop your community which may comprise of any of the expat community, your Japanese neighbour or a work colleague.