☆ i heart japan,  ☆ life

Living Tall in Japan, part 9

☆ Continued from part 8.
☆ To see all of the parts in this series, click here.

I guess I’ll be writing this for a while longer! I do so love writing about my first days in Japan. It reminds me of what it felt like then, to be braving a whole new world, so to speak. I’m about to jump right into a whole new world when I move to Hawaii (asap), but I feel like I’ve learned a lot about how not just to survive, but to thrive in a new place. 🙂

I am a bit behind in editing the Tenipuri book. I wanted to have the proof copy already in my hands, but I really could not live with the low amount of detail in the first few chapters. So I rewrote them! I guess I am a bit of a perfectionist. 🙂 It will be out this month, though, so hang in there! 😀

Well, let’s get started! Yesterday I shared some more thoughts that I’d written down in 2004, just days into Japan, and one of them mentioned shopping. Oh, shopping. Such a necessary thing, unless you want (and are able) to live off the grid, completely on the land. I’m not sure how I would get almond milk and Taylor swift music that way, so, really, I can’t be one of those people. I have to go shopping, and I’d never really paid much attention to it before.

But shopping in Japan was something else. I couldn’t read Japanese, so when I went to the grocery store on my own, I went in with trepidation. Vegetables and fruit, alright. I could recognize most of the fruit at least, and the common vegetables, so that wasn’t a problem. But milk, juice, tea…. and packaged food. If you could see through the package and it was something that I recognized, then I could buy it. But otherwise…

I didn’t even have a Japanese dictionary, and smart phones didn’t exist back then. Once, I bought a carton of what I thought was orange juice, but it ended up being something akin to Tang. I bought pork thinking that it was beef. And I’d never even seen an asian pear before, so I thought that it was an apple. I thought that a persimmon was a tomato, too.


In my defense, they DO look like tomatoes!! I’m not crazy, right?

I didn’t know any Japanese beyond kawaii, kakkoi, and baka (thank you, anime!). I couldn’t read hiragana, katakana, and of course not kanji. I couldn’t count. So, sure, I made a lot of mistakes buying things, but it was alright…. until I went to the cash register.

Dum dum duuuuummmmmmmm! Waiting in line, the clerk would eventually say something to me, and I’d nervously stare back, or possibly even worse, just nod. What, exactly, was I agreeing to?

No idea.

And then, s/he would finish ringing me up, and say something in gibberish, a lot like how the teacher speaks to the students in Peanuts.

How much??? I mean, that was probably the total. I would think, looking around for the digital display. I had no idea how much I was supposed to pay until I was able to find the digital display. Once, I just handed over some cash, hoping that it would be enough. It wasn’t. ToT Another time, I reached for the display and tried to turn it to me, because how do you ask for something if you’re unable to speak the language?

It was so, so embarrassing. I have to learn to count, I told myself. And so, at home, I researched and wrote down numbers and how to say them in Japanese. I also looked up for kanji for food that I might want, and kept everything in a little notebook that I slipped in my purse. I must have looked strange, but it helped.

I was so, so lost at the store, but other than that, Japan had already been a scary, exciting, enchanting blast! After finding a store full of yaoi manga, was I really about to stop? No freaking way! 😀

It might seem like I’m telling you that it’s best to learn how to count in the native language before you travel anywhere. It will make things easier, yes. I do advocate it. But if you don’t, then don’t worry. You’ll get along somehow! And if you don’t know, then start learning, like I did. If I had already been able to speak and read Japanese before I went, I’m sure that my experience would have been different. But, you know, I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world!

Now… tomorrow, I’ll talk about my first day at Nova!! I also got a bank account, a cell phone, and FINALLY went out to dinner all on the same day! It was an adventure, that’s for sure!

See you then! And keep the comments coming, please! :)))))

(418 geeks have read this)

Hi! This is Jamie Lynn Lano! I am a Washington State (USA) native who: ☆ Holds a Bachelors of the Arts in Media Arts & Animation from AiPx. ☆ Worked as an assistant mangaka in Japan for Konomi Takeshi on The Prince of Tennis. ☆ Was an essay columnist for Asahi Weekly from 2008-2013. ☆ Was the star of Asahi Pop'n Press on Asahi TV (Japan) from 2009-2013 ☆ Was a write for Metropolis magazine in 2010. ☆ Has kept a blog foreeeeeeeeever! First and Current blogs.

4 Comments

  • willeke4439

    Wow, I can only imagine how daunting shopping might have been if you didn’t speak a word (well, a few words, but… ^^; ) of Japanese. I’d already studied it for about 3 years before coming here for the first time, so I never really experienced that feeling of being totally lost, but even then it already annoyed me how friggin’ long it took me to read anything; people must’ve thought I was some kind of weirdo staring at the same package in the supermarket for 10 minutes trying to figure out what’s in it. X’D

    • Jamie Lynn Lano

      It was really hard and felt very strange, yes! And I haven’t mentioned it yet (I will eventually), but I kept expecting to see a Taco Bell and looking for it. I didn’t understand why the restaurants that I loved weren’t all over Japan, too! It was a sort of feeling that I’ll never get back, I think. Now I know a lot more about the world. 😀

      I wish that I’d known at least how to read when I came. I’d never heard of doujjinshi conventions or anything like that, either, so I missed out on a lot of fun things at first, I think. 🙂

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