Wait...is that his hand down- what?!?
Oh, shit. This is real life.
Being half asleep coming back from an exhausting job in Shibuya and on my way to a photoshoot, I wasn’t sure if this was me being half-delusional on behalf of lack of sleep or verifiable reality.
Nope. It’s definitely real life.
Being half-asleep on a train in Japan is nothing out of the ordinary. Actually, most people catch up on their much needed REM cycles in transit and then magically wake up when they arrive at their stop. It’s like an Asian superpower that I have somehow been able to adapt to in my gaijin way. It's no wonder every time I go back to the States, everyone wonders why I fall asleep in a car. My body just goes into Asian work-power mode. Sleep on the train, get up when your subconscious hears that magical intercom announce your approaching stop in its monotone yet elegant way, and then go, go, go. You can sleep on the train ride back home. My body is trained to sleep in transit. I don’t think at this point it will ever adapt otherwise.
Anyways, so there I was--half-asleep, listening to my iPod on shuffle, on my second home in Japan also known as the train system, and I awoke to something disturbing, confusing, and alarming.
Are you in the market for some tea that is green? Peaches, perhaps? Specialty rice painstakingly homegrown in a small village in Japan? You are in luck, as all you have to do is pay your residence and income tax for the year, and these gifts can be yours for practically free! It’s hard to believe there is actually a program like this, but Japan’s relatively new gift/tax or “Furusato Nouzei” program promises a unique way for residents to pay a portion of their taxes.
What is the gift/tax program?
The gift/tax program was started in 2008 as a way to boost the economy of smaller towns in Japan. As many Japanese are aware, the migration of young people from their pint-sized hometowns to metropolitan cities like Tokyo and Osaka puts a growing economic burden on small towns and villages across Japan. As the jobs and money move to larger cities, these small towns encounter trouble staying afloat.
Do you want to improve your Japanese level? Maybe you have just moved to Japan and want to get a leg-up on your language studies? Maybe you have been in Japan for years and would finally like to learn to speak fluently? Maybe you want to move to Japan, but are afraid you won’t be able to understand anything around you?
Using the Japanese language everyday is one of the most challenging things foreigners to Japan encounter when facing life in this country. As an expat you must command more than just the basics; living here requires an entirely new vocabulary, alphabet, and way of speaking. Like most foreigners who end up in Japan, I had a dream of living here for a long time. As an English speaker, I always thought the best way to try out life in Japan would be to teach English for a year, but a full-time job gives most teachers little time to study the language, which can lead to missing out on myriad rewarding experiences. While searching for other options, I discovered language school. It was a perfect plan to catch a glimpse of life in Japan while learning the language. After graduating from the program, I had basic Japanese under my belt and enough knowledge about Japan to get started in the workforce.
Everyone learns differently, but when you are in an environment where you are using Japanese everyday, you are almost guaranteed to see your skills improve. Like any language learner will tell you—immersion is key.
Japan's winter wonderland will soon be upon us. Are you excited? Please don't answer that. It's a good idea for us foreigners, especially those who have yet to experience the biting cold brought about by the season, to start preparing for it. This is not to say that winter in Japan is the most brutal or coldest that one can experience. In fact there are many other countries where the cold months can go down to as low as 10 degrees below zero. However, like most things Japanese, Japan's winter chill drifts in with its own distinctive aura.
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