Japan, with its rich culture, advanced technology, beautiful landscapes, and the high standard of living, has been an intriguing destination for many, including myself—an Indian living in the Land of the Rising Sun. The ocean's hues and the verdant hills are alluring, but let's dive deeper into its charm, looking at Japan through an Indian's eyes.
For an Indian, setting foot in Japan is akin to stepping into a cultural kaleidoscope where ancient traditions blend seamlessly with modernity. The Japanese commitment to preserving their traditions, while constantly innovating, reminds me of my homeland, India, where we also honor our past while embracing the future. The gentle mix of spirituality and reverence for nature, similar to India's diverse yet interconnected cultures, creates a sense of familiarity amidst the foreignness.
Japanese philosophy of 'Ichi-go ichi-e,' the concept of treasuring every meeting as it'll never recur, resonates deeply with Indian values. Attending a traditional tea ceremony in a kimono for the first time was a moving experience for me. The way Japanese people plan the slightest details, from arranging the tea utensils to the ceremonial bows exchanged, reminded me so much of Indian rituals.
I remember how fascinated I was with the similarities between the Indian Toran (a decorative door hanging) and the Japanese Shimenawa (a sacred rope). Just like we hang Torans during festivals, the Japanese also decorate their entrances with Shimenawa to invite prosperity and good fortune. Culture shocks are real, but these similarities often offer comforting echoes of home.
Japan, as beautiful and inviting as it seems, is not without its fair share of challenges for an Indian, or anyone for that matter, trying to start a new life. First, there's the language barrier. Japanese language is intricate, with three different scripts - Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji. Walking into a restaurant and trying to decipher the menu without katakana or hiragana skills feels like being in an episode of 'Lost in Translation'.
However, with so many online resources available now, it's more a matter of determination than access to knowledge. I took the plunge and started learning Japanese. It's a joyous moment when locals compliment your efforts to speak their language, their faces lighting up with surprise and admiration
The quality of food in Japan is a delight. From mouth-watering sushi to the comforting warmth of ramen, Japanese cuisine can be addictive. Yet, as an Indian with a fiery palate, I sometimes miss the spiciness of curries and the aroma of staple Indian dishes like Biryani or Butter Chicken. While there are Indian restaurants, making home-cooked meals was never more appealing. Who would have thought, cooking, once an occasional flirtation, would turn into an essential survival skill?
Community is a feeling of fellowship with others as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals. The Indian Diaspora in Japan, although small, is warmly knit together. It was reassuring to find people who could relate to my experiences. We celebrate Indian festivals like Diwali, Holi, and Eid together, and it's incredibly heartening to see the Japanese community partake in our celebrations.
Having someone to share your excitement when you spot an Indian spice in the local supermarket or when you need comforting words after a language mishap, makes the experience much more endearing. As they say, it's not where you are but who you are with that makes a place feel like home.
Despite the language barriers and cultural shocks, Frost, my Samoyed, and Nimbus, my African grey parrot, made adjusting to Japan infinitely easier. It's been an incredible journey watching Frost bond with the local dogs or Nimbus learning to mimic Japanese phrases while retaining his repertoire of Indian words. It seems, in a way, we're all undergoing a pleasant cultural metamorphosis.
Japanese work culture is globally reputed for its loyalty, tenacity, and sheer perseverance. However, mastering the balance between work and personal life is equally essential. Japanese equally value their downtime, reflected in activities like karaoke nights with colleagues, spending peaceful moments in zen gardens, or even soaking in the communal healing of an Onsen (hot spring bath).
One aspect deeply rooted in Japanese work culture is the practice of punctuality. They are ingrained with the ideology that 'Time is the most valuable thing a man can spend,' a proverb I've heard in India too. Adapting to the regimented Japanese schedule was demanding initially, but it eventually helps maintain a steady and efficient life rhythm.
Becoming an Indian in Japan isn't just about crossing geographical borders; it's about opening your heart to a new cultural experience, finding connections in the unfamiliar, overcoming challenges, and evolving along the journey. It's about Frost and Nimbus, my extended family, becoming Japan's beloved pets. It's about sipping Matcha tea instead of Chai some mornings or occasionally swapping Biryani with Sushi. Most importantly, it's about creating a home away from home, where both our cultures interplay harmoniously.
Life as an Indian in Japan, as encapsulated in this article, is a blend of fascinating discoveries, challenges, adaptations, joys, and a continuous process of learning. While there is beauty in similarity and comfort in familiarity, there is also a great thrill in discovering the differences and embracing them. And while my Indian essence remains untouched, Japan's charm has found a special place in my heart.