MARCH 2021 (VOL.161)
Were you hesitant to relocate to Japan?
Not at all! It was even my dream to live in Japan since I started learning Japanese in middle school. I had the chance to visit for the first time when I was in 12th grade for three weeks as an exchange student, and I completely fell in love with Japan. I told myself that I would come back, but for a longer time period. This is why I went back during my graduate studies. I loved the year I spent in Japan, it was a memorable experience and I am deeply set on going back to live there a few more years. I can’t say if I would wish to spend my entire life there since I am attached to France and my family, but I really enjoyed my life in Japan, so we never know!
Which places in Japan do you recommend that foreigners see?
Tokyo has many places I would advise foreigners to see; it is a very big and multifaceted city that never ceases to impress me and which I never tire of. For young people, I would recommend Shibuya without hesitation. I love this place, it never gets boring. It’s always very lively, night and day. Not too far from there, I would also recommend Omotesando where you can find great cafés and very good bubble tea shops. I used to go there very often.
If you want to travel within Japan to enjoy hot-springs, I would recommend the thermal town of Kusatsu Onsen in the Gunma prefecture. In winter, the atmosphere is magical. If you wish to visit Kyoto, Arashiyama is what struck me the most. Nature there is beautiful, particularly in fall where all the trees turn red-orange.
There are so many more places I would advise people to visit, but it would become too long!
What do you appreciate most about Japanese culture?
There are various aspects of Japan’s culture that I appreciate. I particularly like the traditional clothing, such as kimonos and yukatas. Kitsuke, or the art to put on kimonos, is something that I am passionate about since my very first trip to Japan. I really love outings while wearing kimono with my friends.
There also, of course, Japanese cuisine, which I deeply enjoy. My favorite meal is called tenzaru soba, a dish composed of soba noodles and tempura. As for sweet specialties, I love everything containing anko (sweet red bean paste): Anpan, Dorayaki, or even the Taiyaki for instance.
Finally, and similarly to many foreigners in Japan, I am fascinated by the Japanese pop culture, and particularly with music, mangas, and animes.
What parts of Japanese culture do you recommend that foreign people try to experience?
As I mentioned previously, I love taking strolls dressed in kimonos with my friends. To visit temples, Japanese gardens, cultural sights, and landmarks, or cities such as Kawagoe and Kyoto while dressed in traditional clothing is an activity that I strongly recommend. It really gives the impression to be part of the décor, to travel to a different era.
After moving to Japan did you have any fun experiences?
Yes, I indeed had a lot of fun experiences. Besides my classes, I had a fair amount of free time and I was able to enjoy myself. For instance, I did many all-night karaokes, trips with friends, a visit to Disneyland Tokyo and even preparing chocolates for Valentine’s Day at the part-time job of one of my Japanese friends. In hindsight, I really had a great time this year!
What is the most impressive thing to you in Japan?
The thing that most impressed me in Japan is the respect Japanese people demonstrate. During my first trips, I noticed that Japanese people are particularly respectful and polite. A good example of that is how the streets are always clean, even in such a big city like Tokyo. Public restrooms are also impeccable!
Before climbing in the metro or a bus, Japanese people always wait in line and there isn’t chaos. That surprised me a lot the first time I saw it. I deeply appreciated the respect demonstrated in Japan, and I am particularly impressed by it. It makes life so much more pleasant!