Sometimes it can be tough fitting in, especially as an outsider. One of the toughest parts about going to Japan is feeling out of place or not belonging in Japanese society.
But fear not! You aren’t the only person who’s ever gone through this cycle of culture shock, and you definitely won’t be the last.
So let’s take a look at fitting into Japanese culture, everything from the initial culture shock to deciding to become a full-blown Japanese citizen.
First Stage: Culture Shock
When I was thinking about doing the JET Program, a representative from the program visited my school and gave a little presentation to everybody who was interested. I was really surprised when he straight-up told prospective JET-ers that it’s not only normal, but expected that you’ll get frustrated with Japanese culture and homesick for your native country.
JET even has a 4-stage description of culture shock on its site, breaking down what culture shock looks like:
experiencing anxiety, lack of self-confidence, panic attacks, loss of initiative and spontaneity, excessive anger over minor things, strong desire to associate with people of their own nationality, and isolation.
But this kind of culture shock is usually just a little bump in your visit to Japan. Given enough time, most people adjust and get right back to loving Japan and its culture, moving into what JET calls “Adaptation and Biculturalism.”
Seconds Stage: Longer Stays
The longer you stay in Japan, the more the situation changes. Some people stay in Japan for years for work, study, or personal reasons. And over time, people usually go back to that feeling of culture shock and begin to wonder about certain things:
“Do people accept me? Am I acting Japanese? Am I fitting into society? Can anybody hear what I’m thinking right now?”
There was a great discussion of this topic last year that got kicked off by YouTuber and gaijin-in-Japan bobbyjudo:
bobbyjudo, watch out for that kappa! It’ll suck your insides out your bum!
After that video, tons of people responded with their own videos and thoughts. The Gakuranman did a great roundup of the responses from the Japan YouTube community.
The people in the Gakuranman roundup are a lot smarter than I am, so you should check out what they have to say if you’re interested.
Third Stage: Turning Japanese
Some people love Japan so much that they decide to permanently become a part of Japanese society by becoming a citizen. Why? I’d say typically for family reasons (marrying a Japanese person), but there are tons of other reasons too.
Take Donald Keene, for instance. Donald Keene is knows pretty much all you need to know about Japan after studying and living in the country for decades. Keene has even received honors from the motherlovin’ Emperor himself. And this year, at the age of 88, Keene is to abandon his native United States and resettle in Japan for the rest of his life as a Japanese citizen.
Talk about dedication.
Obviously, becoming a Japanese citizen isn’t something to take lightly. Citizenship is an incredible commitment, and in the case of becoming a Japanese citizen, you have to do a lot more compared to countries like the United States. Not only do you have to adopt a Japanese name, but you have to renounce your citizenship from your native country.
Like I said, it takes commitment.
There are even websites like Turning Japanese that give you step-by-step guides about how to become a legal Japanese citizen.
Have you been to Japan and experienced culture shock? What have you done to deal with it? Tell me about it in the comments!