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In episode 7 of the English LingQ Podcast Jahrine is joined by fellow LingQ team member, Eric. Having both lived in Japan, they talk life in the Land of the Rising Sun.
And welcome to the English LingQ podcast with me Elle.
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Today I am joined again by LingQ member, LingQ team member, Eric, Eric.
How’s it going?
Eric: I’m good. How are you?
Elle: I’m good. Thank you.
Um, I wanted to chat with you again because the first time we chatted for this podcast, we talked about Japan.
Of course, we both lived there.
You lived there for two years and I lived there for three.
Uh, different places you were in Tokyo.
I was in the North East of Japan.
And we could have talked for a lot longer.
Uh, I think we capped it at half an hour in that episode.
And so I thought it’d be fun to chat again, share our experiences and give any advice for anyone who’s interested in Japan, Japanese living there, visiting.
So at first though, I want to say happy new year.
And, uh, I see that you have a very ambitious and inspiring Japanese language learning goal for 2021.
TEll me about that.
So, uh, this is the year I make a breakthrough, I guess you could say.
Um, no, but I just want to continue reading, but, um, yeah, I think last year I kind of went up a level, you could say, so now I’m reading more and this year I want to read even more.
So I kind of, uh, noticed the more I became,… uh, comfortable in reading Japanese, the more I want to read Japanese.
Um, so this year, 10,000 words a week is my goal.
And that’s probably from my experience that’s about one to two hours a day for reading.
Um, generally speaking to put into context, like at NHK, easy news article.
Uh, those one of those is probably 150 words.
So that’d be reading about, uh, maybe eight or nine of those articles a day, or in some other cases, depending on what book I’m reading, it’s going to be like one chapter.
Uh, so that’s kinda like my, uh, goal.
And then I’m starting read articles and novels and all this stuff.
Yeah, 10,000 words.
By the end of this a year, I can speak Japanese and maybe in one of these upcoming videos.
I don’t know.
That is very cool.
I need to get on it with my French study.
That’s for sure.
Um, so you, you mentioned novels, I’m just interested.
Do you have any, so you have the NHK articles that, you know, for sure what you want to read over the year.
Are there any goals in terms of novels or other content?
Eric: Well, um, actually have this book, let me see.
So I have some stuff here.
Eric: I went to library.
So I got this, I got some movies.
I got this one called Ramen Shop.
Um, it’s in Japanese.
I find, I really want to get to the level where I can actually comprehend movies.
You Tubers and podcasters who are probably around the intermediate stage are okay because they know they have an audience such as myself.
They speak slower.
Movies are a little bit more difficult right now.
Um, so I want to kind of get good at that.
Um, I think that’s less, less about reading, but a lot more about listening and watching dramas.
Um, I found this book too, um, that I thought was hilarious.
It’s called Making Out in Japanese.
So this is an awesome book.
It’s just amazing.
But, uh, it’s actually, for some like, surprisingly, it helps with a lot of the everyday conversation.
Um, like how does, how to say things in a very natural way.
So I was surprised how actually helpful this book is, and it’s not just about making out, there’s like a small section about that, but, uh, there’s a lot of things that I’m like, Oh, that’s how you say this and that.
And there’s a lot of material that you can’t find online too easily.
So this is another book.
Um, those two, I want to get through like movies and books like that.
Um, but in general yeah, just throwing myself into the Japanese ocean and swimming into the language, as you could say.
Elle: Well, best of luck with it.
I’m sure you will update us on, uh, on the forum and on the, this LingQ YouTube channel, your progress.
We’ll be interested to see that for sure.
So let’s talk more about Japan.
I have been thinking since our last conversation about things we didn’t mention.
Things, I want to ask you, uh, things that people might find interesting who, um, haven’t been there or lived there.
Um, one thing that came to mind was definitely earthquakes.
So, uh, I am from the UK originally.
I mean we do have earthquakes, I guess everywhere has earthquakes kind of, but I’ve never felt one.
There’ll be slight tremors in the UK every now and then, uh, of course you’re from… you’re from Vancouver and Canada.
So there are earthquakes here.
Had you experienced any earthquakes in Canada before you went to Japan?
And then did you experience any while you were in Japan?
Eric: Oh, um, good question.
That’s a common question.
I think a lot of people talk about or ask when they go to Japan.
Vancouver, a little bit, but not too much.
Oh, Japan, it was frequent.
Um, yeah, it happened, I would say it happened more times living in Japan for a couple of years than it has in my entire life in Vancouver, small tremors and whatnot.
Japan is a, I don’t know what the reason why.
Um, but they have quite a bit of earthquakes.
Fortunately, they’re not anything serious for the most part.
Thankfully Tokyo is, for some reason, always, uh, getting the smaller earthquakes and.
Uh, things like that.
So there are a couple of times where I was like, Oh man, is this building stay up or what’s going on?
What’s going on here.
But for the most part, yeah, you experience it.
You get used to it.
But I would see if you’re in the countryside or in certain high risk areas, it can be a little bit more scary.
And I don’t know exactly what those areas are because every year, and that’s unfortunate, but every year I was there there was like a natural disaster in some small town in Japan.
So that’s something you have to kind of brace yourself.
Thankfully with technology, you get kind of warned beforehand, like storms and stuff like that, landslides.
So in that sense, it’s kind of a bit safe to be, uh, wherever you are, it’s safe, but you just got to be prepared.
Um, but yeah, no earthquakes are a thing in Japan.
One of the culture shocks a little literal culture shock that’s for sure.
Elle: And what was the, uh, was there a particularly big one you recall?
Eric: Um… you know what, not really.
I felt like the rain, the rain storms were worse.
Like the rainstorms and… typhoon, definitely typhoons were harsher than my opinion.
And I think.
I think the one thing that actually caused the most trouble when I was in Tokyo was, uh, so I was there for almost three years, like two years and like just about three years.
But, um, every winter there was like one or two days of snow.
It only snowed once or twice a year, but every time it snowed it shut down the city.
And that I think caused the most havoc.
That shutdown, trains, people couldn’t get home.
I was fortunate enough enough, I got home early one of those days.
Um, it was a pain to walk through the snow.
It snowed quite a bit in Tokyo.
And I had friends who didn’t get home.
It took them like five hours to get home instead of 20 minutes.
Like, uh, yeah, it was the snow days, watch out for those.
And I saw cars and people can’t drive, in Japan, I think they’re not used to these snow days.
The, you see the guys in the, well whoever’s driving the cars, they’re just spinning because none of them have snow tires.
Elle: No. And the cars are tiny in Japan too.
Most, for the most part, they’re like these little boxes.
Did you drive in Japan?
Eric: No, just the bike, like a bicycle, but nothing, no car.
Uh, nothing like, no, nothing like that.
Elle: I had to drive for six months,
My first school contract, I was in the middle of nowhere in like a small town and I worked in a high school in the town
across the way.
And I had, so I needed a car and I drove a Suzuki Wagon and, uh, it was really cute, but it was literally like a box and not a very powerful engine.
And I was in the Northeast, like I said, so there was snow, there was lots of snow, uh, when it snowed and, um, that was quite scary.
It’s a long time to get to school a couple of times.
Had some kind of hairy experiences.
Eric: I’m sure.
Elle: The ice. But uh, yeah, that’s
probably, I guess it didn’t really surprise me too much the size of the vehicles in, uh, In Japan, especially since now I live in North America.
In Canada, they’re huge trucks.
They’re like buses and yeah,
there’s little dinky cars in Japan.
Eric: For sure.
Yeah, no, that’s, that’s, uh, especially in Tokyo where everything’s so small and compact, it’s a bit more convenient to have those, uh, boxes, little boxes, boxes with wheels.
Elle: Yeah, basically. Yeah.
So you mentioned there with um, the natural disasters, this the warning system, I found that quite helpful and also really stressful.
I was up in the Northeast of Japan when the big, um, tsunami and earthquake happened.
And I remember the sound… did you have the app on your phone, the sound for, you know, earthquake coming.
Eric: Yeah, but I think, it might’ve went once or twice, but it wasn’t… I don’t even know why it went off.
I think it was a test or something, but Oh, it might’ve been North Korea shooting missiles over Japan.
I don’t know what the heck was going on that day, but it’s just like what?
Elle: There’s that whole thing too.
Yeah, it’s a crazy place.
Eric: So yeah.
Anyone who was in Japan, you got to watch out for earthquakes, snow and missiles from North Korea.
When I was there, I remember there was a, they did a test and some, one of the missiles landed in the sea of Sea of Japan, Sea of China.
And, um, yeah, it was a real, it was a real concern for a while when I was there.
Eric: I was going to ask me, so how was your experience with, um, um, I guess it was the Fukushima natural disaster that the whole world saw.
So you were in Japan.
Where were you in Japan?
Uh, where, where are you during that time?
And how was that like handled when you were there?
Elle: Um, it was,
I was living in Sendai at the time, which is basically the epicenter of the earthquake, but I was on a trip.
I was in Nico the place with see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil monkeys.
I was actually visiting that shrine, that building, and I was about to buy a ticket to get in and the earthquake started.
And I remember the woman behind the, at the ticket desk just like looked at her colleague and looked at me and just shut the window.
Cause I was literally handing her my money to, to get tickets, to go up and see.
Um, she didn’t know what to do.
And then, so we stood in the middle of this clearing and there was like a 3000 year old pagoda,
Um, it wasn’t, it wasn’t as it was, it was big, people were screaming and it was quite alarming.
We kind of huddled.
I was with my husband, my now husband and our friend, we just kind of huddled and looked around, it’s all we could do.
And then, um, the whole… whole Journey after that.
We couldn’t get back to Sendai because, um, because everything was destroyed and, uh… not destroyed, but you know, it wasn’t advised to go back up there anyway.
So we stayed down, we went down to Tokyo, we went down to Hiroshima.
We went to Nagoya and stayed at our company headquarters there for a bit, and worked at the head office.
Then we eventually got back to Sendai two weeks later, and it was… intense.
Um, the schools, two of the schools that I worked at, one of them, the water from the, um, from the tsunami reached just across the road, but the place was just an absolute, like there was stuff everywhere, everything had fallen down and was broken.
And so, uh, and that the other school, we, my husband and I rode our bikes there.
It was totally destroyed.
Like the, everything was all over the place then broken down, but to the ceiling and right across was where the, um, the tsunami had reached.
So we saw that and it was just awful.
We rode through it actually to get to the school, to, to help clean up the school.
And it was, yeah, it was just awful, awful, awful, sad.
Just like being, like riding through a movie set.
Heartbreaking to, to think about what had happened there, Natori is the place, uh, just outside of Sendai.
So, um, yeah, it was an awful, awful time.
Um, we stayed and we helped out, uh, we were scrubbing oil off houses in, um, In, I can’t remember the name of the area
now, just outside Sendai.
There was an oil refinery and then the tsunami had brought in oil in the water.
So people’s houses were just covered in sludge.
Um, uh, what else did we do?
Oh, and then the most alarming thing.
And then I’ll stop talking about it cause it’s, Oh, it’s awful.
I don’t know how people live, honestly, with the threat of earthquakes cause it’s a genuinely terrifying experience.
Uh, we were there in Sendai then for the, the big aftershock, which was, I think a five point something or six point something magnitude earthquake.
Happened at 1:00 AM.
So we were in bed and all of a sudden, you’re fast asleep and all of a sudden just, of course, your world is shaking, shaking, so violently, um.
We, all we could do is just jump out of bed and we kind of hunkered down by the side of the bed.
I thought I was going to die.
That was for sure.
I was like, this is it.
It’s been great.
I can imagine that.
Elle: Shorter than I thought.
But, um, but I, yeah, it was just terrifying.
Eric: Did you leave soon after that?
Were you’re just like, Oh, I got to go home or did you stay longer?
Elle: Um, we stayed for another, uh, until August.
So it happened in March.
So yeah, We stayed until August.
Eric: Because so many foreigners left during that time I heard. Yeah.
Elle: They did. Yeah.
A lot of our friends, um, were bused out of Sendai.
Well, there was like, there was no food, they were alone, a lot of them.
They were teaching and living alone.
So the, I think British embassy, American embassy, whichever countries, embassy sent up buses to bring people down to Tokyo.
And then they flew home.
I may have done that if I had been alone, but I had my husband and we were from we all from different countries and, um, We didn’t have our passports stupidly when we were on the trip to Nikko.
So if we wanted to leave before going back to Sendai, we would only have been issued emergency passports for Canada and the UK, and we didn’t want to do that.
So, um, yeah, we stayed.
And also like Sendai was, our home had been our home for a couple of years up until that point.
So we were really anxious to get back and see what was, what, what had happened, what it looked like and see if we could help in any way, see how kids, our students, you know, our fellow teachers, Japanese and, um, the, the foreign, uh, foreign teachers that were there.
That’s a… interesting experience to have, especially living abroad and, um, but you stuck it out.
Um, um, that’s impressive.
Like that would be.
For me, I guess, yeah, it depends if you’re obviously in your situation.
I know for me, my family would tell me to like, leave right away.
There’s no shame in, like, there was a bit of a, um, divide, I guess you could say, you know, the foreigners who stayed and the foreigners who just like deserted Japan.
It’s like, come on.
There is, uh, an active that Fukushima nuclear plant, a whole other disturbing issue.
Um, it’s okay to want to, to want to go if you can, you know, um, But yeah, we, we were worried about Fukushima
of course, too.
We were, there was a while where we were trying to, we were eating foods that were good for deflecting nuclear radiatio, anything like… okay, we won’t eat food from Fukushima, of course.
And lots of spinach or seaweed I think it was.
Anyway, it was stressful.
Elle: Yeah. Anxiety-inducing time, for sure.
Um, I don’t know what the situation is right now with Fukushima.
I mean, I know the area, um, around Fukushima is still… not… nobody lives there, right?
Eric: That’s a good question.
You know, there are people who still don’t have homes I think, like a lot. Yeah.
So I don’t know, but you don’t hear much about it.
I think the Japanese media kind of throws it under the bus, meaning that hey don’t talk about it too much.
I don’t know why that is, but, um, yeah, they just, uh, there are, there, there are lots of built like temporary housing.
So I don’t know how many people are in there, but there’s, if you ever look on YouTube and you search for a few videos, people have gone through and documented, uh, what what’s there, which is not much so.
Elle: Um, yeah, I’ve seen some videos of people who’ve gone in and, um, you know, you see that animals have reclaimed it, you know, there are packs of wild dogs and deer and everything’s overgrown.
I really feel for the people who.
That’s it, they left and they went ..Never able to go back.
They couldn’t have known that they would never, they would never be able to return to their homes.
It’s terrible, terrible event, it really was.
Um, anyway, let’s talk about something more positive.
I wonder, um, what your favorite trip was while, cause you lived only in Tokyo, right, when you were in Japan?
Eric: Uh, yeah. Only in Tokyo.
Elle: And did you visit anywhere outside of Tokyo that you fell in love with?
There were so many amazing places to visit in Japan.
Just spoiled for choice.
Eric: Yeah, that’s true.
I didn’t go to too many places.
I spent time outside, like I traveled around Tokyo so Nikko, um, Gunma, Saitama, but they’re not really the most interesting places.
I think like Gunma, for example, is just a very small
I guess countryside, uh, city, you can say countryside, city, um, just a very quiet place, but it does have, uh, a really good onsen.
Um, I think the name is Setsu so, um, I think that’s hwo you say it, Setsu onsen.
And, um, Nikko has a lot of valleys and mountains for hiking, which was good.
Saitama, Not so much, there’s not much really to do there.
I think it’s, it’s more for people to live, to commute to Tokyo, but they don’t want to be in the, in the city center.
Elle: Right? Yeah.
Eric: Um, I never have gone North.
LIke the height, the farthest North I’ve ever been is Niigata and that’s on the opposite side.
Pretty much of Tokyo, but it’s a little bit more North it’s above Nagano.
And I’ve been to Nagano.
Uh, one time then I also went to Osaka and Kobe.
Kobe I liked a lot.
It’s like a, it’s like a little Vancouver.
Cause you get the, the water, you get the nice scenery.
Elle: Yeah, that’s true, actually.
And what did you think of a Osaka?
What did you do there?
I found that place.
I went to your in Golden Week, which is a holiday in Japan for anyone who doesn’t know when everyone travels in Japan.
And it was so packed full of people.
I couldn’t quite believe what I was seeing.
It was tough.
And I drove there.
I was the driver, phew, do not recommend.
What did you think of Osaka?
Eric: It was a pretty fun.
I liked the people.
Thy’re more energetic.
They have a bit more free time it seems than Tokyo, uh, people living in Tokyo.
It’s a little bit more, I think, rough in terms of the scenery, you get more small shops, food stands.
People are just crowded around certain areas.
Um, not as a, unlike Tokyo where it’s kind of like everyone’s in their own…
they go one path and everything’s clean.
Well, everything’s clean, but still Osaka, I would say isn’t a, like a Tokyo in that sense, but they, I think the people from Osaka have their own way of, uh, just approaching life.
Because they’re more, I feel talkative.
Um, so I found that was interesting.
Could you tell, I know this, I know Osaka-ben, right?
Eric: Oh Kansai-ben?
Elle: Oh Kansai-ben, yeah I couldn’t, I, my, I couldn’t tell the difference.
Um, when I went and listened to people talk.
Could you tell the difference?
Eric: No, I can’t.
I can’t really tell the difference.
There’s a… there’s a few things now that I could hear, but it’s, for me, it’s difficult to pick up.
Um, For sure people who have studied the language a lot, who are fluent, they could probably tell.
But for me, there’s a few things.
Um, just the way, especially with their verb endings, they say things a little differently.
Um, but at the time, No I could not cannot tell.
I just, I could tell they’re from Osaka because of their personality.
Just, they’re more outgoing.
Elle: Oh Interesting. Huh.
And, uh, did you pick up any new hobbies or learn anything new in terms of, uh, I don’t know, sports or…
Eric: Oh yeah.
So in Japan, um, like Mark, I played ice hockey.
I played in, uh, the Tokyo S League it’s called, so it’s just a few teams.
These are company teams.
So I played for Marubeni and there is Densu,
there is, um, Uh, what’s the car company that I’m thinking of?
There’s a couple of car companies like Mitsubishi.
I think she has a company, um, and a few others.
And we play, uh, we played game… we played games in Higashi Fushimi, is on the Keiō-sen and it’s, it’s, it’s still in Tokyo, but it’s going towards Saitama.
So it’s kind of on the way to Saitama, but.
Um, that’s where we played our games and we practiced in Takadanobaba, which is where I was living.
So it was great because I could walk to practice and to go to the game was easy because it was the same… uh, I lived in a station near station called Shimo-Ochiai , and that’s the same line, Keiō-sen.
I could go to a game play a game easily.
So I was, I lucked out when I moved to, near Takadanobaba, I wanted to play hockey and I found the practice… uh, practices were, uh, walking distance and the games were just a train train ride away.
And I would just take my stuff.
Carrying your bag, like in Canada, you drive with your gear and stuff, but I, in Japan, I was carrying my, my hockey equipment, my sticks, trying not to hit people on the train.
Um, but it was fun.
I mean, yeah.
We had a fun team.
We had a mix of foreigners and Japanese.
I think most teams were Japanese players.
Um, but, uh, it was cool.
It was awesome.
It was great a way to meet new people.
Like I think that was one of the best things I did.
I think if anyone goes to Japan or a different country, a hobby is a great thing to do.
And, uh, I, uh, yeah, I just happened to find hockey, which is not too easy to find in Japan.
Um, and then we had tournaments games, met friends, uh, Yeah, no, I really enjoyed it.
It was, uh, it was good.
And one surprising thing about that is that adult league in Vancouver, there’s not, it’s not in contact cause you don’t really need to hit just for fun.
But in Japan it was full on contact.
So I haven’t played contact in like eight, nine years.
So it was a weird, like, it was like, what the heck?
And like, I was like, okay, here you go.
Like, this is.
I gotta, I gotta keep my head up.
Like, it was just funny that, that, uh, in Japan of all places, especially in a league, that’s not professional, they had contact hockey.
And I thought that was interesting.
It was fun.
I was sore, but it was fun.
Elle: I’m surprised by that too.
You’d think it would be the other way around.
In Canada, I know.
As I spoke with mock in aprevious episode, the violence is very much a part of the game, but Japan is a more reserved and…
Eric: Which is interesting yeah.
Cause Mark played professional, which is hitting, but they’re still reserved compared to yeah, compared to North America.
Even the league I was playing in it, it wasn’t too anything too crazy.
Maybe a fight here and there, some players would fight once in a while, but.
I have one story that I can share that was pretty funny, but…
Eric: like my players or whatever, they probably won’t care.
I don’t even know who it was, but so in this league, um, because it’s a rec league, you have to volunteer to ref a game.
So they, they always picked two players from a team to ref another game.
Another team’s game.
I didn’t ref because I didn’t speak Japanese and they’re not going to choose me.
I don’t have experience refereeing to.
We had two players, who were doing ref.
And by chance that… like the same night they had a party.
So they went out to an izakaya and got very drunk.
Let’s just say like, just way too, too many drinks.
And they actually ref this game, but they were, they couldn’t even skate on the ice.
So there’s a big, we had, we had a big talking to from like the league, um, Because apparently after you hand in the score sheet, they just drew obscene characters and like all these cryptic messages.
I wish I was at that game would have been funny.
But, um, that was like kind of a funny story.
Elle: Oh no.
Eric: Yeah. I wasn’t playing.
It was just, it was two teams and two of our players who happened to ref, but I was laughing cause it was just a funny, funny story, like who goes to the game and refs can barely skate because they drank too much sake.
One of those things only in Japan.
Elle: And do you still play hockey now here in Vancouver or…?
Eric: Yeah, I played last year having played this year, uh, waiting to, uh, the leagues I think are shut down at the moment.
So I don’t know.
I don’t know exactly if I’ll be playing this year.
I’d like to, I like to just actually just practice around, but, um, I think that some of the facilities are closed, unfortunately.
I think a lot of things are on hold for a while, but yeah.
We’ll get back into them.
Well, Eric, as usual, we could talk more and more and more about Japan.
Maybe we’ll do another episode, um, but let’s call it a day there.
Thank you so much.
Pleasure as always.
And yeah, really looking forward to your posts on this.
So 10,000 words of reading a week throughout 2021 in Japanese.
Eric: Thank you.
We’ll be speaking one day.
We’ll be speaking.
Well, you’ll be learning French.
So, um, yeah, maybe we’ll have, we’ll get Steve to interpret for us.
You’ll speak French.
I’ll speak Japanese.
Elle: I have to, one day I’ll pick up the Japanese again.
I mean, I do love it when I’m studying French and when I try to speak French, I come out with Japanese all the time.
I don’t know how Steve speaks all the languages he does, but yeah, it’s definitely the language that’s on my mind.
It’s, it’s at the forefront, uh, in front of French, you know, but I’m actively studying French.
So anyway, one day, one day for sure.