I bought some business cards to try and start being this “professional” version of an adult like creature. Here’s a look into my experience with the company Zazzle.
A few days ago, I called the police for the first time in Japan. An older gentlemen at the train station didn’t respond to an attendant’s questions. They were simple ones, too.
“Sir,” the attendant asked in Japanese, “do you have 160 yen? If you don’t, you can’t get on the train.”
I could tell the man was in his 70’s, that age where most people assume he’s a typical yoparai oji-san, someone too drunk to really deal with except to send him home or throw him in jail to sleep it off. I watched carefully, alarm bells ringing in my head. Drunk guys love to talk, whether young or old, they try to joke or shout and just in general be annoying.
He wasn’t doing any of that. He kept putting up one arm, but his other arm stayed at his side. He said something nonsensical, something along the lines of, “I’m trying to find the way.” The train attendant didn’t seem amused, and told him curtly the same line again.
I noticed that the older man’s smile was asymmetrical, his right eye wasn’t opened all the way. I stayed out off to the side, because maybe the train attendant will do something. Instead, he just blocked the way, told the man gently and politely to leave.
The old man started shuffling onto the road. I kept my eye on him, noticing a bunch of bad signs. He wasn’t walking properly at all. His left leg was working fine, but his right leg wasn’t mobile at all, he was lugging it with him like a prop stick. All the facts together made me think he’s either having a stroke, or was the victim of a bad one in the past.
People with strokes can have serious mental issues years after, forgetfulness and confusion in the top two. He couldn’t speak well, another symptom. I wanted to be really sure, so I went up to talk to him.
“Hello,” I said in Japanese, “are you alright?”
It took him a long time to respond, “No, I’m not.” His face contorted, but only the left side. His right eye and the right side of his mouth didn’t move in concert with everything else.
“Where do you need to go?” I was perfectly willing to call a taxi for him, get him to a hospital.
He lunged back and forth, teeter-tottering, obviously upset. He said, “Morisaki!”
“Morisaki?” I got closer. He didn’t smell of alcohol at all, just that musty smell of someone who’d been out and about in the heat all day. I checked for Morisaki on maps in my phone. It was an hour away! Way too far to give him a taxi there. It would clean me out.
“Where are you going?!” He suddenly yelled. I stared at him, befuddled.
“Uh, over there,” I pointed towards down the road. My apartment was a good ten, fifteen minute walk down and around.
“I don’t understand!” He shouted, gurgled more like. His face was a grimace, he reached towards me.
I backed up and shook my head. “Sorry, excuse me.” I turned around and started walking away. I didn’t want him to get so distraught in his confusion that he hurt me.
I dialed 110 after I got to a place not far off and safe. The police picked up and immediately asked me if I was in danger.
“Uh, no,” I said in Japanese, “I am a foreigner, so I need English services, please.” [Ano, chotto, watashi wa gaikokujin desu. Soshite, eigo no saabisu ga hoshii desu.]
“Oh! Ok, thank you for calling. Please wait while I get an English speaker on the line.” He said, in a bit of keigo, the formal language I’ve yet to master.
The English translator was fast, “Hello! Please tell your emergency.”
“Hi yes,” I explained the situation with the man, keeping it short and to the point. I finished with, “I believe the old man is having a stroke.”
They asked me a few questions, where he was and where I was. I told them the road and the location he was heading towards. The translator would translate my words into Japanese after every two sentences. The cop on the other end figured out pretty quickly what I was talking about and where he was needed.
In less than five minutes, they were dispatching an officer to the scene. I sighed in relief.
“Thank you so much, ma’am! We appreciate this call.” They told me in English and Japanese. I thanked them for being so fast and cordial, and hung up the phone.
I had to help. I couldn’t just leave him alone. I knew how it felt to need help and be all alone. See, while that was the first time I ever called the police, I have called emergency services before.
Two years ago, I was sick as a dog, vomiting and things going wrong the other way too (long story involving problems with my I.B.S.). Over the period of a day, I was constantly sick. By the time the twelve hour mark rolled around, and I was too weak to move out of bed, I called 119.
At the time, I didn’t know that you could request English services. I was not entirely lucid, so I said all of this in Japanese badly, “I need an ambulance. I’m at (AREA) in (THIS CITY) on the second floor. I’m very sick.” [Kyūkyūsha ga hitsuyōdesu. (BASHO) ni (SHI) nikai desu. Watashi wa hontōni byōkidesu.]
The lady understood, told me they were sending an ambulance right away. She stayed with me, asked questions about what building and the color. I gave her the best answers I could, but everything got a bit fuzzy at that point. The ambulance arrived in about seven minutes. I got inside after stumbling down stairs. The ambulance staff set me up on the gurney and took me to a nearby hospital.
I was absolutely distraught, because I’m American. I assumed that ambulances in Japan functioned like in the United States, charging up to $1,000 for a ride. Imagine my relief when I discovered that it was free, and that the whole hospital stay only cost about $300 (45,000 yen). I was shocked and just so grateful.
Some foreigners dislike the emergency services in Japan. Frequently, the complaints come from having to deal with everything in Japanese. I feared that as well. When I got to my hospital, though, one nurse knew conversational level English. Also, other staff members used smartphones or tablets to communicate with me.
The only problem I had was my doctor, as he seemed completely apathetic. He told me my colon was extremely inflamed, he was giving me this medicine, I’d be discharged in a few days. And then he left, and I never saw him again. I stayed for three days and that five minute conversation was all I had as “comforting” from my doctor.
I was worried. Did he actually bother to look at my x-rays? What kind of medicine was he giving me? What were the side effects? Was I going to have problems after this? Would I just end up calling another ambulance later? I had so many questions, but none of the nurses could answer them, because they weren’t my doctor.
I’m not the only one who suffered from this problem, as seen in various news articles and surveys. Generally, foreigners have a hard time with Japanese doctors, men usually who are used to simply throwing down a judgement and not being questioned about it. I ended up turning out fine, but sometimes that is simply not the case, leaving foreigners high and dry without a way to fight for better healthcare.
What I know now, after the fact, is that the American Embassy actually has translators. I could’ve called for one to come and help me, but since I didn’t know about it I just went home to recover. Also, there are also online medical translator volunteers who specialize in helping foreigners. And to have hope for the future, the hospitals in Japan want to have at least one translator per hospital before 2020, but we’ll see how that goes.
Anyways, that helpless and lost feeling was awful. Knowing you’re sick and in pain, but unable to communicate what you need, I understood all of that when I saw the old man. I hope he was treated better by a doctor, I hope the police made sure he got home. I wish someone could’ve been there to help me out when I really needed it. Being alone in Japan is usually fine, but when things go horribly awry it can feel like you’re stuck in a horror movie for a time.
I hope that I’ll never have to call the emergency numbers again, but it helps to be prepared if I have to do it. Eigo no saabisu onegaishimasu are the key words to get an English translator on the phone (the easy way), always remembering 110 for police (警察 keisatsu) but 119 for ambulances (救急車 kyūkyūsha) and firefighters (消防士 shōbō-shi), and having an in person translator service number. I always keep my medical insurance cards on me, too.
As my mom would say, “Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.” Definitely words to live by when living alone in a foreign country.
If you liked this post, please like it and share it! Put down in the comments what you want me to write about next.
[Warning: Depression and Suicidal Thoughts]
I’ll start this off by saying that the first year on JET was full of highs, like super highs. I got to travel to places most people only ever saw in travel brochures, and one of those places was Hokkaido. I never imagined I’d end up in those places, and getting to see them was wonderful in ways that I can’t ever explain fully. I traveled with mostly like-minded first year ex-pats, people who also felt the awe of what we were doing.
What follows is a mostly truthful account about the February of 2012, but I left something out back then because I was too asheamed to talk about it. Even today as I’m writing the post, I feel like I shouldn’t talk about it. Mainly, the words that prevent it is the idea that “it wasn’t that big of a deal.” As if feeling like I did was just a hiccup in an otherwise fine month.
Depression has become a sort of easier to talk about thing than before, but I still suffer from the words of my old fashioned thinking people back home. Most of the time when I try to explain it, they tell me to just change how I think, “Be positive!” which just makes me always feel worse because I can’t. Not when it gets bad, not when I want to die, but all too often I will get scoffed at and told to just eat something or get over it.
I think part of the problem is when people meet me and talk to me, I don’t appear like that stereotypical depressed person you’d see on TV or read in books. I am what my therapist back in high school would call “functionally depressed,” as in I don’t need daily medication and I don’t usually need to keep up with a psychologist. Usually being the key word, though. I go out and see friends, I make plans, I travel to distant lands and smile in all the photos, I date on occasion, so it’s hard for people to blend together those preconceived notions of what it means to be depressed and who I am.
So let’s start with the good stuff, the thing I posted, what I usually do with my “public face.”
THRICE DAMNED FLU SEASON, HOKKAIDO, AND VALENTINES DAY
Posted on April 10, 2012 under Working and Living in Japan
February was an exciting month for me. I planned on starting it off with this epic adventure to Hokkaido. I’d been excited about this trip for months. I paid for it in December, and I was all kinds of happy. I was going to be around JET friends I don’t get to see very often, ski and/or snowboard, eat crab, buy a whole bunch of souvenirs, and take too many pictures.
However, a few days before my quest began, my body decided that was the perfect time to catch the flu. I will admit, the first day I was in complete denial. I went to work, struggling the whole way through, but I could claim it was “just a cold.” The next day, I wanted somebody to shoot me in the face, but I still went to work. My teachers were looking at me like I was insane and there were some polite suggestions about taking ninkyuu and going home. However, I forced myself to keep going.
On Friday, I’m fairly certain I was close to dying. My temperature got over 38°C at one point and I vaguely recall thinking I needed to go to the hospital. Instead of doing that, I went to the clinic and waited patiently for the doctor. Sure enough, I tested positive for the flu. He gave me some inhaling medicine I’d never seen before, and told me to drink fluids and rest. When I got home, I wondered how I could possibly turn this around. I did everything I could possibly do. I drank tea like crazy, took a crazy mixture of medicine that also should’ve probably killed me, and slept for about eleven hours.
The next day, I felt bad, but not awful. I figured that was close enough and I got on board with the vacation plan again. I met a couple of friends at the bus station and we headed off to the airport. I slept on the bus and on the airplane so that I could feel less of a zombie by the time we landed in Hokkaido.
I like to push myself, because sometimes that’s good for me. After all, who doesn’t like to travel? But it’s easy for me to forget that by pushing myself I have a 50/50 shot of brining on a depressive state. I figured that I was going to be just fine, because how could good stress hurt me? I liked all these people, I was going to enjoy the trip, so I’d be fine. I kept telling it to myself all three days of the trip, over and over, ignoring the tightness of my chest and the soft tears I’d cry in the bathroom where no one could see me.
I was all kinds of happy when I saw the vast acres of snow. I was surprised to realize how much I had missed the cold, white stuff. I’m not really a big fan, but I guess in my head it’s just not winter if there’s no snow. I took so many pictures of the landscape.
It’s just like the ink paintings!
We went to Niseko, a ski resort. We split into groups and stayed at two cabins that were drowning in snow. It was so cool! Ha, get it? Yeah, I suck at humor. Deal with it.
There were so many bugs. No one warned me that Hokkaido was full of stink bugs, bugs you can’t smash without releasing a foul stench into the air that would’ve lingered forever. Grooooosss!
On arrival day, people went off to go buy stuff at the grocery store. I stayed in reading the Hunger Games (By the way, it was a good read and I recommend it to you all). The next day was spent running around with my friend Jason at various shopping places and discovering an Irish Bar (that I never got to drink in, and I still regret it). I found myself a new pair of boots that are awesome. That night we ate Genghis Khan, a lamb barbeque dish.
We checked out in the morning to move onto Sapporo. I finally got around to skiing. I went ahead and bought two hours with a skiing instructor. It was my first time so I know I wasn’t very good. I fell three times and felt really freakin’ tired by the end of my session. However, my teacher, Gordie, told me that I caught on fast and next time just go. No more instruction needed. I felt proud of myself, but I wonder if he was just being nice.
After my session, it was time to hop on the bus to Sapporo. At Sapporo, I saw the Yuki Matsuri (Snow Festival, in English). Basically, it’s a huge event wherein people compete in a snow sculpting competition. These things can be huge!
It’s a recreation of a temple done as an ice sculpture. They put lights in front and behind to create this effect with the ice.
I really had a good time. However, by the end of it I was completely prepared to go back to Itako and get away from the snow. I can only take this stuff in small doses.
As luck would have it, the snow followed me home! Itako had its second snowfall for the winter when I got back. I grumbled about it, but I lived. Besides, it was time to work on Valentines Day! February 14th was just around the corner. I bought construction paper, pens, and stamps. I was determined to show my love and make a Valentines Day card for every single student at both of my schools.
By the time I was done with the Valentines Day cards, my hand hurt like hell, but I managed to complete my task. I made OVER 300 of those little things! I have vowed to never, ever pull this stunt ever again. Next time, I will buy them all or do something creative after I printed out the message. My hatred for the sight of red and pink has not wavered since that day.
The kids seemed to like them, but the boys kept shouting over and over again, “Why no choco?!” I explained, “That’s a Japanese tradition and I’m not Japanese.” Of course, that’s not entirely the reason. I kind of bought a lot of chocolates for them at Christmas time and that stuff was expensive. Also, I need special permission to bring in food to class. I just decided this time that I would just do cards, and maybe next year I’ll figure something out with my JTE and principal in advance.
I surprised the teachers at both my schools with small cards and Kit Kats. They seemed to like it, and now at random times I’ll find chocolates on my desk. It makes me so happy!
And that’s pretty much the big events of February. I’ll update again pretty soon.
As of writing this post, I only ever told one person about how bad I fell into despression after the Hokkaido trip. I fell hard, the whole nine yards of bad: fatigue so deep set I couldn’t get out of bed, crying fits that lasted for hours, followed by numbness, and finally just the demeaning thoughts about myself. Insidious little poisonous thoughts like, “Look at how weak you are. Can’t you just be happy? How can you be so ungrateful about your life? You don’t deserve it. Why don’t you just do everyone favor? You’re so hard to love, you know that, you’re awful. You’re useless, just lie down and die.”
I spent two or three days holed up in my apartment, not eating much of anything, staying away from social media, usually curled up under my kotatsu waiting for it to pass. I managed to make the Valentines Day cards on the third day, like a robot. It’s ironic in hindsight that I was making all these cards out of love for my students, but all the while hating myself so intensely. I stopped at one point when I wondered if the blade of my scissors were sharp enough to cut skin. Then I put it all away and headed to bed, watched a few bad horror movies to make me forget how screwed up I was for awhile.
When I returned to work, I just put on my game face and did what needed to be done. But when I finished work, I would just get into bed and stare at a wall, or fall asleep, or watch movies. I didn’t eat much, some snacks and hot chocolate mostly. I didn’t feel comfortable talking to anyone, I don’t even think there was a psychologist or therapist in my town. I heard rumors that people got fired and kicked out of JET for being depressed, so you never talked about it with people at school. I lived in such a small town that everyone knew everyone, so I knew there wasn’t anyone I could safely talk to without it getting back to my employers.
Then, I felt like I couldn’t reach out to my friends either. How unappreciative would it sound to say something like, “Hey, so my awesome vacation kind of broke me, and I feel shattered, so can I talk about that?” My mother is a great mom, but I didn’t want her to worry about me where she couldn’t reach me. I boxed myself in with all these thoughts, isolated myself, because that’s what depression does: it ruins your ability to make good choices.
After about two weeks of persistent suicidal and self-harming thoughts, I managed to finally tell one friend from university how I was feeling. She and I had an hours long chat, but looking back I know I downplayed it, made it seem like I was just having a bad time adjusting. She didn’t tell me to suck it up, she just listened, and reminded me that writing can be good confessional material when people weren’t around. I’m glad I talked to her, because it helped. It wasn’t an instant cure, but as time rolled on into March I got to feeling better.
I still have these moments, but nothing since then has been so intensely hateful towards myself. Sometimes it’s a few days of numbness, sometimes it’s a month of fighting through lethargy, and sometimes it’s just a lingering malice towards how better I should be but I’m not. I’m able to now talk with people, I have a better support network made because if that incident to work through my problems, but no medication. Medication would be something I would love to try out someday when I’m not in such a transitory lifestyle, but for now it’s just me and my people.
I know there are ex-pats out there doing the same thing I did, keeping their diagnosis a secret and fighting their battles basically on their own. There are others out there suffering, because they don’t see a way to get help. I felt it was important to write this post for them, even if only a few people see it. It’s fine if you’re feeling bad and awful sometimes, humans aren’t built to be purely happy. We’re complex emotional beings, and some of us have chemical imbalances that make emotions harder to regulate than the average person. That doesn’t mean you’re useless, you deserve what you’ve worked hard for, and you’re worthy of the love your family and friends feel for you. I know it’s difficult to remember that sometimes, but try to keep that close when you fall hard like I did.
Also, there are options available. I discovered TELL Japan not long after that, it’s a wonderful service that helps people find counseling services that work for them, and it’s all English friendly too. As just an easy shortcut, if you’re worried about people in your town or your employer finding out about your diagnosis, pay out of pocket for medical and mental health services in the nearest big city close to you. Most of the time, paying out of pocket isn’t nearly as expensive as America, but for Europeans I’ve heard the charges can seem too high, so get an estimate before you arrange appointments. But finally, don’t be afraid to reach out to the people who love and support you back home. Tell them your problems, not everything has to be perfect just because you’re living somewhere cool and new.
I hope that this helps someone to read, or at the very least helps people realize that depression doesn’t mean people who are just sad all the time. People with depression go on vacation, they go to work, they smile and hand out Valentines Day cards, they push through sickness to make great memories, they live abroad, and all the while they’re dealing with an invisible illness trying to break them down.
I’m always going to be fighting with depression, even if people don’t see it, and I’m not going to keep it a secret anymore.
The difference between the news and the tabloids is a thinner line in the good ol’ USA than I’d like. Sensationalism has become nearly synonymous with journalism, which is just a depressing reality in the new age of #alternativefacts. I’d go so far to say more yellow journalism gets churned out daily than legitimate news articles, so when I hear people shout about fake news, it’s actually not that hard to see why.
And liberals, despite what we’d like to believe, can be awful. We can play hard at the sensationalist side of things, and more often than not we’re not even aware how utterly hypocritical we’re being about. Because of that lack of self-awareness, it’s pretty easy to become a dickish liberal. As a liberal myself of the moderate bitchy variety, I think it’s time we take a look at this process.
Step 1: Be a Feminist (But Only When it’s In Style)
Let’s take a look that this piece of trash masquerading as news, shall we?
Heather Schwedel (and her source Jezebel, which we won’t even step into because that’s a whole other article) is a smile analysis expert, apparently. I find it astonishing that a Slate editor looked at this barely-an-article thing, said, “Yeah, you go girl!” and up it went. Schwedel seems to have a lot of other articles that are pro-ladies, but Melania is of course exempt because it’s now fashionable to hate her. By the way, let’s not even get into the fact that it was a reverse gif so…talk about FAKE NEWS.
I’m a feminist, do you know what I hate being told all the time? “Smile honey!” It makes me want to punch people in the throat. Stop policing my damn smiles, I’ll smile when there’s something to smile about, so screw you.
Actually, remember when everybody was on board the no catcalling bandwagon? Here let me refresh your memory.
This video went viral in like 2014, that was all of two years ago, and apparently nobody learned a goddamn thing from it. I thought that it was about how telling women how to act and how to behave is more or less harassment, but no. Instead, we’re back to square one, and it’s totally fine to nitpick at the ladies to be perfect little smiley angels all damn day long.
Look, Melania is the First Lady of the United States, who was probably tired as hell from getting dragged around from this photo op to this speech thing to this church thing, leave her the hell alone. I don’t smile all the damn time, and she shouldn’t have to either. If us liberals are going to be all about fairness and equality, we need to be FAIR and EQUAL about it. I don’t see articles pointing out how Trump didn’t smile throughout the entire inauguration, so why is Melania getting dumped on? Because she’s a women, and they always get the bum end of the deal in the media.
And yet if you think women are the only ones who get the low blows, sorry to say, there are definitely lower ones.
Step 2: Attack the Kids (For Extra Points, Be an SNL Celebrity)
Kids don’t get to choose their parents, so they just have to deal with the fallout of dad or mom embarrassing them at the mall. At least, normal kids do, but Barron Trump has the unfortunate plight of being the child of Donald J. Trump. And so, that means some people think it’s fine to say things like this:
What did she even mean? If he’s a shooter and he’s home-schooled, what he’s going to shoot his parents? So a ten year old is going to assassinate the president? She obviously didn’t think this “joke” through. It should be noted that Katie quickly apologized like so:
But all the same, who the hell thinks it’s cool to call a ten year old kid a future terrorist? (Besides Texas and that whole clock business, I mean). Barron will probably grow up and become a rich white dude of some variety, and that’s about it. He might be a politician, he might be a TV personality of some kind, he might be a model like his mom, who the hell knows or even cares. He’s a kid, leave him alone, let him figure that out.
Anyways, I feel a little bad for Katie, since she’s getting flack for something that most of Twitter gets away with a lot.
That’s right, an entire article, devoted to pointing out that a kid was tired looking at an event. That’s it. The kid was up for over 24 hours, but somehow that’s unforgivable? For children to be tired?!
Now, did the alt-right racists attack the Obama daughters? They sure as hell did, but that doesn’t make this nonsense equal out. Leave the damn kids alone, they’re not in charge of your country. Send your ire towards the easy target: Trump and his tiny hands (…approving the abortion gag from the Reagan era)
Step 3: Commit/Cheer On Violent Acts (Don’t Bother to Stop Them)
No one is without sin, and yet everyone feels like casting that first stone. Sometimes, right into shop windows.
People are saying that these “activists” (*coughanarchistscough*) have no affiliation with the “peace and flower loving liberals who marched without causing problems.” Alright, but do you think that news affiliates care about that? NO, no they don’t. They’re already talking about “radical leftists” and “terrorist activity” instead of, ya know, researching like journalists should (Google search is HARD you guys).
Marchers need to take action when they see looting and rioting, or even better, they need to take preventative actions. How do you prevent rioting and looting? Easy, before a group heads out for protests, tell them that there’s now a 10 year jail sentence for people who get caught destroying property. When no one believes you, because wow a decade for that seems a bit much, inform them that fellow marchers will call the police on you if you begin to loot or riot. Finally, inform them that if/when they’re caught looting and rioting, you’re not protecting them from the police. “Oh, you want to throw a brick into a Starbucks? Have fun getting baton beaten and pepper sprayed.”
There’s solidarity in the face of adversity, but then there’s being a by-stander to criminal activity. When you march, you be ready to stop that shit.
And then there’s also just going around punching people you disagree with, something that people out of high school should know better than to do.
Now, I’m not going to say this guy didn’t deserve a punch to the face (Captain America would probably be proud), but it’s not something to cheer about either. I’m not going to condone violent actions. I might be internally gleeful that an asshole got what was coming to him, but in the end it only hurts the cause against racism.
This punch will be used as proof at every alt-right/Neo Nazi meeting in the country that they’re right about the “savage” black race and blah blah blah [insert more asinine bullshit here to support stupid eugenics and white superiority that’s based on super false “science”]. So while people want to cheer on this vigilante, remember that violence is what the other side wants. They want people to get angry, to punch, to loot, to make a smear campaign. They want to see us fail, essentially, to be the freedom fighters and instead paint us as terrorists.
The alt-right/Neo Nazis might even look at this post and start frothing at the mouth, “See! Even the libtards and special snowflakes know they’re wrong!” But no, that’s not the point. I want to make it clear that I’m still a liberal, I’m still a “social justice warrior” (I prefer the term armchair activist, if we’re going for derogatory titles), and I agree with most liberal ideals. However, in order for liberalism to keep its footing, it needs to take a good hard look at its flaws and hypocrisy. We liberals need to always endeavor to do better, we should always be trying to improve, and to do that we need to see what’s wrong with us.
If you don’t want to be a liberal dick, it’s actually pretty easy. DON’T share tabloid headline nonsense about the First Lady, DON’T make fun of children to further your own political aims, and finally DON’T riot at peaceful gatherings or punch people. DO praise the organizers of the Womens March, DO talk about education funding of public schools (call your legislators, people!), and whether you’re liberal or conservative try to DO all things with the goal of achieving peace.
The Japanese government has recently decided to let permanent residency become a little bit easier for “highly skilled foreign professionals.” There is now a “one year fast track” to permanent residency status for certain (i.e. very, very specific) people that the government wants to appeal to so it can have enough qualified employees (to actually make the Olympics a success-I mean, be seen as more international).
What is a “highly skilled professional?” Well, the immigration website gives three distinctive categories of people.
- Advanced Academics: People who do “activities engaging in research, research guidance or education based on a contract entered into with a public or private organization in Japan.” In other words, they’re looking for professors or heads of a field, this wouldn’t apply to students.
- Advanced Specialized/Technical Researchers: They’re defined as “activities of engaging in work requiring specialized knowledge or skills in the field of natural sciences or humanities based on a contract entered into with a public or private organization in Japan.” Basically, scientists and researchers.
- Advanced Business Managers: Those who “engage in the operation or management of a public or private organization in Japan.” In other words, business people, but not the every day salaryman. They’re looking for the higher level individuals.
Even if you’re one of these HSP’s, you’ll need to go find out if you’ve equaled out to the 70 points required for permanent residency. First of all, do you have a PhD or a MBA? Because that’s the first thing on the list of need to knows in order to get points. Only the specialized and technical researchers can have a BA.
From there, the point system gets kind of stringent. Anywhere from 40 points to only 10 points based on annual salary and age. There are bonus points for certain qualifications or current employment sectors, and then 15 points devoted to Japanese Language Proficiency, but only for the fluent level (N1). There are no points given for any of the lower levels.
In other words, although the news is welcome for people who already have a high salary and are fluent in Japanese, nothing about this system would welcome the average foreigner living in Japan (as in, someone studying in Japan or people with BA’s being ALTs). These people will have to do things the hard way, living in Japan for over 10 years before being allowed to have permanent residency, or marrying someone who is Japanese. Unfortunately, it’s a fast track only for those already on the high track.
In this vlog I share two scary experiences I had with earthquakes while living in Japan. I’m nervous about trying out this new thing, so please feedback is love!
When it comes to the differences between saying, “Excuse me!” and “I’m sorry!” I will be using English as my reference point. For me, as a United States English speaker, I often say “Excuse me!” to get someone’s attention while using “I’m sorry!” if I do something wrong.
And so that’s my basic rule for the differences between “Sumimasen (すみません)!” and “Gomennasai (ごめんなさい)!”, respectively. If I need to get someone’s attention, interrupt their current task, or get by somebody in a crowded area, then I will use すみません. If I need to apologize for a mistake I’ve made, I’m late to a meeting, or I bump into somebody, then I use ごめんなさい.
However, for the Japanese usage you should use “Excuse me!” for other things too. It’s considered polite when entering a room to say, “すみません!” As in, knocking and saying the expression at the same time. Students at school in Japan are expected to say the higher form of すみません which is “Shitsureshimasu (しつれいします)!” If you’re a teacher though, it’s not expected for you to say the phrase to the same people on your level, but it is considered polite for those above you such as the principal.
Also, すみません and ごめんなさい are expected after taking away someone else’s time. For example, let’s say you needed to have someone help you with a project. After they’ve helped you, it’s often considered common courtesy to say, “すみません! Arigatougozaimasu (ありがとうございます)!” as in “Excuse me (for taking up your time)! Thank you!” You’re expected to say this even after having already used すみません or ごめんなさい at the beginning of the conversation. For Westerners, it might feel a bit strange to use “Excuse me” and “I’m sorry” so much in a short span of time, but politeness is a big part of Japanese culture. In this sort of usage, すみません and ごめんなさい can be used interchangeably.
Many times you’ll find yourself either using the phrases together or interchangeably when walking about town. For example, when I mentioned my basic rule of bumping into someone, I said that I will often use “ごめんなさい!” because it comes more naturally to me. Please note though that in those sorts of small infractions, it doesn’t really matter whether you use either すみません or ごめんなさい. Small, little accidents aren’t a big deal, and so long as you get the message across that it was an accident, no one will mind which phrase you use.
But in general, you’ll find in Japan that people will use すみません and ごめんなさい way more than in Western cultures. It’s often noted that ex-pats who return home from living in Japan will still say “Excuse me” or “I’m sorry” to an excessive extent, despite being out of the country. Essentially, there is no such thing as using these phrases too much while in Japan. Being humble and having humility are great traits to have in Japan.
That all being said, you don’t need to use すみません and ごめんなさい as often with very close friends and family. If you want say I’m sorry, you can shorten it to just “ごめん!” with people you know really well. Friends will get a little put off if you’re constantly apologizing to them all the time. At first, it’s expected while getting to know each other, but once you’re seeing each other regularly then don’t worry so much about it.
I hope this clears up the vagueness between these two phrases! Next time I’ll talk about some useful phrases for dating in Japan.
Please like this article and share it with your friends! If you’ve got a Japanese topic you want some clarity on, write a comment below!