(↑ This is pumpkin spice coffee.)
Once Halloween has passed, the US heads into Thanksgiving and Christmas, by far the busiest time of the year. Meanwhile, I went back home to Japan the other day for the first time in a while. It’s my first time to go back home since migrating to the US about a year and a half ago.
Now that I’ve been living in the US I can see Japan more objectively, and with that distance, I really noticed Japan’s good points. On this visit to Japan there were a number of things that especially impressed me. And on the other hand, there were some things in the US that I thought might be better.
When I sat down to list the differences in the life I lead in the US now and everyday life in Japan, I soon came up with 7 big differences, mainly to do with household chores.
My skin and hair were distinctly different after bathing in Japan, which is due to the difference in the hardness of the water. The water in Japan felt completely different in the mouth. It felt really nice to me. Hard water and soft water both have their good and bad points, but it made me think that very hard water is as you would expect, not good for your skin at all.
In Japan you have to dry your clean laundry outside and you get a lot of days when the weather determines whether it dries or not, so the US approach to laundry might be more rational. After you’ve washed your clothes in a washer, you just put them into a big drier. It completely dries them in less than an hour. You can even wash sheets on rainy days without a worry, and best of all, you don’t have to spend the time and effort putting out the laundry and taking it back in.
Washing the dishes
In most households in the US, the sinks are fitted with a disposal unit so you can just put your food scraps into it. And most kitchens have a big built-in dishwasher. That means that when you have a lot of dishes to wash, even a lot of thick, heavy dishes, you can safely use the dishwasher to tidy up in short time.
Japanese baths are the best. Unit baths are common in the US, so you rarely get the opportunity for a soak. A nice long soak in the hot tub really does relieve fatigue.
I think garbage is handled in different ways depending on where you live, but the US is generally not as strict with garbage sorting as Japan. You can separate out the things that can be recycled, but most garbage is just thrown out together.
Wherever you go in the US, supermarkets are really big, so it takes time if you have to go back for some little thing you’ve forgotten. It feels to me as though food shopping is kind of easier and quicker in Japan, as you might expect.
Trains and buses
Where I currently live, you can’t get anywhere without a car. In Japan, the trains and buses run on time, the fares are low, and you can go anywhere, so I think they really are great.
Some other differences around the home
・Homes are centrally heated in the US, which is convenient and keeps the whole home at a steady temperature (and you don’t need to fit each room with an air conditioner).
・The refrigerators and ovens are really big.
・Most homes are already carpeted when you move in, and so on.
(And something I just don’t seem to be able to get used to is that in the US few homes have a doorbell as the homes in Japan do. My home doesn’t have one either, so when a parcel arrives or a visitor comes, they knock on the door with a “knock, knock”. It’s happened time and again, but it still gives me a start, and on the odd occasion someone will knock incredibly loudly, which is frankly, quite scary (sweat inducing!).
I enthusiastically moved to the US without thinking too much about the consequences (or rather, if I thought about this and that, I think I probably couldn’t have taken that first step), but this visit reminded me that the distance between the US and Japan doesn’t allow for easy travel between the two. No matter how many times you experience it, once you’ve felt gratitude for the word “Okaeri” (“welcome home”), it’s hard going through the leaving. I truly respect the mental strength of the people who leave their home and lead an active life in another country.
Although it’s only been 24 years, Japan is after all the country where I was born and raised, and the country where I have established certain things. Now I realize that leaving the country where I was raised is a bigger thing than I had thought. That said, I love my life in the US.
And there’s nothing for it but to continue making the effort to build up experience in the US on top of my experiences in Japan. That’s the take home message from my fleeting stay in Japan.