At some bespeak, perhaps a yr after I moved hither, I was under the mirage that I’d become a “local” in my small-scale neighborhood in Nihon. I settled into a routine. I knew half a dozen shopkeepers on my street enough to say hi and chat about the weather. I received coupons for the pizza place downwards the street, and and so I used them. I went to a Japanese dentist and made an appointment for 6 months in the time to come, confident I’d still be here.

I hit a level of Japanese language proficiency where I entered into conversations without preemptively blushing and sweating; I knew I wouldn’t sympathize near of it, just I knew it’d probably work out. I felt similar I belonged and like the people in my community, at least my block, were starting to accept my husband and me into their daily lives.

Then, a little more fourth dimension passed, and I realized I was wrong.

I’ve never gone to Tokyo without a subway map and a camera in my hand at all times. Holidays come and go and I have no idea what my neighbors are celebrating. The rules for garbage collection change — different items, unlike schedule, different collection area — and no one tells me.

I’k non a local. I but live here.

I think many people are in my shoes. Foreigners come to Japan on temporary work permits and stay several years but all the same feel like a tourist, at least some of the fourth dimension. Or peradventure they but haven’t realized it nonetheless. If any of the situations below are familiar to you, y’all may yet exist a tourist in Nippon.

1. In the past year, you’ve almost walked away from a toilet because yous couldn’t figure out how to affluent it.

Admit information technology. This has happened to y’all. Information technology’southward definitely happened to me. Push this button on the wall. No, step on this pedal on the floor. No, printing three buttons on the electronic handle that heats the seat. Just affluent!

2. Yous’ve been to a karaoke bar but don’t know the words to “Sukiyaki.”

Or you don’t know the Japanese title of the song, or you lot don’t know what I’m talking about. If y’all practice know what I’m talking about, I apologize because I’m almost sure information technology’s at present stuck in your head.

3. Y’all’ve never carried a
mikoshi
in a community festival, rung a new year’southward bell, climbed Mount Fuji, or worn a kimono in public.

Some of the most iconic aspects of Japanese culture are tough to experience without a Japanese friend or tour guide to help yous. Carrying a
mikoshi, for example, is often done by a community group that a tourist would have a hard time joining.

four. No stranger has ever knocked one time and so walked into your house yelling, “Shitsureishimasu!”

I see this happening to my neighbors all the time. Friends, commitment people, utility-visitor workers but walk into their houses. This has happened to me only twice, and once was a mistake that was embarrassing for us both.

Information technology’s somehow frightening and rewarding at the aforementioned fourth dimension. You feel similar y’all’re part of the community civilization, and you also wonder if the person is going to impale you.

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5. Some, many, or all
kanji
even so elude you.

The Chinese characters that make up the Japanese logographic (each character represents an idea instead of a sound) writing system are beautiful, and equally I’ve learned more and more, my globe feels like it’s opening up. I can read some street signs! I know whether I’m ordering chicken or beef!

But why are there so many? There are over 2,000
kanji
and many accept multiple meanings. Information technology feels similar a losing boxing.

6. You lot however think it’due south a little weird that 7-Eleven is a one-finish store for everything but medical intendance.

The following scenario is possible: You want to go skiing in Hokkaido. Yous visit your local 7-Eleven and pay for a flight and charge your train IC card to make certain you take enough money to become to the airport. While y’all’re at that place you as well pay all of your bills, ship your skis to your hotel, buy a nutritious snack, and maybe purchase a clean t-shirt and pair of socks.

Before I moved here, I used 7-Eleven almost exclusively for taquitos and lottery tickets.

7. Recycling is tough for yous sometimes.

How do I throw out a semi-used candle? Do I have to dissever information technology into burnable (wax), glass (the container), and nonburnable (the metal piece that holds the wick)? Or do I wrap it in a slice of paper towel and pretend the whole affair is burnable?

8. Your wallet isn’t filled with point cards.

If this is the case, you’re a lunatic. Everywhere has a bespeak card. Every indicate redemption system is different and confusing. None of the prizes are worth carrying and then many cards around. Simply it’southward and so fun.

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ix. You have a huge jar of yennies you don’t know what to exercise with.

I periodically wrap mine and bring them to the bank, simply I read online they’re worth more if you cook them downwardly and make something out of the metallic.