Crossing the Bridge in Japan

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This is a short piece about my impressions, culture shock and various emotions when I moved to Japan all the way from Saudi Arabia

Submitted: June 03, 2017

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Submitted: June 03, 2017



I remember around December, 2015, I made the decision to move to Japan. As a Saudi, female and single, the possibility to visit Japan was slim to nada for years. To be frank, at start my knowledge about the country consisted of couple of mangas, animes, sushi (of course), and even went as far as some J-dramas, or Japanese dramas.


However, my passion and insistence to visit the country was something deeper than popular animes or its cuisine. Since I heard the language when I was a high schooler, I was very intrigued and curious behind its origin, lyrical sound and the ancient vibes that came with it. As a bookworm, I read about Japan extensively. I love mythology and history and Japan has plenty to offer in that department. To say the least, I kept falling in love over and over. It took me over 10 years to fulfill this dream of mine and after months of contemplating, planning and crossing the biggest obstacle; convincing my family, I made it to Japan in June, 2016. Last Ramadan! 


Working as an English/ Science teacher has opened many doors for me and I’m forever grateful for that. Partly, because it has pushed me to take this step, and partly because it worked as a convincing reason when people asked (while looking at me like I’ve gone crazy); WHY??!! (literally in that capitalized, over shocked, almost shouting intonation). The easiest answer was: I’m a teacher, I am going there to teach. 


Moving forward to June, 2017 (and my second Ramadan here!), I can proudly say it has been a crazy experience so far and I made it! I survived in this alien country where everything is old and new. Everything is familiar and strange. Everything is compelling and repelling at the same time. Everything is highly advanced and deeply retarded. Strange, I know. I had (and still have) this confused, tilted to the side face regularly. If I would to sum up Japan in one word, I’d go with CONTRADICTION. Japan is a contradiction at its finest. Which created a love-hate relationship throughout the year.  


The people are friendly but not really. The food is yummy but not really. The work environment is very organized but not really. The country is very developed but not really. Confusing so far, right? 


To elaborate more, Japan is a highly homogenous country, meaning, over 90% are Japanese. Period. Thus, mostly are still perplexed when dealing with foreigners. Add to that, my work place is in Tohoku region or North of Japan, which drops the percentage of foreigners to less than 2%. And the chances of Saudis to one person: ME! (well, at lease in my prefecture, I’m still looking for my peeps). 


The food is extremely well developed here, but you would be shocked with the amount of junk element in it (fried and processed) and the amount of pork and alcohol (or popularly known; Sake) put in almost everything instantly dropping the chances of you picking that food again to zero. They have the highest tech machines in the world, but still uses faxes over e-mails and big old giant phones over smartphones at work. 


However, when you get over all this contradicting, confusing parallel and truly track the beauty of this country, you will not get enough of the clear sky at night full of stars. The breathtaking chains of mountains that are covered in green in the summer and pure white in the winter. The rain, the snow and the most famous of it all, the cherry blossom season, which people around the world wait the whole year to experience. The nature here is truly amazing, magical and leaves you spellbound most of the time if not all. The fresh air and the clean neighbourhood and the hard working senior citizens who are retired but work every morning with shovels and brooms to maintain their community. Amazing spirit and amazing modals to their society. 


Many unspoken rituals that leave you in awe and constantly going back for more. Shrines and temples that host ancient legends and hold people’s hopes and dreams. Beautiful and colorful festivals that are unique, exciting and full of joy, music and laughter.  


I can write pages and pages about Japan, but I will conclude by saying it was very worth decision to make. My life has been so enriched and so personally developed. With all the ups and downs, I still look for another year here full of adventures, new friends, crazy products and of course hunting nature and onsen spots like a hungry caterpillar. 



Sayonara for now and Ramadan Mubarak.



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