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Growing up, I really liked Japanese anime — a thought at which a sizeable group of people my age would already be snickering and rolling their eyes. That’s the way it is: I’ve always been a huge sci-fi fan, and anime was a form of storytelling that helped me get my fix; alongside books, movies and TV series.

At the time in place where I grew up, namely Europe circa early 2000s, there was a pretty heavy stigma against people who liked anime. …


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The steps to the Haguro temple, Yamagata Prefecture, Japan

Blogs galore abound with stories of young people moving to the other side of the world to start a new life. However, many of those trips are just that: trips. A quick burst of adventure before embarking on a decades-long trek down the corporate road.

Then there are those who have something else in mind. Maybe they’ve started down a career path and thought, “Wait a minute, no way I’m doing this non-stop for forty years!” Maybe out of college they decided they couldn’t live without satisfying their curiosity for a far away culture. …


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If you’re from continental Europe, this story will probably sound familiar.

A tourist comes up and tries to ask a question in your native language. Clearly, the extent of their knowledge is twelve words gleaned from an app, with absolutely no understanding of grammar or syntax. They compensate for ability with volume. Clearly, this conversation is doomed.

That is, until you piece together in your mind the remnants of Mrs. Thislebottom’s teachings and, with a confident smirk, reply, “Do you speak English?”

They sigh in relief. You explain the route to the nearest Starbucks and send them on their way with your head held high. Your polyglotism has saved the day. …


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Last week, I got my first haters.

They flocked over in response to an article I published on what I wish my Japanese colleagues knew about working as a foreigner in Japan. Honestly they were few and far between, but vocal enough for me and my bosses to notice them on Twitter.

The gist of their argument was that companies shouldn’t tolerate any public criticism from their employees, and that had my company not been so naive (their words, not mine) I would have already been fired. …


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Kenroku-en garden, Kanazawa, Japan

It’s been a rough few months for a lot of us. I could list off a bunch of reasons, but you all know what I’m talking about.

And if you don’t, if everything’s just going swimmingly, stop reading this article. Just go do whatever it is that’s making your life a blast. I have nothing of value to contribute to your existence, nor any good reason to take up your time.

For those who are still here, there are some thoughts I’d like to run by you. …


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Photo by Kevork Kurdoghlian on Unsplash

To be honest, I never really believed that cancel culture was a thing. Most of those complaining seemed to be privileged elites being denied insane salaries and prestigious positions for legitimate reasons. While I’m a firm believer in freedom of speech, I don’t believe in the right to be free from any and all consequences for your speech. As everything in life, whether a reaction is merited or not is a matter of proportion.

In other words, I will stand against people being denied their rights in any way based on their opinions — but I will most certainly reserve my right to judge them for what they say. If someone holds an opinion that is demonstrably unjust or could lead to people getting hurt, that person shouldn’t have access to lots of power and influence. …


Advertisements for apartments in Tokyo
Advertisements for apartments in Tokyo
Typical advertisements for apartments in Tokyo.

So kiddo, you say you want to live in Japan? Maybe you like the food, the culture, the people? Or maybe you just watched way too much anime? Don’t worry, I’m not going to judge you. Those days are behind me.

Before you make up your mind, I just want to tell you a little story. A cautionary tale of something that happened to me while back. It’s a tale much like life itself: full of deceit, deception and disillusionment.

Don’t read this expecting justice, honor or romance-you’re not going to find any of that here. This is a mafia story. …


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A few weeks ago, my good friend and I decided to do a joint writing project about Japanese culture and society. After all, such a complex, deep and stratified social framework can’t be understood from any single vantage point — especially not that of white guy who’s only been here a few years.

The first topic we agreed to write about is dating. Specifically, dating Japanese people in Japan. Kayo wrote her piece from the perspective of an outgoing, independent, and overall awesome Japanese lady. Be sure to check it out here. As for my piece, well, I did my best to convey what navigating the Japanese dating scene is like for your average white dude. …


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I’ve always wanted to become a writer. It’s one of the few dreams that I’ve carried along since childhood.

Growing up, I wasn’t meticulous or patient enough to become a paleontologist. I wasn’t handy enough to invent the world’s first flying car. But observe the world around me, weave my impressions into a story, and put that story on paper? Surely, I could do that!

Turns out, it’s not so simple.

My biggest issue when writing is that I grew up bilingual. While I’m often told how lucky I am to have acquired a second language “for free,” it’s been a huge impediment to my confidence. …


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Shiretoko National Park, Hokkaido, Japan

You shouldn’t push granny into the poison ivy.

I mean, it goes without saying, doesn’t it? Thankfully, there’s no epidemic of old ladies getting shoved into shrubs.

Yet, it may surprise you to know that I used to hear this phrase all the time. It’s common where I grew up. So why have you never heard it?

Well, because it’s a French idiom: Faut pas pousser mémé dans les orties.

Every language abounds with evocative idioms and expressions that seem nonsensical-if not downright insane-when translated. English is no exception. Next time a French person tries to hit on you (trust me, it’ll happen), tell them they’re barking up the wrong tree. Chances are, they’ll be confused. Maybe even offended. …

About

Alex Steullet

Mostly thinker, sometimes writer. Aspiring author. Polyglot. Background in Human Rights Law. Find me on twitter @alexstwrites or at www.theforeignrational.com

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