Journal 5

During the program, I realized a lot of cultural differences between the United States and Japan. What I learned and experienced in the US motivated me to study harder. First, I would like to write about what I found by observing people in the US. Second, I would like to write about things I would like to continue studying in the future.
Through the program, I realized American people communicate more frequently with each other than Japanese people. I think this is an important cultural difference, since conversation plays an important role in culture and life. A conversation with a cashier is a good example. Customers and cashiers talk with each other much more at a checkout counter in the US than in Japan. “Hi!” “How are you?” “Good. Thank you.” “Have a good day!” “Thank you. You too.” In Japan, however, cashiers only say “irasshai-mase (a Japanese specific word used to welcome costomers)” and “Thank you.” They never say “How are you?” and “Have a good day!” I think that this is because, as stated in the focus group presentation about job interviews, Japanese people do not need “small talk.” Cashiers in Japan are required to punch the prices into the cash register as quickly as they can.
Also, waiters’ job is different in the two countries. In Japan, all they have to do is take orders, serve dishes and work at a checkout counter. On the other hand, waiters in the US often come by the table, greet customers and ask them whether they need more to drink. This is like an expensive restaurant in Japan.
Through the program, I found what I want to know more. First, I would like to continue studying American politics, especially the social cleavage (factors of political division).
During the program, I realized that most of the CIs and PAs did not support Donald Trump. I learned that highly educated people tend to support Hilary Clinton. This is why most of the W&M staff do not stand by Trump. I wonder whether the academic background of voters matters in Japanese politics or not. Many Japanese newspapers and scholars are liberal(conservative papers are no more than three: Yomiuri, Sankei and maybe Nikkei), but which political party is liberal or conservative is vague in Japan. Japanese biggest party, whose name is the “Liberal” Democratic Party, is considered as conservative, but it often carries out liberal policy. This is confusing. For instance, Prime Minister Abe is now tackling the problem of women discrimination. As mentioned in my journal 2, he wants to improve women’s social position in Japan. And, last year Japan and South Korea resolved the issue of comfort women“eventually and irreversibly.” Some people insist “comfort women” were literally sex slaves, and others insist they were just prostitutes. In either case, it is certain that the issue was a grave affront to the dignity of women. Japan apologized to Korea and pledged to contribute toward abolishing women discrimination around the world.
Religion is the social cleavage in America, but it is not a big factor in Japanese politics. As mentioned in my journal 1, religion in Japan is apolitical while that in the United States is related to politics.
Of course, some common social cleavages matter in both countries. One example is generation. Japan is a rapidly aging society. The burden of social security lies heavy on the shoulders of the working generation. Japanese people call this situation “gray democracy,” since old people always overcome young people by force of number. Young people want to cut social security costs, but politicians are always trying to win old people’s favor. Jonah taught me this is called “gerontocracy” in English. Although the problem in Japan is more serious, both countries have the same problem.
Another same cleavage is disparities in income. Capital in the Twenty-First Century written by Thomas Piketty is a strong seller in both the US and Japan. This book focuses on wealth and income inequality in the world. In the United States, Bernie Sanders, who calls himself a “democratic socialist,” fought the good fight in the Democratic Primary. Also, Japanese Communist Party, which advocates the establishment of a society based on socialism, increased the number of seat recently.
Second, I want to continue studying English. I usually do not use English in Japan, so I often had difficulty expressing my idea in English during the program. After the program, I decided to study English harder. In 2020, the Olympics will take place in Tokyo. I want to be able to speak English good enough to help visitors during the Olympics. During the program, I learned English from PAs. Ryan taught me some English expressions I had not known. For example, instead of saying “I like your T-shirt,” I can say “I ‘dig’ your T-shirt.” Another expression she taught me is “push someone out of his/her comfort zone.” She always pushed us out of our comfort zone and let us try new things. She was so active that she showed this meaning by her behavior. Kyra was another English teacher. She asked us to play a game every night saying “If anyone wants to ‘hang out’ come to our room!” At first, I had no idea of what “hang out” means. Xinyi is a language specialist. During the program, she spoke only English. In fact, however, She speaks Chinese, English and Japanese. Furthermore, she is familiar with Japanese culture. She knows more J-pop songs and Japanese dramas than I know. I want to be trilingual like her.
To sum up, people joining this program motivated me to study more about American culture, politics and history, and the differences between the US and Japan. I am happy that I joined the program. I will remember what I learned and continue studying.

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