My Adventures in Japan – Notes from Under the Tatami Mats (includes Introduction and Notes #1–#20)

in japan •  3 months ago
I arrived in Japan near the end of the Showa Era (that’s 1989 to outsiders), and ended up staying for 17 years. My entire time in that country was a tremendous experience and an incredible adventure.    


What follows are 20 lists of some of the things I’d seen, done, heard ... loved, laughed, and cried about ... pondered, wondered and marveled about ... feared and loathed during my wrong strange trip into the heart of crepuscular gloom in Japan.

“Wow! … This is so cool.” 

During the final few months before I left Japan in 2005, there was one thought that came to mind, over and over again.

As I was walking through the quiet streets of my old neighborhood in Sendai, as I was hanging out in the entertainment district Kokubun-cho, or as I was cycling through quaint villages up in the mountains and along the coast, I kept thinking ... “Wow! I’m in Japan. This is so cool.”

And that was after I had already spent 17 years there. Wow.

Tough to leave ... but time to leave

After experiencing many remarkable years in Japan, I had decided to leave. It took close to 11 months, but I somehow managed to extricate myself from the country. It was tough to leave, but it was time to leave. So I left.   

As the plane ascended into the sky above Tokyo and beyond the Japanese coast, the tears cascaded. I soon regained my composure, and I eventually started jotting down the many thoughts and countless memories that became these notes.

“Notes from Under the Tatami Mats”

I started compiling “Top-3” lists regarding my grand experiences in the Land of the Rising Sun. Soon, the compilation  grew to dozens of entries, and many of the lists grew well beyond 3 points. 

Now, here on Steemit, I'm expanding those “Notes from Under the Tatami Mats.”  This introductory post contains notes 120 of this Steemit series.  

Starting tomorrow, I will post each of the notes separately, as individual little vignettes – in sushi-size portions, about 6–7 per week. Each post will include  additional observations and commentary about Japan and my experiences there. I hope you find all these notes interesting, informative, and enjoyable.

Top 3 Reasons for Staying in Japan (Note #1)   

Top 3 Stages that Expats Experience after Arriving in Japan (Note #2)   

Top 3 Appropriate Nicknames for Japan (Note #3)   

Top 5 Ridiculous Comments by Japanese about the Outside World (Note #4)   

Top 3 Ridiculous Questions by Friends Back Home (Note #5)   

Top 3 Exceedingly Overused Japanese Words (Note #6)   

Top 5 Myths re Things Japanese (Note #7)   

Top 3 Weird Excuses for Japanese Behavior (Note #8)   

Top 4 Disorienting Aspects of the Japanese Language (Note #9)   

Top 3 Disorienting Aspects of Living in Japan (Note #10)   

Top 3 Worst Ways to Celebrate New Year’s (Note #11)   

Top 3 Fields in Which the Japanese Have Achieved Perfection (Note #12)   

Top 3 Fields in Which There is Definitely Room for Improvement (Note #13)   

Top 4 Persistent Illusions about the 25-Year-Long Recession (Note #14)   

Top 5 Expropriated Islands that Should Be Returned to the Original Inhabitants (Note #15)   

Top 4 Brilliantly Novel Uses of Concrete (Note #16)

Top 3 Ineffective Anti-Terrorism Measures (Note #17)   

Top 3 Dirty Politicians and Bureaucrats (Note #18)   

Top 11 Stars I’ve Been Told that I Look Like (Note #19)   

Bottom 8 Stars I’ve Been Told that I Look Like (Note #20)   

Tatami mats are a typical Japanese flooring material. The mats consist of woven straw over a solid base, providing a soft but firm surface, with a very pleasant texture and a subtle earthy scent. Even today, most Japanese homes and apartments have at least one room whose floor is made of tatami mats.

Notes from Under the Floorboards” is a novel written by Fyodor Dostoevsky (sometimes translated as “Notes from Underground”). ­ 

A Song from Under the Floorboards” was written by Howard Devoto and performed by the band Magazine. ­ 

– These Notes from Under the Tatami Mats” are my meager attempt to capture some of the glory of those 2 fine works of art. Or maybe to capture some of their gloom.
Top 3 Reasons for Staying in Japan (with additional commentary)
Top 3 Stages Experienced by Expats after Arriving in Japan (with additional commentary)
... and more

Links to my Other Series …

      Introduction – "Intro to Vocab-ability"   (right-click on title)
      Guide – "Guide to Entries"   (right-click on title)
      Index– "Index" to all Chapters and Sections   (right-click on title)

      Lou Reed – "Anthology of Memorable Lyrics, Part 1"   (right-click on title)
      Lou Reed – "Anthology of Memorable Lyrics, Part 2"   (right-click on title)

Images sourced from Google Images, unless otherwise indicated or unless my own.

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Hahaha. Never been to Japan. But couldn't stop laughing reading this post.

feared and loathed during my wrong strange trip into the heart of crepuscular gloom in Japan

Why do you consider the trip 'wrong'?

Looking forward to the Japanese episodes :D

I might not be able to take the country very seriously after i read all your notes!

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Glad you liked it, and glad you laughed.

As for my word-choice of "wrong," it's just that I did not want to use the tried and true phrase "long, strange trip." And "wrong" just seemed to fit. Don't read too much into it. :-)

I hope you find the coming posts interesting, and hope you find plenty to laugh about.

And if you never make it to Japan, you'll never have to take it seriously. Just enjoy this vicarious experience, and have a good laugh or two.

I can't wait to read your adventures in Japan. The subheadings of the posts are killing me already. I trust your matchless descriptive skills will deliver a great ethnographic work that will enthrall the reader. I can't wait.

PS: I didn't know Japan was one of the countries you once lived. I'll keep my fingers crossed for these series.

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Besides my home country of Canada, Japan is the country where I stayed the longest time – 17 years!

I trust you'll find the daily posts interesting. #1 coming soon!

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Wow. 17 years is such a long time. This means you can write and speak Japanese fluently. Correct? You might as well know Japan inside out. Correct?

As for me, I will follow these series closely enough. Who knows if I will find myself in Japan one day?

Keep the good work going, sir.

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Well, I only attained Japanese Proficiency Test, Level 2. Which implies that I'm about 70% fluent, at best. I can get by no problem in daily conversation, but if the discussion goes much beyond that level of difficulty, I get lost.

Glad you're enjoying the Japan series. Keep up the great and ambitious work on your end, too.

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Good to know about your Japanese prowess. At least 70% is highly commendable. As for the works on my blog, it can oy get better. Thanks for the encouragement.

Some good ones and I think I had a little different experience while living in Yokosuka but I totally agree with your writings. Great, now I'm missing Japan is going to be stuck in my head today. Awesome post, love it......

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Everyone's Japan experience is different. Hope you don't spend too much time today thinking about it. :-)

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I think of Japan everyday. Love that place, so many great friends and was part of the best time of my life for sure, until I met and married my wife. Now she is my best time of life..... She's awesome....

17 years is a long long time mate, I can understand your feeling at the time of leaving, in 17 years you would have made millions of memories, they all were going through your mind, when you were about to left japan, It's too hard :(

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Yep, plenty of memories. And some of them will appear here, in these notes. Enjoy!

I want to go to Japan, in a couple years. The plane ride though, that's a lot of hours on the plane not a big fan.

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You could always take a boat!! :-)

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lol ah makes the trip even longer plus sea sickness.

Nice post Japan is a very beautiful country .
Things you mentioned in this post are really happened to you ?

Japan is a nice place. nice pics friend your are awesome.

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japan it is well developed country in technology it is front of that. but when i am reading this i get lough.

Your post was resteem by Whale ResteemService @booster007 & @boostupvote

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wow... what a great post.
It's almost a year ago I visited Japan. Stay there for 10 days, and it's really memorable time enjoy Japan.

The worst thing is: Japanese can't speak English and I can't speak Japanese :( so it's difficult to communicate with others when I went out without a guide.