Hello again from J-List! I’ve made the hop from California back to Japan, and have once again slipped into my “Japan self.” As usual, there was a day or so of culture shock as I got used to being in Japan again — at Narita I found myself staring at the tiny rear ends of the stylish Tokyo girls walking in front of me, wondering how they could sit on something so small. Yep, I’m back in Japan now!
I’ve lived in Japan since 1991, a very long time indeed. After you’ve lived here a certain number of years it’s possible for foreigners to apply for permanent residence status (the equivalent of a green card), which I obtained in 2001. Some gaijin who love living in Japan opt to go all the way and apply for Japanese citizenship, but I’ve decided that this path isn’t for me — it’s more fun being an American who can speak Japanese than to be a blonde Japanese who talks kind of funny. Every time I go to through Narita I encounter two of my pet peeves, though. The first is the little card visa holders have to fill out when going through immigration: “Reason for returning to Japan?” Since I consider Japan to be my true home, having to write a “reason” is always annoying, and I leave it blank on purpose every time. The second minor annoyance are the Japanese signs that say Okarinasai (oh-KA-eh-ree-na-SAI), which means “welcome home,” next to English signs that say “Welcome to Japan.” The unwritten implication is that only Japanese people live in Japan, whereas anyone who speaks English as his native language is just visiting here, which is always mildly offensive to me.
While going through the airport I was reminded again of how much Japan takes its cues from the United States. When going through customs, you’re required to declare any cash amount over US$10,000, just as when entering the U.S., and the amounts of how much wine, tobacco and coffee you can bring in without paying duties are also very close to the rules that apply in America. Compared to Japan, it seems that Europe is a lot more comfortable with breaking with the U.S., as seen in the recent “no” vote on software patents (which I cheered).
I’m happy to be back in Japan, but I’m happy for another reason as well: today is “D Day” for our hikari fiber (fiber optic) Internet line, which was installed this morning. It’s taken us five years of hard lobbying including involving our city’s mayor, but we finally have a decent Internet connection at J-List, with a maximum speed of 100 Mbps. J-List is located in a small city that’s not exactly known for its tech companies, and what’s worse, we’re in the middle of the agricultural part of town (our office is surrounded by rice paddies), so it’s been a lot of work getting NTT to bring fast internet to us. But our patience has finally paid off, and things are much faster now!