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Friday, Nov. 8, 2002

LIFELINES

Culture shock, elusive stats, hairy insurance


Culture shock

Phew. Here I am by the skin of my teeth, just back from Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and Victoria, where touching base with non-Japanese friends met here was sobering to say the least.

One took 18 months to travel back to British Columbia after a decade here. An excellent idea (making a slow transition from East to West) except that two years later she's still looking for a decent job. Cuts in education on the West coast mean she may be back in Asia before long, which was not part of the grand scheme at all.

Which reminds me of my favorite joke: Know how to make God laugh? Tell him/her your plans.

Other friends have had trouble with relationships, which seemed fine here but fell apart -- or near fell apart -- under a new set of unfamiliar or half-forgotten stresses. The trouble? Reverse culture shock.

As one person put it: "The noise (for example), even in a small place like Victoria, is near intolerable. Suddenly you can understand every word people are saying, said very loudly and more often than not, not very nicely. There is so much aggression, hostility and racism. I realize now what a gentle escapist world we lived in in Japan."

It seems that long term-residents planning to return home after say, ten years need as much support to adjust as newcomers to Japan. We would like your thoughts on this, together with any advice or experiences that could go toward a set of guidelines for assisting others.

In defense of Kyoto

Yasuji Kitamura was upset to read in Lifelines (Oct. 24) that English tourist Sheila was disappointed in Kyoto. He wrote a long E-mail to explain all the historical and cultural wonders and delights of the city, both visible and invisible.

Mr Kitamura is the general manager of Kyoto-kan, a Tokyo-based office promoting the city. He says that anyone thinking to visit Japan's ancient capital would do well to call in at Kyoto-kan, Ark Mori Bldg 1F, 1-12-32 Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo (03-5562-0041) as staff have brochures, leaflets, maps, advice -- everything in fact to help the Japanese or non-Japanese visitor.

Statistics

In trying to establish what percentage of the Japanese work force is female, long-term American ex-pat Jae is having a difficult time finding statistics. "I'm interested in the percentage of women in the overall labor force, part-time, everything."

Jae's best bet is the government book shop, Seifu Kankobusu Service Center, at 1-3-6 Otemachi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo (03-3211-7786). Open Monday-Friday, from 9.30 a.m.-5.30 p.m., it can be frantic.

Best check by phone that they have an up-to-date government paper on the subject before you go. But this is my source whenever I need statistics.

Since you have been here sometime, and your family name is Japanese, I am assuming you have language facility. Sometimes English-speakers are hard to find, or genuinely too busy to spare the time.

And when you have the answers to your questions, let us know. We'd be interested in an update on this topic.

Hair do

A reader in Kamakura wants to recommend her hairdresser. Chibo-san has lived in the U.S., speaks good English and prices are reasonable "for Japan."

Menage a Trois (0467-23-2350) is on Komachi-dori, about halfway between the JR station and Hachimangu shrine. The salon is on the third floor (walk up, no elevator or wheelchair access), with a women's wear shop at street level. The name is in both Japanese and French.

Send your queries, questions, problems and posers, to: lifelines@japantimes.co.jp


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