It’s been almost a decade since my footprint left a real mark on the soil of the nation of sunrise. It was in Okinawa, when I was yet removed from Canada. The most uncomfortable memory of custom differences was that Mandarin-spoken clerk who refused to sit on the couch to discuss with us “because it was the hotel policy.” He was down on his knees for at least half an hour while I, despite being on the sofa, felt like sitting on a string of thread. To make it worse, we couldn’t even tip him. This was just an example that in a way forecast what I should had expected in Japan: a society of unspoken rules and consensus centered around “service ethic.” I was so cautious not to cause troubles to others that I could hardly relax. The vacation turned out to be a mentally exhausting experience. My nerves must had been tight as a drum throughout the trip. That was the winter of 2002.
I refused to plan my holiday or any conferences to Japan ever since. However, being in Taiwan, it’s hard NOT to be connected to the Japanese influence. It’s just everywhere, including the language Taiwanese, the convenient stores, the cuisine, the culture, the TV channels, politics, and the people around. I’d say a substantial proportion of the Taiwanese population must have known someone with a strong relationship with Japan, whether it’s an oversea studying experience, job, or just someone living there. In my case, it’s my cousin, Yukun’s wedding, that ignited my return to Japan.One important positive influence that pre-primed me to accept ma’s offer to attend Yukun’s wedding was the visiting of couchsurfer Yusuke Kushiyama. Although he’s not a 100% Nippon-raised Japanese, the post-Formosa observation he wrote in the e-mail somewhat planted a seed in my mind to re-explore this country. An extract of his letter wrote:
“Third, I was not familiar with the fact that the social status of women in Taiwan are relatively high. In Japan, womens’ social status are still low in someways. For example majority of the women quit their jobs after marriage, and their average income is 60-70% to that of mens’.”