True Stories from Japan is an occasional blog on the Sasakawa USA website that features reflective essays about travels to and from Japan. Topics range from U.S.-Japan relations to cultural differences and everything in between.
True Stories from Japan accepts submissions for publication. Click here for details on how to submit an article for consideration. Published items are the opinion/experience of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Sasakawa USA.
This past summer, I had the pleasure of visiting Japan for a two-week long trip with a handful of classmates from my high school in rural Kentucky. Part of me was quite nervous at first, and the thought of traveling around the world without the parental supervision that had surrounded me throughout my sixteen years made my palms sweaty.
As a Korean, I thought I had a grasp of the etiquette and norms of Japanese culture before traveling to Japan. However, my understanding and appreciation of these conventions were reinvigorated through an experience I had traveling through Hokkaido: I faced a minor crisis that only could have been resolved with the diligent aid of a native.
I have devoted the majority of my adult life to the study and understanding of Japanese history, arts, and politics. I do not hide my deep interest in Japan, which is why my friends and family were baffled when I announced that I would be moving to the Netherlands in the summer of 2015.
On the surface, dining out in Japan is not an inherently stressful experience. But on this particular night, a vocabulary mishap paired with the anxiety of meeting my new host family for the first time made for a memorable evening.