(Originally sent to Fukuzawa, Friends, ISSHO, UFJ, Signif, and IRPS-Alumni May 7, 1999)

There has been an ongoing series entitled, "You know you've been too long in Japan when...", which I first received way back in 1995 off Fukuzawa. I wrote a response to it, which I just resuscitated from an old database. Before I put it up on my web page, I thought I'd rerun it here with a few more additions.


...you get annoyed that Niigata-ken would dare claim they get more snow than Sapporo.

...you are crestfallen when you walk into a greasy-spoon diner down south and find they don't serve miso ramen.

...you find feminine Tokyo dialect ("ii wa yo") artificial and pretentious (because in Hokkaido women talk much the same way as men).

...you think a 2-storey half-house with 3LDK interior, plus a mini-garden, a tree, a shed, and two parking spaces, costing about 100,000 yen a month is expensive.

...you think nothing about a used car being precariously loaded onto a dockside fishing boat if the boat's name is written in Cyrillic.

...you can't understand why people down south say they hate summertime.

...you make even Dosanko (Hokkaidoites) snigger with your proud use of Hokkaido dialect.

...you think nothing amiss about Japanese Ground Self Defense Force jeeps blocking traffic, Air SDF jets buzzing Chitose Airport, the hills being alive with the sound of ordnance, or troops building snowmen.

...you think it is only natural for a Hokkaido company to relocate its headquarters to Tokyo or Osaka when it becomes sucessful.

...you can't relate to tourists gushing about the trees and grass in downtown Odori Park.

...you consider a commute of over 30 minutes excessive.

...you can't understand why people get so het up about the rainy season, Tanabata, or Obon, nor so panicky about Aum Shinrikyou.

...but you really get excited about lavender, melon, and onion festivals.

...you run out of wisecracks when people ask you if there are bears everywhere.

...you actually worry more about foxes, not cats, soiling children's sandboxes.

...you think a starting salary for a college graduate of 150,000 a month is acceptable.

...you've forgotten the mainland equivalents for "zangi" (fried chicken), "tororo imo" (yams), or "toukibi" (corn on the cob).

...you think ceramic-shingled kawara roofs are anomalous in Japan.

...your friends from down south swallow their pride and ask you how to read some of Hokkaido's kanjied Ainu place names.

...you think a drive is something everyone does for fun.

...you expect polite taxi drivers.

...you automatically add on 30% or so when looking at airfares advertised in English-language newspapers, cos you know that's how much it's gonna cost you to escape Hokkaido.

...you keep friendships shallow, because you know they're going to be retransferred down south in a year or two anyway.

...you forget that newspapers other than the Hokkaido Shinbun have much larger circulations.

...you buy a car without air conditioning.

...you think a meal costing 3000 yen per person is outrageous.

...you think weddings everywhere in Japan have the "kaihisei" (fixed admission charge) system.

...you expect a 5-km stretch of highway or a bridge to take 5 years to complete. Likewise you are understanding when a tunnel to the mainland or a road around a remote peninsula takes decades.

...you think the lights from squid fishing boats are a natural part of a sunset.

...you can distinguish between a "cosmos" flower and a weed.

...you expect to remain indoors for about half the year.

...you jump to the conclusion that any rumpled white foreigner speaks Russian.

...you forget that Japan is actually divided into other prefectures.

...you would change your citizenship overnight if only Hokkaido would declare its independence from the mainland.

Dave Aldwinckle

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