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Getting Around in Japan

Everywhere you go, there are norms for how one gets around. If you come for a major city, chances are you’re used to some sort of public transportation. If you come from the heartland of America, like me, cars are the norm for getting around. But the major highways and transportation arteries of the Amazon Basin are not roads or rails at all, but the river itself. Boats stream up and down the river with cargo and passengers. Where you’re from influences your picture of public transportation.

But wherever you come from, there’s little debate that Japan’s got one of the best systems of transportation of any country out there, with arguably the best train system of any nation in the world. There are so many options and ways to get around in Japan that it deserves its own proper video. It’s taken us a number of years to discover them all, and we condense it down into this short and sweet video. Enjoy!

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How Giving Birth in Japan is Different

Joshua was born here in Japan, but just being born here doesn’t make you Japanese. To be Japanese, you need a Japanese parent, unlike other nations where being born in the nation makes you a part of that nationality. This is where the differences of birth in Japan vs. other countries really takes off. The whole process of giving birth in Japan differs quite a bit from other nations, and it’s the focus of our newest video. Enjoy!

https://youtu.be/mtImvf42orQ
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Why Learn Another Language?

Acquiring a new language is no small feat. It is so challenging, in fact, that it is easy to get discouraged and give up. So what pushes us forward to learn a language, especially one as challenging as Japanese? Although it may seem obvious that it’s useful for us since we live in Japan, you can get by without knowing Japanese here (and a number of foreigners do just that). So why be motivated to learn it really well instead of just enough to get by? That’s what our new video is all about.

https://youtu.be/GuX_mL8tu8E

There is a huge advantage to being raised speaking a certain language, because that language will be as natural as a native language. But that also underscores the lengths one has to go for really good language acquisition. Children pick up whatever language they are immersed in. It doesn’t matter if that language is “hard” or “easy” to learn — they learn the language all the same. Nothing really substitutes for immersion in a language, especially at a young age.

I’m glad my children can grow up in an environment where they are schooled in one language (in our case Japanese) and at home learn another language (English). Both of these languages will act as springboards to great opportunities in the future, whether it means learning another language or simply by bridging the fluency gap.

While it takes work and focus, nothing can substitute for the extraordinary opportunities that come from learning another language. And I’ve often said that the broadening of one’s own perspective is one of the greatest benefits of learning another language.

If you’re interested in acquiring a language, I suggest you take a look at Rosetta Stone software which offers robust language learning programs in many different language (including Japanese, English and Portuguese to name a few). They are offering a special deal for Life in Japan viewers and they offer reasonable monthly plans or a lifetime access for $199. That’s a great deal for learning languages — we pay nearly $600 a month for Ruth to do full-time language school, and that’s only for one month (not lifetime)! While they sponsored us to share about it on our YouTube and Instagram, we are not sponsored to share it here (nor do we receive a commission if you decide to go with them for language learning). Their software really is a great option to help you learn a language and get even more immersed in it!

So if you’re learning a language or interested in doing so, please check out the special deals with Rosetta Stone here: https://rosettastone.com/lifeinjapanyt. They have great plans that will get you going, whether you’re just beginning, you want to learn more or you want to become fluent.

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Japan’s 100 Yen Stores

Japan may be known for bullet trains and sushi, red gates and compact cities, but there’s something that’s just as unique to Japan as these things — and that’s it’s unique culture of 100 Yen stores. These stores feature products all (or nearly all) priced at roughly $1 that range from fun to practical, mechanical to cosmetic, disposable to permanent.

There are a number of national store chains like this, including Daiso and Seria. Chances are, if you can find it at one of these stores, it will be much cheaper than at any other type of store. As you tour this store with Ruth, you will see a number of products that we not only use, but rely on. How does this compare to stores where you’re from? Here’s a look at Japan’s unique 100 Yen stores!

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A Day All in Japanese

We are so thankful for all the wonderful friends we’ve made through Life in Japan, and one of our biggest requests was for a video of our family speaking in only Japanese for a day. Could we do it or not?!

Well, we decided to give it a try, and what a day it was! There was more than one instance when I was wishing I knew how to express myself properly in Japanese. It was funny speaking and seeing the kids look expressionlessly back at me, obviously not understanding. Either I

  1. Spoke it wrong, or
  2. I spoke it right and they didn’t understand it, or
  3. They’re pretending not to understand

It was an excellent test of our ability in Japanese. Some things came easily. Other situations, like communicating with the kids, were a big stretch. Becca and Anna’s Japanese was great though, and I love hearing them speak in Japanese. Even Sarah’s understanding of Japanese is quite impressive. Joshua, on the other hand, is only beginning to understand Japanese, and often we had to talk to him in Japanese and quickly follow it with English.

The experiment was certainly worthwhile, and it’s something we want to do more times. It forces us outside of our comfortable “English” box to try to bridge the gap into Japanese. While Japanese is a complicated language to learn, the feeling of making strides in it and being able to express oneself in it is very rewarding. Here’s to more Japanese videos!!